Course: GER209
Instructor: Nagel
F 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

Considering the fact that GER 209 is both a language course and a survey course of German literature, it necessarily has a number of goals it seeks to accomplish. One of its most important goals is to provide its students with intensive practice in both spoken and written German. All 200-level language courses which have no pre-requisites other than the completion of the introductory sequence or its equivalent organize themselves according to this objective. After all, the professor must build upon the curriculum of the introductory sequence in order to make sure that the student who has started taking German at Princeton is markedly improving his or her language skills. Additionally, the professor must also take students who have learned German elsewhere (e.g. in high school) and improve their German while at the same time clarifying the department’s expectations when it comes to reading, writing, and speaking German in an academic setting.

GER 209 also fulfills the Literature and the Arts (LA) distribution requirement, surveying German literature in the process. The course introduces students to key authors, genres, and movements in German literary history between 1770 and the present. As is to be expected, GER 209 moves chronologically through the most important authors of the German canon. It constantly asks two questions: upon which previous texts has the current one built and why has the current text made its way into the canon in the first place. These two questions are directly related to another enumerated goal – namely, to deepen interpretive skills by reading and discussing these texts. Aside from chronology, the course also features written work which progresses in length. It is through this written work that students are encouraged to pursue a fourth and final goal. They are encouraged to apply theoretical approaches to cultural material, slowly improving their skills as the semester progresses.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

The in-class portion of GER 209 is a group discussion of the major themes and idiosyncrasies of the individual texts. Though the professor has remarks prepared for each text, seminars often go into directions which cannot be predicted. Each student brings unique questions and a unique perspective to the discussion. Since literature professors in the German department are often amenable to intertextuality – or the shaping of one text by another, even if there is no direct historical link – a text can be read in a very flexible manner. Thus, being creative in the way that you approach the texts and the comparisons you draw will surely help you succeed in a class like this. Though it takes some getting used to, this approach can be replicated in many an LA course.

It is also important to do the readings for this course and think of questions to ask or comparisons to draw beforehand. It is, of course, possible to just respond to the points raised by others, but there also exists an expectation that each student will bring unique something to the table. Prof. Nagel does a lot of work with rhetoric and affect, and she often employs a comparative approach. Since students often come from different departments, their approaches are variable. It is also very useful to take careful notes during the semester. It helps when writing the essays and also when studying for the final exam. Don’t let taking notes hinder you from participating but don’t forget about it either. Balance is key.

Learning For and From Assignments

As can be anticipated from the course’s goals, GER 209 is rigorous. First, there are weekly vocab quizzes (10% of final grade) that take about 10 minutes. The skills being tested here are sheer memorization and the ability to be precise. Thus, it behooves any student taking this course to memorize the words assigned for the week exactly as they appear in the Frequency Dictionary, where the vocab lists appear. Any deviations will be counted as mistakes. However, it’s important to understand that much of the vocab will be a review of vocab presented in past courses, lessening the amount of time a student needs to commit. The vocab quizzes are not cumulative so focused and intensive study in the days leading up to the quiz is the best plan of attack.

Second, there are weekly German readings of about 30-40 pages. Taking an advance look at the text and seeing what level of difficulty it’s at is useful given that some of the texts we read were relatively opaque. It is very helpful to annotate heavily, using a highlighter to distinguish important passages and a pen or pencil to make marginal notes. It is also very helpful to think of a couple of questions you can raise during seminar as you are reading the text. Seminar participation (20% of final grade) takes into account the quality of a student’s participation in class as well as the completion of Blackboard posts on weeks when no essay drafts – first or final – are due. The Blackboard posts are a perfect format to either expand on something you found interesting or put those questions you should always be formulating before seminar in writing.

Third, the written work consists of three essays of increasing length (40% of final grade), ranging from 2 to 6 pages. The prompts are specific, and a student must turn in a first and a final draft. Students can only discuss the content of the essay before they turn in the first draft. This would be a good opportunity to visit the professor’s office hours. However, once the first draft is turned in, the content of the essay cannot be discussed with the professor. The first draft will be returned to the student with a set of markings – such as circles and underlines – which indicate that a grammatical, syntactical, or phrasing error has been made. The final draft will be graded keeping in mind a number of factors – namely, whether the language has improved from the first draft, how many errors appear in the final draft, and how well the essay’s content answers the prompt. Thus, a lot of attention ought to be paid to being grammatically correct and precise. This entire essay writing process – from first to final draft – will often take around two weeks. Though there are four essay prompts listed on the syllabus, students are required to only write three of them, thereby allowing students to take a break during a particularly busy part of the semester. Advance planning would be prudent.

Finally, there is a take-home final exam (25% of final grade). Designed not to put a heavy burden on students during exams period and only lasting 2 hours, it required only a couple of days of study. On a couple of occasions during the semester, the professor had gone over different words and phrases of note in academic writing and reviewing those notes in preparation for the exam was very useful. Additionally, skimming through the texts and putting two separate colors of Post-it flags to identify major plot points and idiosyncratic areas of interest respectively was also quite helpful. While taking the final exam, it is important to stop, think about the prompt, identify which direction to pursue quickly, and then stick with it.

External Resources

There are a number of external resources which can support your success in this course. Online dictionaries like “Leo Wörterbuch” and “dict.cc” and apps like “Linguee” can be great tools for looking up single words or phrases. Additionally, the Handbuch zur Deutschen Grammatik is a must-have for all students of German whoo may need to look up a confusing grammatical concept from time to time.

Finally, I’d recommend making use of the collection in Firestone to clarify any larger concepts that you don’t understand. For example, I picked up a book on German Aesthetic Theory when we started to touch upon certain concepts.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Completing this course will enable a student to take a 300-level course in the department or even a graduate course. Not only would it strengthen a student’s language skills, but it would also prepare him or her to succeed in independent work in multiple departments. The reason behind this is twofold. First, GER 209 gives you the necessary interpretive skills to do a close reading of any text and second, it improves your German, the second most prevalent language in academia. This course can be used to help fulfill the LA distribution requirement and it also counts towards the German certificate.

Introduction to German Literature after 1700

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