Veranstalter  Lars Schmeink 
Thema  Medien, Kultur und die nationale Identitätskonstruktion
Art der Veranstaltung  GRMN 7021 Kade Seminar 1
Zeit des Seminars  DO 15.30-17.50 Uhr
Raum  701 Old Chem
Beginn  12.01.2017 


Graduate Seminar in German Studies, University of Cincinnati, Winter term 2017

Course Description

Seit der Wiedervereinigung Deutschlands rührt sich etwas im Land der Dichter und Denker, das es dort aus Gründen einer vermeintlichen Pietät lange nicht mehr gegeben hat: Nationalstolz. Laut einer Forsa-Umfrage waren 2008 86% der deutschen Jugendlichen stolz darauf, Deutsche zu sein – ein Rekordwert, der als Kulmination eines Paradigmenwechsels in der deutschen Gesellschaft zu sehen ist. Die Entwicklungen des letzten Jahrhunderts sind für eine neue, junge Generation nicht mehr der alles verdunkelnde Schatten der Geschichte, sondern abgeschlossener Teil einer Wandlung. Seit den 2000er Jahren hat sich ein neues Nationalgefühl eingestellt, das sich in vielen Bereichen der Gesellschaft wieder­finden lässt. Aktuell jedoch sind zunehmend aber auch wieder rechte Stimmen zu hören und die Politik ist zunehmend mit einer Wertedebatte beschäftigt. Kulturinstitutionen und Medien sind zentral in der Verbreitung dieser Diskurse und in der Konstruktion einer nationalen Identität, die es in diesem Seminar zu ergründen gilt.

This graduate-level course expands on the students‘ knowledge of German language and culture through the close study of a selection of texts from culture, politics, entertainment, social media and more. Many topics will be direct engagement with ongoing debates, thus a strong individual motivation for research is a must. Students in the course will become familiar with contemporary topics of cultural and political relevance to German society, drawing from many different sources. They will use literary and film analysis to parse cultural and aesthetic meaning from texts and films, as well as engage in sociological analysis of debates in social media or journalism, formulating a graduate-level intellectual response to the materials provided. Course conducted and materials provided in German, with some readings in English.

By the end of this course, students will:

·      Discuss issues of German national identity, social challenges, and political debates within their specific historical context.

·      Explain the complexities of current political and social issues.

·      Determine how a specific piece of media fits into prevailing ideologies and exemplifies debates in national identity formation.

·      Write with precision and discipline about current socio-cultural debates.

·      Question and critique prevailing stereotypes about Germany.

·      Consider larger media structures at work behind any cultural discourse.


  • Readings and films are all on Blackboard.
  • Consistent attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to show up to every seminar meeting and actively contribute to the discussion, regardless of perceived understanding of the material. Any unexcused absence will result in a reduction of letter grade per each subsequent class missed. Talk to me about absences related to religious or other holidays not accounted for in the class schedule.
  • Students are expected to show up to class having completed the readings, make a good faith effort to try to understand them, and prepare for classroom discussion. Any readings should be brought to class in some form.
  • As a graduate-level German course, this class contains intensive English and German reading and writing components, so please leave yourself enough time to get through the material.
  • Students must adhere to the University Rules, the Student Code of Conduct, and all policies related to academic integrity. This means that all assignments turned in are a student’s original work for which they can take full responsibility. Thoughts and words that are not your own should be cited. Acts of plagiarism, cheating, copying, inadequate citation, falsification of data or other such behaviors will result in serious consequences, as outlined at: Just don’t.
  • Students will maintain contact with me via Blackboard or email. Please allow 24 hours for me to respond to any message, and I will grant students the same courtesy.
  • Students requiring accommodations should consult with me as soon as possible. The more aware I am of your strengths and limitations, the more capable I am of fairly evaluating your work in the course. Those seeking accommodations based on disabilities should contact Disability Services (210 University Pavilion, 513-­‐556-­‐6823). Don’t wait to do this.
  • Use your mobile devices with respect. If you use a laptop in class, it must be used for matters directly related to the class at hand. This is to maintain focus during lectures and discussions, and your learning will suffer from off-­‐topic Internet browsing.
  • Students must complete all assignments by the end of the finals period (April 29, 2016) in order to pass the course.
  • The grade breaks down as follows:
    • 40% Class Participation and Attendance, including “Blackboard discussions”
    • 30% Research project “milestones”
    • 30% Research paper
  • Grades are otherwise assigned along the following percentage structure:
A 92.5–100% C+ 77.5–79.4%
A– 89.5–92.4% C 72.5–77.4%
B+ 87.5–89.4% C– 69.5–72.4%
B 82.5–87.4% D+ 67.5–69.4%
B– 79.5–82.4% D 60.0–67.4%
F 59.9% & under



