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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Arista Maria Cirtautas
GERMAN 353
Seattle Campus

Postwar Germany

Study of culture, society, and politics in Germany since 1945. Readings include literary and nonliterary texts devoted to culture and everyday life. In English.

Class description

EURO 490 E/GERM 353 Autumn Quarter 2009

CONSTRUCTING THE BERLIN REPUBLIC: GERMANY SINCE 1945

Contemporary post-reunification Germany is increasingly known as the Berlin Republic, a ‘normal,’ stable European democracy that has come to terms with the unique burdens of its history. No longer living in a divided state, Germans, both eastern and western, now debate policy issues – reforming the welfare state, immigration, foreign policy priorities – like most other European nations, in the context of a democratic political process framed by European Union membership. In the last twenty years, the Wall dividing Germany into a Federal Republic and a Democratic Republic has come down and a newly revived Berlin has become the seat and symbol of this new Republic; a city where even the construction of physical space, as reflected in the architecture of new public buildings, monuments and memorials, attempts to capture the essence of a new era in German politics, an era characterized by self-confidently building on the best aspects of German history while continuing to render visible, and therefore acknowledging, the dark aspects of the German past. This course will provide an overview of the political construction of the Berlin Republic, in other words, how Germans are forging a democratic polity on the basis of political identities and socio-economic experiences that diverged dramatically between 1945 and 1989. Using the recent German parliamentary elections (September 27, 2009) as our point of departure, we will begin with a survey of politics and policies in the Berlin Republic, focusing in particular on changes and continuities – what has changed since 1989 versus what has remained the same in the transition from divided to unified statehood? German elections, for example, have become much less predictable since 1989 (and arguably that much more interesting) even as the electoral system remains the same as inherited from the Federal Republic, raising the question of what accounts for the loss of predictability. We will then move backwards in time to address German political development from the Weimar to Berlin Republics in order to understand the evolutionary dynamics underlying contemporary German politics. What exactly does a history of divided statehood in the wake of military defeat and in the shadow of Nazi atrocities entail? Moreover, what legacies does this complex inheritance leave behind? Finally, we will conclude with a closer examination of the cultural construction of the new Berlin Republic, a process that encompasses not just political discourse and rhetoric but also various other forms of representation such as film and literature that all attempt to embed the contemporary Republic in particular readings of the German past.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures and discussion

Recommended preparation

Please see class website for readings and course preparation

Class assignments and grading

Take-home midterm handed out week 4 and due week 5 = 25% Short paper assignment due Nov. 12 = 25% Final paper assignment - comparative book or book/film review (comparing and contrasting two or more books, novels, films on German politics/history/culture/society) due finals week = 35% Class participation = 15%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Arista Maria Cirtautas
Date: 09/14/2009