Ger 379. Schedule for Spring 2022

Spring 2022. For links to the readings (homework assignment before class), see the major syllabus.

Jan. 12: Introduction: What is the relevance of religion as a cultural-historical topic. For today, we examine one short statement recently published about the nature of Christianity as an hermeneutic religion

Jan. 17: MLK Day, no class.

Jan. 19: Critical approaches to Religious Studies: Read the texts in the links above (1. Swarthmore, 2. Chapel Hill, 3. Harvard, 4. Why Study Religion – my letter to the editor). And read the first section of the Wikipedia article on religion in antiquity and the early Middle Ages: To simplify, let’s focus on the table of contents and discuss then what the major steps have been and where we will need to investigate it further.


Jan. 24: History of religion and German culture, from the high Middle Ages to the 20th c., Wikipedia. Same link as on Wed. (not the other one on religion in Germany). There are 9 sections (from late antiquity to the 20th c. Let’s divvy them up into groups. I’ll assign those to each two of you. Thanks.

Here is our worksheet for today

Jan. 26: We continue with the historical overview, going quickly from the 16th c. to the 20th century (use the same Wikipedia link as listed for Jan. 20). Let’s build a scaffold via

For today, also, What is anti-Semitism, and why does it exist until today? Let’s watch a short film: Maseltov Cocktail. trailer 2German version in full length. Then we jump back to the high Middle Ages and turn to our first text: Abelard: 12th c. philosophy and criticism of theology. Video. Our text is an abbreviation, it begins on p. 19 and goes to 51. For today, please have read 19-ca. 35. The point here is to understand that the discourse on religion began already in the high Middle Ages, if not even before that.

Jan. 31: We pick up on the movie and discuss what it says about antisemitism. Then we finally switch to Abelard; please have read the entirety of the dialogue between the Jew and the Philosopher

Feb. 2: We will spend most of our time on the dialogue poem by  Abelard, the position of the Jew. Then: Mysticism: Hildegard of Bingen. Please read the beginning of this excellent study, on mysticism. Then turn to her own text, link above. The Stanford article might be too esoteric, so let’s focus instead on this online article, which is rather broadly conceived, global, but easier to understand.

Feb. 7: Hildegard of Bingen: we discuss the excerpt. Conclusion. Please read this entry on Wikipedia, esp. the chapter on Hildegard.

Feb. 09: I will most likely not arrive on time for this class, coming back from Phoenix where I’ll give two workshops on 2-6 and early on 2-7. Please respond to homework questions on tophat, timed to coincide with our class. Thank you.

Feb. 14: We work a little with Hildegard’s music, then focus on the illustrations (group work). Rudolf von Ems: please read a little about him online, and take a look at the introduction which I wrote for the book (Rudolf von Ems: vv. 1160-ca. 2100 and vv. ca. 2100-2616

Feb. 16: For today, identify one passage in the text by Rudolf and present it briefly to the class. Then: Please read this introduction to the Decameron; or this more facetious youtube, then turn to Boccaccio: I/2 (link above). This is: Book I, story 2.

Feb. 21: 1st exam, on top hat

Feb. 23: Boccaccio: I/2 and 3. Please make sure to have carefully read both stories. Use this link as a better alternative

Febr. 28: Boccaccio: X/9

March 2: We read this short but most insightful recent article on Nicholas of Cusa and Saint Francis of Assisi as to ‘interreligious dialogue’. Please also study this Introduction (postponed to March 14). This is a good, brief summary. Please read it in preparation for our class, then we turn to Martin Luther: Protestant Reformation: theses 1-15. Realistically, we might not quite get very far, but let’s work on the Intro. at least for 20 min.

March 4: 1st paper, due at 5 p.m.

Spring break March 7-12

March 14: Review of the Introduction to the Reformation. Then we consider Luther’s translation of the Bible. We continue with the theses by Luther: 1-30 

March 16: Luther, 31-60

March 21: We focus on Luther’s theses for 45 min. Then we turn to Baroque poetry.  For the historical background, the religious conflicts, and then the 30 Years’ War, watch this excellent lecture by Peter Wilson and take some notes. I will ask you about the information provided there.

March 23:  Let’s use this article, but focus only on the images included. Then, please read this introductory article first. Angelus Silesius: Baroque, Pietism. We read the first epigrams up to 1.47: use these translations

March 28: We continue with Silesius. 1.97-5,242

March 30: 2nd exam

April 04: Enlightenment: please be aware that the reading of Lessing’s play will take a bit more time; plan accordingly.Homework: study a little up on Lessing’s biography. We discuss: Lessing I

April 06: Lessing II

April 11: Lessing III – I will be out of town and will post discussion questions on Tophat to replace myself (giving a talk at the Univ. of WA, Seattle)

April 13: Lessing IV

April 18: Lessing V

April 20: Karl Marx and Freud: For a brief into, read: Karl Marx, Tyler and Frazer, Sigmund Freud, Emil Durkheimer, et al.

(not this semester: More on Freud)

We then discuss: The critical statements by Marx on Religion, and conclude with Marx quotes

April 25: Marx quotes, then Marx on religion. Intro. to Friedrich Nietzsche, The Madman (see also link above in the syllabus)

I have posted the essay 2 questions already today.

April 27: Review of Marx, on top hat. Then: Nietzsche, “The Madman”, and if time remains:, quotes.  (these are all only the quotes)

April 29: 2nd paper is due: 5 p.m.

May 02: Homework: please choose one quote by Nietzsche and present it briefly to the class. Then: Karl Barth

May 04: 3rd exam


Perhaps also: Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

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


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 many time periods, and will have acquired the skill to write about the crucial issues in solidly researched papers. They will understand how religion evolved from late antiquity to the 20th century, especially within the cultural-historical framework of Germany.

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 May 19, 2021. Beyond that, there will not be any opportunity to revisit your grade.