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GE12: History and Identity in Germany, 1750 to the Present

This paper is available for the academic year 2016-17.

From the mid-eighteenth century to the present the question of national and cultural identity has engaged many of the greatest German writers and thinkers. Their reflections have been stimulated by the disrupted history of the German lands: from the Holy Roman Empire, destroyed by the Napoleonic Wars, to the second Reich, destroyed by World War I, to the Third Reich, destroyed by World War II and then divided by the 'Iron Curtain' until 1989-90. The legacy of this troubled past has attracted fresh interest since the reunification of Germany in 1990. The 2005 commemoration of 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the 2007 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, and the 2009-10 celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany were marked by important statements on German identity by major political figures such as the Chancellor and the German President and by a mass of media commentary. Every stage in the disrupted history of the Germans has prompted new debate about their identity and about the implications of the German past for the present and future development

The paper offers the opportunity to study texts and ideas which are of political, social and cultural rather than purely literary significance. We assume no prior knowledge of history, merely an interest in exploring the intellectual debates that have accompanied the cultural and political development of modern Germany. of Germany.

Topics: 

SECTION A: THEORIES OF CULTURE, SOCIETY AND THE MEANING OF HISTORY (I)Herder, Kant, Hegel, Engels

SECTION B: THEORIES OF CULTURE, SOCIETY AND THE MEANING OF HISTORY (II) Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Spengler, Meinecke

SECTION C: THE RISE AND FALL OF GERMAN PHILHELLENISM, 1750-1945

1. The Rise of Philhellenism (Winckelmann and Humboldt)

2. The Dark Side of Hellas: Nietzsche, Burckhardt and the Revaluation of Greek Antiquity

3. Philhellenism and Nazism

SECTION D: MYTH, MEMORY, AND HISTORY - THE INVENTION OF GERMAN TRADITIONS, c.1770-1945

1. The Gothic Revival and Romantic Medievalism

2. 'Hermann the German' and the rise of 'Teutomania' in the 19th Century

3. The Nationalist Conscription of Luther and the Reformation

SECTION E: VÖLKISCH THOUGHT AND RACIAL IDEOLOGIES, c. 1800-1945

1. Fashioning the Volk: Fichte, Jahn, and Arndt

2. The völkisch movement: Lagarde, Langbehn, Chamberlain

3. Nazi ideology between völkisch nationalism and biological racism

SECTION F: HISTORY AND IDENTITY IN GERMANY 1945-2010

1. Vergangenheitsbewältigung in the Federal Republic before 1989

2. Antifascism and the German Past in the German Democratic Republic 1949-89

3. Facing the German Past in a unified Germany, 1990-2013

Preparatory reading: 

S. Berger, Germany. Inventing the Nation (London, 2004)

O. Dann, Nation und Nationalismus in Deutschland, 1770-1990 (Munich, 1993)

A Bowie, German Philosophy. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2010)

Alexander Demandt, Philosophie der Geschichte: Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Cologne, 2011), ch. 7-16

H de Berg and D Large (eds), Modern German Thought from Kant to Habermas: An Annotated German-Language Reader (Rochester, 2012)

Full reading list

Please see the Ge.12 reading list here.

Teaching and learning: 

All students study a selection of texts from either Section A or Section B. You then select three other Sections (including either A or B) for further study. Two supervisions are devoted to each Section selected; the final two supervisions are devoted to revision. Lectures are offered on all topics and all lectures are accompanied by extensive handouts.

Learning resources:

The Moodle site for Ge12 can be found here. Students should email the paper coordinator for the enrollment password.

Assessment: 

In the exam you answer three questions, at least one of which must be taken from Section A or Section B. Past question papers can be seen on CamTools.  Students also have the option of preparing a dissertation of 10,000 words instead of sitting the exam (the Optional Dissertation).

Course Contacts: 
Professor Joachim Whaley