GER 420: Periods in German Culture

Course materials:


This course counts toward the Major in German Studies or, if offered with a focus on medieval literature, toward the Thematic Minor in Medieval Studies

INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, 318 Learning Service Building, tel.: 520 621-1395; fax: 520 626-8286; e-mail:

CLASS MEETINGS: TT 3:30-4:45 p.m., Mod. Lang. 304
OFFICE HOURS: TR 11-11:50 and after appointments (feel free to stop by any other time; if my door is open, you are most welcome to visit me).

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This is an upper-division German literature/culture course in which German will be the predominant mode of communication. The topic, Periods in German Culture, is of significant relevance, so this course will primarily focus on a period in the history of German literature when it gained its first major momentum, the Middle Ages. To make things easier, we will read all texts in modern German translation, as it cannot be expected that you will follow me in studying Middle High German. The emphasis still lies on improving your German language skills, however, now with a special content. We will examine a wide range of individual texts from ca. 800 until ca. the middle of the sixteenth century.

COURSE OUTLINE: You are asked to participate actively in this course so that you can improve your German and gain a solid grasp of the older period of the history of German literature. You are expected to join me in discussing the texts, and each of you is supposed to give an oral presentation alone or in a group. These presentations should provide the class with more information about a poet’s biography or the cultural framework of a text. I will ask you to submit written essays about many of our texts, and you will have an opportunity to rewrite them to improve your grade. In case of particular lack of attention or involvement in class, a 10% deduction in grade could be imposed.

1. Albrecht Classen, Das deutsche Mittelalter in seinen Dichtungen. 4th rev. and expanded ed. (Tucson, AZ: Fast Copy, 2009)

2. Moriz von Craûn, ed. and trans. by A. Classen (1992; Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, 2000; rpt. Columbus: Greyden Press, 2004). Now available online, free of charge, at:

3. Dietrich von der Gletze, Der Gürtel, available online, free of charge, at:

— 2 exams with essay questions: 40% (you can use your dictionaries in class)
— 4 papers (with possibility of one rewrite each): 30% (rewrites always due a week later; subsequent rewrite submissions will not be accepted); rewrite can be submitted until the next class time after paper has been returned
— 1 oral presentation in a group of two or three: 30%: Do not rely on online sources. Consult the relevant German literary histories in the library. We need always some historical and cultural background for each poet/text. Bring images, maps, etc. Make a nice PPP.

All papers must be typed, at least 600 words. Please be very careful in spelling and checking your grammar before you submit your work. You can ask for help, but your final work must be your own. So you are not allowed to ask a native speaker to “clean up” your paper. Instead, use the opportunity to rewrite your papers which I will mark the first time around without giving you the corrected forms, whereas I’ll provide you with the right answer the second time. You will get a grade for the original and the rewrite.

Expectations: Choose each time two or three of our texts, offer a specific interpretation, or argument, highlighting the key aspects of the text/s. You can also focus on individual figures and describe their character portrait. I am not so much concerned about a truly innovative interpretation, as long as you write a solid thesis paper, with introduction, development of arguments, and a conclusion. Always count your words and write down the number.

Write at least ca. 600 words for each paper, typed, with 1.5 spacing, and font 12 pts.

A: few and only minor grammatical and spelling mistakes, good content, with a clear argument and conclusion.

B: a number of mistakes, a few major, otherwise minor in nature, somewhat unclear thesis or arguments, a bit weak on content

C: many major grammar or spelling mistakes, unclear content or argument

D: difficult to understand paper because of grammar and spelling problems, weak in content

E: too many mistakes and too little content

ATTENDANCE: You are required to attend all class sessions. If you have to miss because of an emergency, please let me know either before or after class. For any other issues, please consult the university-wide policy:

All holidays or special events observed by organized religions will be honored for those students who show affiliation with that particular religion. Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee) will be honored.

STUDENT BEHAVIOR: For the University of Arizona Policy on Threatening Behavior by Students

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.

WARNING (very serious matter!!!):
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:ir56

CLASS SCHEDULE: (might be adapted depending on the progress of our discussions)

Aug. 25 and 30: Introduction, The Middle Ages, the time frame, and culturer; 1st presentation possibility. Read the first sections covering the early, high, and late Middle Ages.

Sept. 1, 6, and 8: Das Hildebrandslied: 2nd presentation

Sept. 13, 15, 20: 1st paper on Sept. 13. Hartmann von Aue, Der arme Heinrich; 3rd presentation

Sept. 22, 27, 29: Walther von der Vogelweide; 4th presentation

Oct. 4: Conclusion with Walther; Der Stricker: Der Riese; Der nackte Ritter

Oct. 6: First exam

Oct. 10, 13, 18, and 20: Moriz von Craun; 6th presentation; 2nd paper due on Oct. 27

Oct. 25: Prepare your own critical stance as to your evaluation of Moritz and the Countess (only homework assignment, since I’ll be out of town). Oct. 27: present your arguments to lead into a class discussion

Let’s use these questions: 1. Hat Moriz seine Geliebte vergewaltigt? 2. Was bedeutet das Schiff fuer seinen Charakter und den des Ehemanns? 3. Was sagt der Dichter ueber die Bedeutung von hoefischer Liebe am Ende seiner Novelle?

Nov. 1, 3, 8: Dietrich von der Gletze: Der Gürtel; 3rd paper due on Nov. 10: Z.B.: Die Misshandlung der Ehefrau. Oder: Spiel mit den Geschlechterrollen im Mittelalter; Spiel mit der Homosexualitaet. Die symbolische Bedeutung des Guertels. 6th presentation

Nov. 10, 15, 17: Read the section on the late Middle Ages in the Wikipedia Article on the Mittelalter. Spätmittelalterliche mæren (we begin with Ritter Alexander and Friedrich von Auchenfurt; then we turn to Die getreue Kaufmannsfrau and Der Edelmann  mit den vier Frauen). 7th group presentation on the maere as a genre, or on marriage in the late Middle Ages

Nov. 22, 29: Oswald von Wolkenstein; 4th paper is due on the 22nd (compare and contrast one of the mæren with  “Der Gurtel”. 8th presentation

Dec. 1: Second exam

Dec. 6: Hans Sachs

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