  • Discussions: For each seminar session, a forum discussion will be open on Blackboard. Participation in these discussions is not bound by form or style, can be written in English or German, and should deal with any issues raised by reading/research of the respective session topic. If you have problems with understanding the text, if you feel you want to comment on it, or discuss certain aspects of it – all of this is placed here. I will provide initial “discussion prompts”, but you are not bound by them. The idea is to direct our in-class discussions, feel out topics and identify the issues you feel strongest about. Grading will not be on “content” but on “engagement” and will fall under “class participation” as it is directly linked to in-class discussions. Entries into the discussion can be handed in during the entire week, but no later than Monday night, before the Tuesday class.
  • Research project: The idea is for you to find your own academic research project and develop it over the course of the semester. To that end, you will need to fulfill certain “milestones” that guide you in what academic research is – kind of a miniature version of writing a thesis. For each milestone you will get feedback to further develop your project. The culmination of your work should then be an academic research paper – ideally one that can be worked up into an article for a student journal or maybe a presentation at a graduate conference (up to you, no guarantees though). All tasks are due on the date given in the course schedule, the final paper is due no later than April 28, either printed (in-class only) or as PDF (no other format) via email.
    • Milestone 1 – Thesis: Find a topic that interests you. The only limitations are that it a) fits into a research paper (not a dissertation, rather a conference presentation or an article) and b) that it has something to do with the scope of the seminar (national identity). When looking for a topic, make sure it has a specific academic interest attached to it – what is it that you want to find out? Develop a research question from which you will later be able to draw a valid and academically valuable thesis. The usual “steps” are: topic (broad area of interest), question (a closely defined aspect of your topic with academic value) and thesis (a detailed and very specific statement about your interest that is informative and relevant to other researchers).
      • Task: Hand in a topic and a research question. Explain the academic interest of your research briefly in a few sentences.
    • Milestone 2 – Sources: After finding a topic/question for your research, the next step is to identify sources that you can use. These depend on your topic, but in the context of the seminar (broadly speaking: cultural analysis), they will most likely consist of secondary literature (articles, monographs, anthologies, existing empirical studies). You will need to identify a list of possible sources, vet them for their academic quality and then check their availability (either in the library, on the net, in databases etc.). Sources are not always available to you, so make sure that you can actually use them for your research. Also, not all potential sources are academically sound to use – you will need to vet them for their academic quality: who wrote them, where and when were they published, what is their background (who paid for them), etc. – this would, for example, most likely rule out Wikipedia (no author!) or most commercial studies (think VW and ecological impact of Diesel cars).
      • Task: Research your topic and establish a list of at least five sources, make sure to include material from the library (not just websites). Hand in your list and be able to explain your choices and their academic relevance in class.
    • Milestone 3 – Theory: Once you have gathered up your sources, you will need to read and evaluate them. What is the trajectory of your thesis (what do you claim about your topic) and how does a specific source play into this? Does it help your thesis or contrast with it? Does it provide background information for you? Does it give you a specific theory which to apply to your research? There are many different reasons to use a source, and they are individually tailored to your research. Key to using a source, though, is to fully understand it and put it into context. Thus, you will need to “read academically”, meaning not just skimming the text, but a thorough working through of the sources you deem interesting and worthy of your research. Take one of your sources, work it through until you really know what it says and how that relates to what you want to argue. Then write down a summary of this, explaining to your reader what the source says and what that means for your individual research project.
      • Task: Hand in an evaluation of one source, consisting of a summary and a contextualization for your own research project.
    • Milestone 4 – Argument: Once you have a reasonable grasp of your sources and where your question has led you, you will need to formulate an argument. That means, you will need to find a logical and rhetorical structure to lay down all of the “evidence” for what you claim as a thesis. Of course, this can still change in detail when writing, but at this point you should have a broad grasp of what it is that you want to say and how to support your claim. You will need to formulate an abstract and/or outline of your paper. This can take one of two forms: a) an abstract in the form of a summary of your argument, meaning a text of a few paragraphs explaining the argument; or b) a commentary outline, which basically is a “table of contents” with parts and sections, where each part or section is enhanced by 2-3 sentences of commentary that explain what each part contains.
      • Task: Hand in either an abstract or a commentary outline for your research paper.
  • Final research paper: Take all of what you have learned and done in your milestones and bring it full circle – write a research paper. Each student will be asked to write a paper of 4,500 to 5,000 words in length. This research paper will be the summation of all class work so far: it must have an original research interest (thesis), use secondary material (sources), build upon this material to contextualize its statements (theory), and provide a logical argumentative structure (argument), in order to present valuable academic research on a topic of national identity. It should be written according to MLA standards, including all formal aspects (title page, bibliography etc.).
  • Your final paper should demonstrate revisions and the incorporation of the feedback provided during the milestone tasks. Upon receipt, the final essays will be carefully read and evaluated in terms of argument, style and scholarly rigor, all criteria seen in academic peer review. Development of a citation-rich, clearly articulated argument for a research paper is a crucial skill that professional scholars should employ every semester through the rest of their lives.
  • Research is not a linear process, thus while researching you might find that your topic or question needs to change. That is normal and totally ok. Just send me an email and let me know. Also, you might need to repeat milestone steps 2 through 4: once you’ve read a specific source, other directions of research might open up, new sources become available, new theories get incorporated. This “cycle” is normal and will help you refine your research.


