skip to content

GE15 Reading List

1. Weimar Dance and Physical Theatre: Expression, Entertainment and Politics

This module addresses the multi-facetted forms of dance and physical theatre which played a prominent part in Weimar urban life. Set between high culture and popular or mass entertainment, they appeared both on the big stages that accommodated the most spectacular revues and in the makeshift performance venues of small halls and bars. We will explore various major forms of performance and their reception by contemporary intellectuals such as Siegfried
Kracauer: the gender-bending, satirical or transgressive cabaret performances of Valeska Gert and Anita Berber, the serious, mythically charged Ausdruckstanz (expressive dance) of Mary Wigman, the dance theatre of Kurt Jooss, and the kick lines of the Americanised girl troupes. Specific attention will be given to the ways in which performing bodies acquired meaning, both on stage and through discursive contextualisation, and how they became representative of prominent cultural and political concerns of Weimar Germany, including the experience of death and survival in WW I, the turn towards the 'natural' and the 'primitive', sexual liberation,the celebration of American mass culture, and the rise of Fascist aesthetics.

Introductory Reading

  • Ramsay Burt, Alien Bodies: Representations of Modernity, 'Race' and Nation in Early Modern Dance (London: Routledge, 1998)
  • Kate Elswit, Watching Weimar Dance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Susan Manning, Lucia Ruprecht (eds),New German Dance Studies (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012)
  • Karl Toepfer, Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)


2. German Sport in the Interwar Years

Modern sport was a British invention of the nineteenth century that spread throughout the world via imperial and commercial networks. In Europe, it competed with indigenous forms of physical exercise such as gymnastics before sweeping all before it, particularly in the interwar years when it boomed as part of massed culture in the era of increased leisure. In Germany, local political conditions made for especially tense competition between rival forms of physical expression. This module will concentrate primarily on sport and 'Turnen' in the Weimar Republic(although it will look backwards and beyond). It will examine the relationship between different key aspects of sport in the period: its aesthetics as a performative activity, the mania for record keeping, the influence of technology (Taylorism), the masses and high culture, and National Socialist ambivalence towards and eventual exploitation of sport. It will focus mainly on football, athletics, cycling and boxing, and include reference to sports films (e.g.Die Elf Teufel; Olympia 1936), sport in film (e.g.Metropolis, Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt, Kuhle Wampe), 'Körperkultur' (Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit) and prominent literary / feuilletonistic commentary (Brecht:Der Kinnhaken, Der Lebenslauf des Boxers Samson Körner; Kaiser (Von Morgens bis Mitternachts) et al. on the Sechstagerennen).

Introductory Reading

  • Frank Becker, Amerikanismus in Weimar: Sportsymbole und politische Kultur, 1918-1933 (Wiesbaden: Deutscher Universitätsverlag, 1993)
  • Christiane Eisenberg, "English sports" und deutsche Bürger: eine Gesellschaftsgeschichte 1800-1939 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1999)
  • Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht, In 1926: Living at the Edge of Time (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1997) (relevant sections)
  • Hannah Schaub, Riefenstahls Olympia (Munich: Fink, 2003)


3. Performing Weimar Body Culture

The cultural political upheavals of the Weimar period are in particular evidence in the styles and behaviours of bodies in performance. The performing body takes a variety of forms in this period: exposed in ways that are both liberating and traumatic, but also subject to encasement in uniforms, technology and regulated forms of conduct. Body culture operates on all levels of public behaviour: on the street, in the factory, or in landscape as much as on the stage or screen. This module will begin by giving an overview of the career of the performing body in the Weimar years, taking stock of the paradigm shift from Expressionism toNeue Sachlichkeit. A closer view of the topic will then be taken by reference to filmic representations of the body in performance. From the early Weimar films of Robert Wiene (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari(1919) and Orlacs Hände(1924)), via Lang's mid-period Metropolis(1927), to thesachlich styles of Pabst'sDie Büchse der Pandora(1929), Lang's M. (1931) and Dudov and Brecht's Kuhle Wampe(1932), the cinema provides a particular resource for seeing the body both in social and in cultural or aesthetic performance. The early film theory of Belá Balázs, focusing on the idea of cinematic physiognomy as a new arena for cultural performance, provides a framework for the discussion.

