In English. No prerequisites.
At the end of World War I, Germany was a traumatized, vilified, and defeated country, yet also, remarkably, a young one: despite centuries of culture, it was less than fifty years old as a unified nation and was still building a plausible identity out of multiple regional differences and a complex relationship to the rest of Europe. The loss of the war had toppled the country’s monarchy and initiated a bold experiment in democracy. The Republic, which lasted from 1918 until 1933, has come to be known as The Weimar Republic, because its first leaders convened in the quiet city of Weimar, three hours outside of Berlin. In Weimar, they could pursue the normal functions of government, safe from Berlin’s chaotic violence, which included pitched battles among disillusioned war veterans, Communist revolutionaries, and right-wing, pro-monarchist militarists.
Although the Republic experienced severe political and economic instability throughout its relatively brief life, it left an indelible mark on world culture: Walter Gropius, Martin Heidegger, Fritz Lang, Mary Wigman, Joseph Pilates, Paul Hindemith, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya, Theodore W. Adorno, and Marlene Dietrich are but a few of the many creative figures at work in Germany during this period. Extraordinary developments were not confined to the arts but were achieved in social, technological, scientific and political fields as well, not least in the realms of sexuality and gender. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the “Einstein of Sex,” founded the Institute for Sexual Research as early as 1919 in Berlin, creating an unprecedented haven for sexual minorities and transgender people.
This course will survey the history, literature, and politics of the Weimar era, as well as German visual arts of the 1920s and early 1930s. Though often remembered as a golden age of Modernism and experimentation, the art of the Weimar period can sometimes prove surprisingly traditional. Several German painters eschewed abstraction and returned to German Medieval and Renaissance Masters such as Holbein, Grünewald, and Albrecht Dürer, reinterpreting them in the light of contemporary, Post-World War I realities. Even the Bauhaus, at the forefront of international design and architecture, based its ethos on German medieval concepts of apprenticeship and craft. Indeed, some of the most influential figures of conservative thought also flourished during the Weimar period, including Ernst Jünger and Carl Schmitt. Weimar, not unlike our own time, was fiercely cleft in terms of politics. As Eric D. Weitz has written recently: “Weimar Germany still speaks to us.”
When logistically possible, this course will include visits to the Neue Galerie (New York) and the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers.
This course will be taught in English and is open to first-year students as well as to non-German majors. No knowledge of the German is required.
Course fulfills the Core requirements AHp, WCD.