Week/Date Topic Films / Readings / Assignments

Jan 10

Introduction Read the syllabus…

Jan 17

National Values and History Short-Film: “Spielzeugland” (2007, Jochen Alexander Freydank)

Text: Peter Arens und Stefan Brauburger – “Typisch Deutsch: Wer wir sind”


Jan 24

New Right Film: Kriegerin (David Wnendt, 2012)

TV-Documentary: “Innenansichten der neuen Rechten” (ZDF, 2016)

Text: Richard Stöss – “Die neue Rechte”

Hand-In: Milestone 1 – Thesis


Jan 31

East/West Film: Goodbye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)

TV-Documentary: “Laut, rechts, sächsisch” (ZDF, 2016)

Text: Katharina Grabbe – “Nostalgie”


Feb 07

The Politics of Preemption Film: Terror – Ihr Urteil (Lars Kraume,  2016)

TV-Discussion: Hart aber fair “Terror” (Frank Plasberg, 2016)

Text: Thomas Fischer – “Terror – Ferdinand von Schirach auf allen Kanälen”


Feb 14

City Life Film: Urban Explorer (2011, Andy Fetscher)

Text: Boris Gresillon – “Berlin, Cultural Metropolis”

Hand-In: Milestone 2 – Sources


Feb 21

Back to the Land Film: Full Metal Village (2007, Cho Sung-Hyung)

Text: Marc Redepenning – “Die Komplexität des Landes”

Text: Bollmann u. Petersdorff-Campen – “Die Sehnsucht nach dem Echten”


Feb 28

Germany in Europe TV-Discussion: Maischberger “Rote Karte für Brüssel”

Text: Bassam Tibi – “Leitkultur als Wertekonsens”

Text: Fatima El-Tayeb – “Germany and Europe”


Mar 07

Immigration Film: Aprilkinder (Yüksel Yavuz, 1998)

Text: Christina Kraenzle – “At Home in the New Germany?”

Hand-In: Milestone 3 – Theory


Mar 21

Nationalism and Language in Music Music: German Music Genres (group presentations)

Text: Simon Frith – “Music and Identity”


Mar 28

Politics in Music Music: “Neue Deutsche Härte” and “Deutsch Punk”

Text: Kerstin Wilhelms – “Nationale Identifikation bei Rammstein”

Hand-In: Milestone 4 – Argument


Apr 4

Sports Film: Deutschland, ein Sommermärchen (2006, Sönke Wortmann)

Text: Jonathan Grix – “Sport Politics”

Text: Katharina Grabbe – “Wir sind wieder wer”


Apr 11

TV Entertainment Watch excerpts from “Schlag den Raab”, “Wetten, dass…” and “DSDS”

Text: Lothar Mikos / Christiane Töpper – “Erfolgreiche Familienformate”


Apr 18

Conclusion Research

Short-Film: “Herman, the German” (2015, Michael Binz)

Hand-In personally: Research Paper … or

Apr 28 End of Semester Hand-In via PDF: Research Paper