Introductory Reading

  • Thomas Elsaesser, Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary (London/New York: Routledge, 2000)
  • Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)
  • Belá Balázs, Der sichtbare Mensch oder die Kultur des Films (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2001)
  • Helmut Lethen, Verhaltenslehre der Kälte: Lebensversuche zwischen den Kriegen (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1994)


4. The Berliner Ensemble: Brecht and Beyond

The Berliner Ensemble was founded by Brecht and Helene Weigel in 1949. It acquired an international reputation and remains to this day one of Germany's leading theatre companies. Brecht and his collective reconsidered the basic issues pertaining to theatre's social role and established a distinctive style of directing and acting founded on Marxist principles. The lectures look back onto the origins of Epic Theatre, its evolution in exile and its realisation in the Berliner Ensemble - all against the background of political events in Germany from 1949 up to the Wendein 1989. The focus is on Brecht's theory and its relation to the practice of production and the way in which subsequently Brechtian methods underwent developments in these forty years. We look closely at political theatre in performance and consider the tension between the desire to preserve the Brechtian ideal on the one hand and the need to experiment and innovate on the other. This is illustrated through more detailed discussion of certain key productions, as well as the work of Brecht's assistants and dramaturges such as Peter Palitzsch, Egon Monk, Benno Besson, Heiner Müller, Volker Braun, Manfred Wekwerth.

Brecht texts for close reading

  • Kleines Organon für das Theater; Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder; Die Mutter; Coriolan (Recordings on CD of the some of the plays are available from the MML library.)

Introductory Reading

  • Ruth Berlau, Bertolt Brecht, et al.,Theaterarbeit: Sechs Aufführungen des Berliner Ensembles (Dresden: VVV Dresdener Verlag, 1952)
  • Carl Weber, 'Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble', in G. Sacks and P. Thomson (ed.)The Cambridge Companion to Brecht (Cambridge: CUP, 2004 (1994))
  • Meg Mumford,Bertolt Brecht.Routledge Performance Practitioners. (2009)
  • Mary Luckhurst, Dramaturgy: A Revolution in Theatre (1998)
  • Werner Hecht, Die Mühen der Ebenen: Brecht und die DDR (2014)
  • David Barnett, A History of the Berliner Ensemble, (2015)


5. New German Cinema: Gender and Genre

New German Cinema, in the 1970s in particular, combined formal innovation and social criticism. Its films, by renowned directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta and Wim Wenders, gained international acclaim and put German cinema back on the map. Fassbinder's filmwork, such as Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant(1972),Fontane Effi Briest (1974) or Die Ehe der Maria Braun(1979) is left-wing and gender-critical; his attack on patriarchy is also a political attack on the Federal Republic, which he regards as uncritically perpetuating the bourgeois ideology of the nineteenth century. Neuer Deutscher Film also enabled female directors to find a space to work. Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta'sDie verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum(1975) was one of the first commercial successes of the Neuer Deutscher Film movement. Von Trotta's subsequent films on women, politics, and violence (Die bleierne Zeit(1981) and her biopic Rosa Luxemburg(1986)), and Helke Sander's Die allseits reduzierte Persönlichkeit -REDUPERS(1977) are defining feminist films of the period. In 1974, Sander founded the first feminist journal anywhere in the world on film, Frauen und Film; women filmmakers founded an Organisation of Women Working in Film to give them collective bargaining power. The result was that West Germany had more women working in film than any other national cinema. This module will consider the relationship between gender politics and genre conventions and inventions in key film performances of the period.

