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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Todd H. Weir
CHID 498
Seattle Campus

Special Colloquia

Each colloquium examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework. A list of topics is available from the CHID office.

Class description

In the nineteenth century a new and quintessentially modern figure emerged in the German social landscape: the intellectual. Straddling the roles of prophet, critic, political activist and scientist, intellectuals defied clear categorization; they portrayed themselves as “free-floating” and independent from universities, political parties and state power. Yet, in the course of the twentieth century, it became clear that Germany’s intellectuals could not live up to this autonomous self-image and faced a number of dilemmas. Could they fulfill their obligation to criticism if they served utopian political movements on the right or left? Could writers remain both politically committed and produce valuable literature? How should socialist artists and writers respond to the often dictatorial means used by the East German communist regime? Finally, have intellectuals become irrelevant after the end of the Cold War?

In this seminar students will read and discuss original sources in English from authors, such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Ernst Jünger, Walter Benjamin and Heiner Müller, to see how successive generations of German intellectuals framed and faced these dilemmas. Each week we will also read classic and contemporary investigations of the function of the intellectual from sociologists such as Karl Mannheim, Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu.

In addition to a basic knowledge of modern German intellectual and political history, the course will provide students with a basic training in text analysis, conceptual thinking and argumentative writing.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This course will be taught as a reading seminar, hence student participation will be essential to its success. This means that you must do the readings and come to class prepared.

Recommended preparation

Most readings for the course will be taken from a reader that will be available for purchase the first week of class. The following are additional required readings for the course, which you may want to purchase in advance, either from the UW Bookstore or second-hand through the internet or in used bookstores. Any edition is acceptable.

Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crises: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society (MIT Press, 1998). Weimar Sourcebook, Martin Jay, Anton Kaes, and Edward Dimendberg, eds. (UC Press, 1994). Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Continuum, 1976). Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge UP, 1986).

If you do not have a basic knowledge of events in 20th-century German history, I would recommend you purchase or borrow: Volker Berghahn, Modern Germany: Society, Economy and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge UP, 1987).

Class assignments and grading


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 Todd H. Weir
Date: 03/13/2006