German / Religious Studies 379: Religion in German Culture


Below, you find the course syllabus both for a regular semester and for the online version during a reduced summer semester (2021).

This course can count toward the Cultural Minor in German Studies or toward the THEMATIC MINOR IN MEDIEVAL STUDIES. It is also a TIER 2 course, open to students across campus, for history, English, creative writing, anthropology, etc. It is, primarily, a cross-listed course counting toward German Studies and Religious Studies.

It addresses the history of religion as discussed by German theologians, mystics, philosophers, writers, and others from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century

INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, 301 Learning Services Building, Office 318; tel. 621-1395;;

OFFICE HOURS: Mo and We 11a.m.-12 p.m., and any other time after appointment (but always feel free simply to email me, to connect with me via zoom). For the online course, all this has to happen through email:


CLASSROOM: online course won't need a classroom

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Introduce students to the long-term discourse on religious issues in the history of German culture. We will examine medieval mysticism by Hildegard of Bingen, theological discourse by Peter Abelard, Pre-Reformation arguments, Luther's position, Baroque mysticism (Silesius), and then also the issue of tolerance in the age of Enlightenment (Lessing). This course will then be rounded off with some discussions of the meaning of God and the soul in nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries religious treaties, such as by Karl Barth.

COURSE OUTCOME: Students will have gained a solid understanding of a major strand of the intellectual and spiritual discourse from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The Protestant Reformation was probably the most important contribution to world culture by German intellectuals, but this course will help students understand the early developments and then the continuation of the Reformation in the subsequent centuries.

COURSE MATERIAL: online text excerpts and digital versions will be made available. No materials will have to be purchased.

Accessibility and Accommodations
At the University of Arizona,we strive to make learning experiences  as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please contact the Disability Resource Center (520-621-3268, to establish reasonable accommodations.  


Although it is assumed that you will attend all class sessions, you are informed hereby that excessive absences will have consequences. For details see below in the grading section. If justified circumstances prevent you from attending, please inform me in writing either before or after the event and provide satisfactory documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note). I will call out or post, at random, a group of students’ names to verify your attendance. So be forewarned. You need to come up to me and show me your Catcard at the end of class.

(For online: different criteria) Participating in the course and attending lectures and other course events are vital to the learning process. As such, attendance is required at all lectures and discussion section meetings. Absences may affect a student’s final course grade. If you anticipate being absent, are unexpectedly absent, or are unable to participate in class online activities, please contact me as soon as possible. To request a disability-related accommodation to this attendance policy, please contact the Disability Resource Center at (520) 621-3268 or If you are experiencing unexpected barriers to your success in your courses, the Dean of Students Office is a central support resource for all students and may be helpful. The Dean of Students Office is located in the Robert L. Nugent Building, room 100, or call 520-621-7057.


Please treat each other with respect and tolerance. People do have different views and opinions, but all these can only contribute to the rich learning experience I hope you all will have in this class. You are strongly encouraged to participate in class as much as possible. The two class meetings per week will only be of profit for you if you respond to my questions and those of your classmates.

For information on the University of Arizona Policy on Threatening Behavior by Students, click on this link:

CELL PHONES and all other electronic gadgets: You are not allowed to have your cell phones, smart phones, etc. on during class because a ringing will disturb everyone strongly. Either turn them off or mute them. All other electronic gadgets not pertinent to this class, such as iphone, ipads, etc., must also be off. They must all be put away. No playing around with texting, etc., openly or secretly. I need your full attention, and you are in class in order to learn and study, not to communicate with people on the outside. BTW, I will not have any of those gadget with me either and will be totally focused on you.

HONORS CONTRACTS: “Students who enter The Honors College as freshmen may fulfill up to 12 units (maximum 6 lower-division) through contracts. Students who enter the Honors College as sophomores may fulfill up to 9 units (maximum 3 lower-division) through contracts.  Students who enter The Honors College as juniors may fulfill six Honors credits through contracts.”  See also: “The work assigned as a result of the Contract should not determine the student's final grade. That is, the fact that the student is working for Honors credit does not guarantee a high grade. Final grades should reflect the quality and content of all of the student's work in the course.” ( The honors experience should involve not quantity but quality of further research, allowing a student in the Honors College taking this class to gain deeper and broader understanding of the class material. This might entail the study of some relevant research papers, which should result in an extra paper or oral presentation, or the study of additional material expanding the horizon as aimed for in this course.


SPECIAL NEEDS: Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations to participate fully in course activities or meet course requirements must register with the Disability Resource Center. Students need to submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting reasonable accommodations.