Introductory Reading

  • Sandra Frieden et al, Gender and German Cinema: Feminist Interventions, 2 vols (Oxford: Berg, 1993), particularly vol. 1, chs 2, 12 and 13 and vol. 2, ch. 11
  • Julia Knight, Women and the New German Cinema (London: Verso, 1992)
  • Judith Mayne, 'Female Narration, Women's Cinema: Helke Sander's The All-Around Reduced Personality: REDUPERS', New German Critique, 24-5 (Fall/Winter, 1981-2)


6. Society on Stage: Pina Bausch's Tanztheater

Over the last thirty years, the productions of Pina Bausch's Wuppertaler Tanztheater have become one of Germany's most important cultural exports. In 2011, Wim Wender's dedicated his 3D film Pina to her. A hybrid between theatre and dance, Bausch's work is based on an interest in what moves people, rather than how they move. This interest led to extensive collaborative rehearsal processes that engage with memory and emotion as both psychical and physical phenomena, and transform them into a highly compelling bodily language. What emerges on stage is a mirror that defamiliarises and brings to the fore the anxieties, desires, and obsessions of contemporary society; its gender relations, power hierarchies, and culturally ingrained modes of behaviour; its most intimate dimensions and its most public ones. This module will closely engage with such pieces as The Rite of Spring (1975), Cafe Müller (1978) -extracts of which can be seen in Pedro Almodóvar's film Talk to Her -and Kontakthof (1978), which has recently been restaged with teenagers and senior citizens. The course will introduce students to Bausch's work as a cultural practice of rehearsal and performance that offers a unique contribution to discourses of memory and affect in the second half of the twentieth century.

Introductory Reading

  • Royd Climenhaga, Pina Bausch (New York: Routledge, 2009)
  • Raimund Hoghe, Pina Bausch: Tanztheatergeschichten (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986)
  • Norbert Servos,Pina Bausch: Dance Theatre(Munich: Kieser, 2008)
  • The Pina Bausch Sourcebook: The Making of Tanztheater, ed. by Royd Climenhaga (New York: Routledge, 2013)


7. Edgar Reitz's Heimat: Television and German Social Memory

This module looks at German social memory and cultural self-consciousness in the 1980s with particular reference to the first series of Edgar Reitz's monumental work for television and cinema, Heimat: Eine deutsche Chronik(1984). The work is approached through a range of perspectives: in relation to ideological constructions and performances of 'Heimat' in the German tradition since the nineteenth century; in terms of its own complex, self-reflexive structures; in the context of its different medial significations as film, TV and media event; and as the object of public and critical reception in print and other forms. Particular attention is given to the place of Heimat in the performance culture of German television in the 1980s and its contribution to the formation of personal and collective identity between international, national, and more local levels. There will also be consideration of how the docu-fantasy of twentieth-century German life created by Heimat 1is continued in its sequels over the next two decades.

Introductory Reading

  • Elizabeth Boa, Rachel Palfreyman (ed.), Heimat - A German Dream: Regional Loyalties and National Identity in German Culture 1890-1990 (Oxford: OUP, 2000)
  • New German Critique, 36 (Fall 1985), on Heimat
  • Eric. L. Santner, Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory and Film in Postwar Germany (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990)


8. From Modernism to Postmodernism: the Influence of Brecht and the ‘Post-dramatic’ in Contemporary German Theatre

This module explores the legacy of Brecht and his collaborators for the contemporary German theatre. Since the Wende, Germany -and Berlin especially -has proved extraordinarily fertile for the development of a wide range of radical directorial approaches in the theatre. Looking at a selection of works by significant contemporary directors, including Frank Castorf (Volksbühne), Luk Perceval (Thalia Theater), Thomas Ostermeier (Schaubühne) and Armin Petras (Maxim Gorki Theater), the module will explore how the modernist Brechtian legacy has encouraged an investigation of the very processes of theatricality that theorist Hans-Thies Lehmann has described as 'postdramatic'. If drama implies a reference to a knowable world, a totality, this implication of an experiential totality is disrupted by the postdramatic. An in-depth examination of Brecht's epic theatre, setting it within its historical and cultural context, will provide the basis for drawing out the relationship between theory and practice in the contemporary German theatre. Students are encouraged to see theatre productions in Berlin or elsewhere in Germany (Hamburg; Munich) if they possibly can. For recommendations please email zas21.

