GER 320: History of Toleration and Tolerance From Biblical Times to the 18th Century

Course materials:

GER 320: History of Toleration and Tolerance From Biblical Times to the 18th Century

Below is the syllabus for the regularly scheduled course Ger 320: History of Tolerance. For this Winter 2019/20 course, the syllabus has been adapted to be offered online. Since it will be an intensive online course, reading material and requirements have been compressed. Note the accommodations in the syllabus for the online course.

Based on my experience over several semesters, students have really liked the online format with chatroom meetings that are much more fun and more intensive than the regular face to face classroom. There is a better sense of equality and a lower level of hesitation to comment. Through the chatrooms I as your instructor will be able to steer you through the material and help you to get the best possible results in this class. Hope you will join this course, Winter 2019/20

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

For our website on D2L:

OFFICE HOURS: Mo and We 11a.m.-12 p.m., and any other time after appointment (but always feel free simply to stop by at my office, email me, call me to make sure that I am in)


COURSE OBJECTIVES: Today, more than ever, we need to discuss and explore the topic of tolerance, and examine the roots of this philosophical and ethical approach to human life. We will trace the discourse on toleration and then tolerance from biblical times through the Middle Ages until the late eighteenth century, giving equal weight to ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment texts, such as romances, poetry, treatises, plays, and prose novellas. The course intends to educate students about the history of tolerance and make them to experts in the relevant discourse.

COURSE OUTCOME: Students will have gained a solid understanding of major literary, philosophical and religious contributions to the discourse of toleration and tolerance. They will be able to distinguish between these two concepts and will be able to draw from a variety of literary traditions when talking and reflecting on tolerance. They will have a good sense of how to distinguish the various cultural-historical periods, and yet will recognize the intellectual connections among the many major players in the history of western culture. This course aims toward one of the highest goals in the Humanities, to make our students to true citizens of our world who are well educated in the historical development of this topic from ancient time to the present.

COURSE MATERIAL: All online: excerpts from 1. the Bible; 2. the Koran; 3. the Torah; 4. Wolfram von Eschenbach,Willehalm, 5. Rudolf von Ems, Der guote Gerhart, 6. Boccaccio’s Decameron; 7. Pico de la Mirandola; 8. Sebastian Franck; 9. Voltaire; 10. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan the Wise; and 11. Thomas Jefferson. 12. Possibly also the Declaration of Religious Freedom by Vatican II (1965) and other modern texts.

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.


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:

The University of Arizona is committed to fostering a learning, working, and living environment free from all forms of discrimination, including harassment. The University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The policy also prohibits retaliation for opposing discriminatory conduct, filing a discrimination-related complaint, or participating in the investigation of a discrimination-related complaint.
For definitions of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, please see the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy here or visit the Office of Institutional Equity website.

ACCEPTABLE ABSENCE: Absences for any sincerely held religious belief, observance, or practice will be accommodated where reasonable:

Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or dean’s designee) will be honored.

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:



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.?


1. Attendance: your attendance is a given; you will lose points, however, for excessive unexcused absences (3-4 x = 3%; 5-6 x = 5%; 7-8 x = 7%, more than 8 times = automatic F in class)

Online course: We will have 10 online chatroom meetings. You are required to attend at least 8; if less, point deduction: This will count 15% of your overall grade.

2. 3 papers: 20%, 20%, 20%

Online course: 2 papers: 30%; 30% for a total of 60% (essay questions)

3. 2 essay-based exams: 20%, 20%

Online course: 1 essays-based exam: 25%

Format of papers:

A. Must be typed, with at least 1″ margin on all sides, at least 12 points letter size. Bring the print-out to class when paper is due. Submit also in electronic form to the Assignment box in D2L, though only the paper copy will count for the grade. 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 for 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.

Online course: always submit to the dropbox, now called Assignments!

B. 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.

C. 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.

Each paper will be graded as follows:

Online course: I have provided concrete questions for you, all posted online already. Ignore the requirement for the regular course below (papers)

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. You must consult research on your topic and reflect upon it as part of your argument. If you do not engage with at least one critical secondary source, loss of 15 points, if only fleetingly or superficially done, loss of 8 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.

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

LENGTH: Each paper should consist of ca. 800-1000 words.

Always submit a hard copy and upload a version to the assignment box on D2L! You must do both! We will grade only the paper copy; the electronic version will serve only to check for plagiarism issue.

Create a separate bibliography and use the following format (MLA style):  (does not apply to the online course)

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

The second paper can be submitted as a re-write. Only the second grade will then count. This should give you a good opportunity to improve your writing and analyzing skills (This does not apply to the online course due to lack of time.)