If you use secondary material for your papers, make sure that you indicate clearly where you took it from. Plagiarism and cheating violate the Code of Academic Integrity. For further information, see:




Do not ever copy from the work produced by published authors, by your classmates, by other students who might have taken this course in previous semesters, or by yourself in a previous or parallel class. If you receive help in writing your papers, make sure that the final outcome still represents your own work. You can discuss your papers with your fellow students, but at the end they need to consist of your own ideas and words! Be advised that the Web is a great search tool, but never, never copy from there without identifying very clearly what you used (and then only sparingly). At this point the scholarly value of web-based material still is not totally reliable, and the chances that you might stumble upon a most dubious webpage with untrustworthy information are very high. When you quote from a secondary source, clearly identify the quote and tell the reader in a footnote where you quoted it from. Every year more than 800 students at the UA are caught having committed the crime of plagiarism, resulting in penalties that could be as severe as expulsion from the University! You are smart enough not to copy from other people.

If there is any doubt in your mind whether you might commit plagiarism, see:

Plagiarism and the Web

If you commit plagiarism, you could either receive a 0 on your specific assignment, or an F for the entire course. Depending on the gravity of the case, you might even be expelled from the University. Every plagiarism case must be reported to the head of my dept., to the head of your dept., and to the Dean of Students.


Help with writing: The Writing Skills Improvement Program offers a number of valuable workshops at 1201 E. Helen Street. Please consult with them if you have a need to improve your writing skills (no walk-ins). For perhaps more immediate help, see the Writing Center: (walk-ins allowed). Tel.: 621-5849

Writing Center: The Writing Center is a free resource for UA undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff. At the Writing Center, a trained peer consultant will work individually with you on anything you're writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. Appointments are recommended, but not required. For more information or to make an appointment, visit their website at, stop by at 1201 E Helen St., main level, or call (520) 626-0530.?


GRADING: (100 percent total): (for online, see below)

1. Attendance: your attendance is a given; you will receive points every day of our class meetings via tophat (10%)

2. 3 papers: 15 + 15 + 15% = 45%

3. 2 essay-based exam: 15% + 15%= 30%

4. Participation in class, through tophat:15% 

Each paper will be graded as follows:

Must be typed, with at least 1" margin on all sides, at least 12 points letter size. Bring the print-out to class when the paper is due. Submit also in electronic form to the Assignment box in D2L, though only the paper copy will count. Keep in mind that each paper will be automatically examined as to the degree of similarities with other papers (turnitin software!). When there is suspicion of plagiarism, I will call you in for a conference, and the consequences of plagiarism might be very harsh. Do not write your paper together with a classmate, though you can, of course, discuss the topics with him/her. If you copy from another paper/chapter/article in print or online, without acknowledging the author and without indicating the extent to which you have copied by means of quotation marks and references, you commit plagiarism.

Thesis: Concisely developed, clear concept, well formulated (avoid paraphrase!). Always provide a title that captures your thesis. 20 pts

Argument: Good use of original text to illustrate the thesis; complex argument based on a solid knowledge of the text; convincing organization. 50 pts. If you do not engage with at least one critical secondary source, loss of 15 points, if only fleetingly or superficially, loss of 10 points.

Conclusion: Convincing connection with the thesis, good summary of the argument, final comment on the outside source (negatively or positively), concise formulation; 20 pts.

Outside Sources: You must engage with at least one pertinent outside source for each paper, i.e., a critical study of recent vintage (preferably not from prior to 1970!). Bring in the author's opinion and use it either to support your own argument or demonstrate why you believe that the other opinion misreads the text. [does not apply to our online course]

Format: Write down your first last name, SI, class, instructor, term, year on the top of your paper. Next follows the title. Next the thesis in bold.

At the end of your paper write a statement and sign it that this is your own piece of work and that you did not receive outside help.

Stylistics10 pts: Correct use of grammar and diction, sophisticated use of vocabulary, complex sentence structure.

LENGTH: Each paper should consist of ca. 12000 words.

Submit to D2L Assignments

Bibliography: See, for instance, my Handbook of Medieval Studies, ed. A. C. (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 2010; online in the library). Familiarize yourself with the various research sources in our library (MLA, JSTOr, etc.). Your outside sources ought to focus on the specific topic that you are addressing. The studies that you will consult cannot be from prior to 1960 (the older ones are not necessarily bad, but for learning experiences it is necessary for you to consult the latest research).


How to cite your secondary source/s :


Trumpener, Katie. "Memories Carved in Granite: Great War Memorials and Everyday Life." PMLA 115 (2000): 1096-103. - this is a journal article


Hanks, Patrick. "Do Word Meanings Exist?" Computers and the Humanities 34 (2000): 205-15. – this is a journal article


Kurlansky, Mark. Salt. A World (New York: Scribner's, 2001). - this is a monograph!


