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Violence in German Literature, Film and Visual Art

This module explores how individual and collective notions of violence are shaped and redefined by literature, film, and visual art over several periods of German cultural history. The course will focus on such topics as warfare, terrorism, familial power structures, domestic abuse, violence and the issue of corporeality in modernity, traumatic experience, memory and commemoration of conflict and aggression as part of a broader consideration of violence and aesthetics. Treatment of the theme will include analyses of aesthetic representations of violence and will explore past and present theories of violence. Areas covered may include the Age of the French Revolution, Modernity, Representations of the Holocaust, German and Austrian Cinema, Postcolonial Studies. These will be explored in a range of media (prose and lyric writing, visual art, and film).

Term 1

In term 1 we will be examining forms of violence in recent German film and television work. To speak of forms of violence, thereby, means to attend both to a discussion of various and conceptually distinct registers of violence—revolutionary violence, gender violence, systemic violence, symbolic violence, and the violence of positivity, among others—and to study in close detail the ways in which such violence is represented on a formal level in visual culture from the German-speaking world. At the heart of our discussions, thus, is the question about the possibilities, limitations, and pitfalls of an aesthetics of violence.

Our discussion of the primary material will be complemented and informed by readings from theoretical texts on the concept of violence, and we will also devote ourselves to methods and techniques for studying visual culture.

Materials likely to be studied in Term 1:

  • Woyzeck (dir. Werner Herzog, 1979)
  • Requiem (dir. Hans-Christian Schmid, 2006)
  • Tatort: Der rote Schatten (TV programme, dir. Dominik Graf, 2017)
  • Aus dem Nichts (dir. Fatih Akin, 2017)
  • 4 Blocks (TV series, season 1, 2017)
  • Funny Games (dir. Michael Haneke, 1997) [optional – content warning]
  • Gefängnisbilder’, ‘Die Schöpfer der Einkaufswelten’, ‘Serious games’ (documentary and video work, dir. Harun Farocki, 2001-2010)

Term 2

Domestic violence can take many shapes. This term explores various filmic analyses of power and violence within the seemingly safe haven of the nuclear family. Starting out with two adaptations of Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Effi Briest and, loosely referring to Fontane's novel, Martha), we analyse the dynamics of the partner relationship. Based on films by the Austrian director Michael Haneke (Bennys Video, Das weiße Band) the course will also look at the underlying structures of family life against the backdrop of two different historical settings.

Materials likely to be studied in Term 2:

  • Theodor Fontane: Effi Briest, Stuttgart 2008 (Reclam)
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Effi Briest
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Martha
  • Michael Haneke: Bennys Video
  • Michael Haneke: Das weiße Band

Coordinators:  Professor Claudia Nitschke and Dr Alexis Radisoglou

Further details of pre-requisites, co-requisites, aims, contact hours and assessment.