Course Materials: All online:

Ancient Times

The Christian Bible I  and specific quotes;

quotes from the Koran I  and Koran II. Koran and Tolerance

Judaism and tolerance (Wikipedia article)

Middle Ages

Abelard: Dialogue; Dialogue – better and more complete translation

Wolfram von Eschenbach – PDF

Rudolf von Ems, Der guote Gerhart

Ramon Llull: The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men

Boccaccio: Decameron, 1st day, stories 2-3, 10th day, story 9. Better version


Nicholas of Cusa

Pico de la Mirandola: On the Dignity of Man

Martin Luther: That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, 1523

possibly also Sebastian Franck


Voltaire (brief excerpt until: “such as we are, to anticipate the decrees of the Creator.” Then: The full text of his treatise, 1763 (pp. 43-49)

Lessing: Nathan the Wise; alternative link:…

Thomas Jefferson

The American Constitution

Modern Times

Declaration of Religious Freedom, Vatican IIDignitatis humanae (survey and introduction)


Note: Depending on how our discussion will develop, we might not be able to read all the texts listed here, since it will be more important to reach full understanding than to skim over many aspects. There will be 11 chatroom meetings!

Online course (Winter 2019/20)

Section 1, Dec. 23-24: Read online: history of toleration (Stanford)

read for Dec. 25-26: history of tolerance (Wikipedia); then study the texts in the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah (links are above)

Chatroom meetings (each at 8 p.m. MST): Dec. 23, 8 p.m.: intro., general reflections, and discussion of the Stanford article (a little too complex)

Dec. 26, 8 p.m.: Wikipedia article

Dec. 28, 8 p.m.: Bible, Koran, and Torah

Dec. 29: read Abelard

Dec. 30: read and then chat, 8 p.m.: Abelard and Wolfram von Eschenbach

1st paper is due on Dec. 31: see the questions online (posted on Dec. 30)

Jan. 1- 2: read Rudolf von Ems, Der guote Gerhart (we will read only a small excerpt: vv. 1130-2616)

Chat: Jan. 2, 8 p.m.: Rudolf von Ems

Jan. 3-5: read Boccaccio: 1st Day stories 2-3, 10th Day, 9th

Chatroom meetings: Jan. 4: Boccaccio I/2 and 6: Boccaccio I/3 and 10/9, 8 p.m.

2nd paper is due Jan. 7, 5 p.m. MST, I will post the questions on Jan. 6: 

Jan. 7-9, read: Voltaire (read the brief version first, then study the full text, focusing on ‘toleration’)

Jan. 10-12, read Lessing (very long play, we focus only on the early part, with Nathan coming home, the relationship between his daughter Recha and the Templar, Saladin, and the ring parable.

Chat: Jan. 10: Lessing Act 1 up to the point when Recha and the Templar converse, up to: ” go to fetch him.”

Jan. 12, 8 p.m.: The Ring parable, Act I, Scene V (search for: “Draw nearer, Jew still nearer close to me; And without fear.” Read until: “A heavy debt to him.”

Jan. 13-14: read: early section of Vatican II

Chat: Jan. 14: cannot do it, my flight schedule was changed. But I’ll be back in my office on the 15th. Email me with any questions.

Final Exam is due Jan. 14, 6 p.m. MST: I will post the questions on Jan. 13

Below: the syllabus for a regular 15-week course

Week 1: Philosophical, religious, moral, and ethical reflections on Tolerance and Toleration, the Bible


Week 2-3: Bible, Koran, and Torah

Middle Ages

Week 4: Wolfram von Eschenbach, Willehalm

Week 5: 1st Essay due, and Peter Abelard

Week 6: Peter Abelard and Ramon Lull

Week 7: 1st Exam and Ramon Llull


Week 8: Boccaccio, Decameron

Week 9: Pico de la Mirandola

Week 10: Nicholas of Cusa; read the article by A. Classen


Week 11: 2nd Essay; Voltaire

Week 12: Rewrite du by the end of the 12th week. Voltaire and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Week 13: continue with Lessing. See also the silent movie from 1922

Week 14: 3rd essay, Thomas Jefferson and the American Constitution

Week 15: 2nd exam (with more comprehensive questions); History of Toleration and Final reflections on the history of tolerance

PLEASE NOTE: Students are responsible for picking up their graded papers either in class or, in exceptional cases, from the dept. within max. 5 school days after they have been returned officially in class. Similarly, students are responsible for checking their grades posted on D2L. After 10 school days no further review is possible. At the end of the semester, you are also responsible for checking your final grade in case of a disagreement or problem. A review of your final grade after the end of the semester is not possible.
Student Learning Outcomes; By the end of the semester, students will be able to engage critically with the discourse on toleration and tolerance from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century, will know 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.