Niiranen, Susanna. “At the Crossroads of Religion, Magic, Science and Written Culture.” Mental Health, Spirituality, and Religion in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age, ed. Albrecht Classen. Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 15. Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014. 290-313. – this is an article in an edited volume


"Selected Seventeenth-Century Events," Romantic Chronology. Ed. Laura Mandell and Alan Liu. 1999. U of California, Santa Barbara. 12 November 2003 <;. (last accessed on Month, date, year) - this is an online source


You must use this format! Otherwise loss of points.

All reading materials will be online, free of charge, but we need the Tophat Learning Management System, which needs to be paid for (I do not gain any profit from it):


Tophat: We will be using the Top Hat ( classroom response system in class.  You will be able to submit answers to in-class questions using Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, laptops, or through text message.  

You can visit the Student Quick Start Guide which outlines how you will register for a Top Hat account, as well as providing a brief overview to get you up and running on the system. For all questions, use this link to contact Top Hat directly:


Joining code: Join Code: 929192


Reading list:

Middle Ages:

Abelard: Dialogue: Dialogue - better and more complete translation

Hildegard of Bingen, background, illustrations

Hildegard: Divine Works

Rudolf von Ems, Der guote Gerhart: Rudolf von Ems, Der guote Gerhart (an expression of tolerance in the Middle Ages)


Boccaccio: Decameron, 1st day, stories 2-3, 10th day, story 9 (Jews, Christians, and Muslims)


Martin Luther: 95 Theses, and many others  (Protestant Reformation)


Angelus Silesius (A Baroque Mystic)


Lessing: Lessing: Nathan the Wise (Enlightenment)

19th century:

Friedrich Nietzsche, God is Dead (Anti-Enlightenment)

Quotes about Religion

More Quotes - Very provocative, but stimulating

Karl Marx, Tyler and Frazer, Sigmund Freud, Emil Durkheimer, et al.

20th century:

Karl Barth, The Humanity of God (Twentieth Century) For our purposes, let's only look at these quotes

Declaration of Religious Freedom, Vatican IIDignitatis 



You will always receive points for attendance in the chatroom meetings (active participation is expected). If you have legitimate reasons to miss a meeting, let me know. You can then read the archived session and submit a written response to substitute your absence. Always read the assigned texts before our chatroom meetings.

ead the survey online Wikipedia (history of religion in Germany). We meet at 7 p.m. in the Chatroom 0. Change your alias to your first name in Settings

Then, take a look at some of the public statements published by representatives of Religious departments across the country:

Swarthmore: Why study religion? 

Chapel Hill, NC:

William A. Graham (Harvard):


July 14: 7 p.m (always the same time). chatroom meeting 1: please have read Emily Amt's intro to the Middle Ages (we focus only on the religious aspects: the early Christian Church, then mysticism, miracles, Cathars, Babylonian Captivity, Protestant Reformation)

July 16: chatroom meeting 2; Hildegard of Bingen, intro, and Divine Works

July 21: chatroom meeting 3: Rudolf von Ems, The Good Gerhard (only pp. 9 to 40)

July 23: chatroom meeting 4: Rudolf von Ems, pp. 41-69

July 24: 1st essay due online 12 p.m.

July 28: chatroom meeting 5; exception: here is an Italian text: please have read: Boccaccio, Day 1, 2-3

July 30: chatroom meeting 6; cont., Italian: Boccaccio, 10-9

Aug. 04: chatroom meeting 7: Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther, 95 Theses: they are all very short, so let's try to read them all. Everyone, please choose 2 that you find particularly meaningful, each, out of every group: Ethan: 1-10, Graciela: 11-20, Max: 21-30, Maddie, 31-40, Rion: 41-50, Cassie: 51-60. 

For the background, please read the questions/assignments as posted on D2L.


Aug. 06: chatroom meeting 8; Friedrich Nietzsche, "God is Dead; Karl Marx

Aug. 07: 2nd essay is due, 12 p.m.

Aug. 9: Posting of final exam questions on D2L.

Aug. 11: chatroom meeting 9; Karl Barth: The Humanity of God (1956). But let's concentrate on his quotes, see link above. 

Aug. 12: final exam is due online: 4 p.m.; last meeting, we can meet online via phone or zoom.

Student Learning Outcomes; By the end of the semester, students will be able to engage critically with the discourse on religion in the history of Germany from the Middle Ages to the present, they will be familiar with a solid selection of critical texts from that time period, and will have acquired the skill to write about the crucial issues in solidly researched papers.

Possible Changes: The information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policies, may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.


Final Grade Review: If there might be a problem with your grade, you can ask me for a review until: date to be determined (shortly before finals week is over). Beyond that, there will not be any opportunity to revisit your grade.