A Nation Remembers: Issues in German Cultural Memory (MLG1014)

StaffProfessor Chloe Paver - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Pre-requisitesA Level German or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module introduces you to two key dynamic forces – remembering and forgetting – that played an important role in shaping the two Germanies after the defeat of the National Socialist regime in 1945 and that gained renewed prominence after the collapse of East German communism in 1989. What does a nation chose to remember about its past? What forces oppose remembering or insist on different memories? The module aims to equip you with the knowledge and understanding to answer these questions for Germany. In the course of the module you will come to understand that what looks like ‘national’ memory is fragmented and contested. While public memory initiatives such as memorials and ceremonies tend to presuppose a consensus, behind the scenes there is often much debate about what should be remembered and how. Besides, private memory (especially within families) has often run counter to the memories that the German state would like to promote. Women, you will learn, sometimes remember differently to men, and the memory of the victims is very difficult to reconcile with the memory of those who co-operated with the regime. By exploring these fracture lines and complexities across an unusually broad range of media (feature film and documentary film, autobiography, memorials, literary montage, photographs, and secret service files), you will gain confidence in reading different media critically. You will gain a richer understanding of contemporary Germany and, hopefully, a curiosity about the stories that other nations tell about themselves.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with the set texts/films/memory media in German, and with key aspects of their historical, literary, and cultural context, in particular with developments and debates in German national memory since 1945 and in particular since 1989
  • 2. Outline, in written and oral form, standard critical approaches to the texts/films and formulate your own opinion on aspects of the texts/films
  • 3. Discuss, in written and oral form, basic features of narrative technique and genre (e.g. photography, documentary, testimony) with reference to works that deal with the German past

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Read and analyse texts and films originally produced in German, relating them to specified aspects of their cultural, historical and generic context
  • 5. Describe and evaluate, under guidance from the course tutor, key critical responses to the texts/films/memory media and apply standard critical approaches to the material independently
  • 6. Recognise and understand basic literary-/film-critical terminology and basic terminology from Memory Studies and use some of this terminology in written and oral work

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Assimilate, select and organise material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Germany's pasts; place and memory
  • Memorials - debates and contests after 1989
  • Remembering and forgetting in film
  • Das schreckliche Mädchen, directed by Michael Verhoeven
  • True and false memories: the Wilkormirski case and Paletschek's ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche'
  • A belated Holocaust memoir -- Klüger's Weiter leben
  • Public and private memory; private photo albums in the exhibition ‘Fotofeldpost’
  • Walter Kempowski’s Das Echolot
  • The GDR archives and the documentary film Alltag einer Behörde
  • Kunze’s and Loest's responses to the opening of the Stasi files
  • Revision and exam preparation

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1010 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan500 words1-7Written; 10-minute discussion with seminar tutor in designated hours, week 6
Presentations (in a pair or group)1 x 5 minutes on a topic relating to cultural memory, the students to produce up to 4 Powerpoint slides to accompany their talk1-7Oral at end of seminar.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essays1002 x 1000 words1-7Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essays 2 x 1000 wordsEssays 2 x 1000 words1-7Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Das schreckliche Mädchen, subtitled as The Nasty Girl (FRG, 1989), dir. by Michael Verhoeven
  • Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit. Alltag einer Behörde (Germany, 2003) ASIN B00009V757 [English translation supplied on ELE]
  • Ruth Klüger, Weiter leben. Eine Jugend (Munich: dtv, 1994); in English translation as Landscapes of Memory: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)

To be provided on ELE [with English translations]:

  • Extracts from Walter Kempowski, Das Echolot, 4 vols (Munich: btb, 1993-2005)
  • Extracts from Reiner Kunze, Deckname Lyrik. Eine Dokumentation (Frankfurt/Main: Fischer, 1990) and Erich Loest, Die Stasi war mein Eckermann (Göttingen: Steidl, 1991)
  • Sylvia Paletschek, ‘Kinder - Küche - Kirche', in Etienne François and Hagen Schulze (eds),
    Deutsche Erinnerungsorte, 3 vols (Munich: Beck, 2001), II, 419-33.

Further recommended reading/viewing:

  • Bill Niven and Chloe Paver (eds), Memorialization in Germany since 1945 (Palgrave, 2010)
    Andrew Beattie, Playing Politics with History: The Bundestag Enquiries into East Germany
    (Berghahn, 2008)

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

German, Holocaust, cultural memory