Introductory Reading

  • Bertolt Brecht, Kleines Organon für das Theater
  • Bertolt Brecht, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder
  • Hans-Thies Lehmann,Postdramatic Theatre, trans. Karen Jürs-Munby (London: Routledge, 2006, [first published in German in 1999]); especially 'Panorama of postdramatic theatre'
  • Ruth Berlau, Bertolt Brecht, et al.,Theaterarbeit: Sechs Aufführungen des Berliner Ensembles (Dresden: VVV Dresdener Verlag, 1952)
  • Carl Weber, 'Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble', in G. Sacks and P. Thomson (ed.)The Cambridge Companion to Brecht(Cambridge: CUP, 2004 (1994))
  • Birgit Haas, Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000(Rochester: Camden House, 2003)


9. Surveillance in German film: observation and training

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Stasi's surveillance archive, the Stasi has become a defining cultural image, not only of the former GDR but of surveillance in modern Germany as a whole. This module explores the portrayal of surveillance in recent German cinema: surveillance by the Stasi, but also by the agencies of the unified Federal Republic. We will consider the different kinds of performance portrayed in a number of films, performances which as we shall discover are bound up with processes of teaching and learning how to observe others, and how to behave as a result. In the opening scene of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 2006 blockbuster Das Leben der Anderen, the Stasi spy Gerhard Wiesler is shown teaching a new intake of Stasi officers-in-training the art of interrogation. Over the course of the film we then observe Wiesler learning from his own surveillance operations how to behave more ethically and independently. We will read the film in concert with material from the Stasi archive, including videotapes that were used to teach Stasi spies the techniques necessary for effective surveillance. We will go on to consider the representation of surveillance in the West, in Michael Klier's Der Riese of 1984, which includes footage from military training tapes, and in Harun Farocki's recent docu-films about the high-security marketplaces and prisons of late capitalism. We will compare and contrast the regimes of surveillance portrayed in these films and tapes, and discuss the behaviours of control, of conformity and of resistance that can be learnt here - both by the characters within the films, and by the audiences for whom they were produced.

Introductory Reading

  • Thomas Elsaesser,Harun Farocki: Working on the Sightlines (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004)
  • Owen Evans, 'Redeeming the demon? The legacy of the Stasi in Das Leben der Anderen',Memory Studies 3/2 (2010), 164-177
  • Michel Foucault, '11 January 1978', inSecurity, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, ed. by Michel Senellart, trans. by Graham Burchell (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
  • Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne & Peter Weibel (eds), Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002)
  • John E. McGrath,Loving Big Brother: Performance, Privacy and Surveillance Space(New York: Routledge, 2004)


10. Bodies in Performance: Dance and Gymnastics from Weimar to National Socialism

During the first half of the twentieth century the moving body was tested over and over again as an agent of social and cultural change. Images of these bodies have imprinted themselves on our consciousness: the optimistic wanderers exploring the outdoors hiking through beautiful landscapes or climbing pristine mountain tops in the 1910s; the mutilated, shell-shocked soldiers who had survived World War I and then littered the city streets as beggars and invalids; the daring girls with short and sharp haircuts in short and sharp outfits dancing the Charleston in the Weimar Republic of the 1920s but also the uniformed young people on barricades, street fighters in Berlin, Munich or Hamburg; the German crowds screaming "Heil Hitler" in the 1930s with their arms out-stretched; the contorted bodies of the victims of Nazism pushed into graves by bull-dozers in concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

How do these images correlate to one another? Do we think of them within a cultural continuum or do they represent the radical ruptures that tore apart the twentieth century?

In this module we will examine the way in which the moving body turned into the project of a harmonious and homogenous society. Gymnastics and dance became two powerful tools that helped to construct a coherent national identity, health, beauty, strength and a utopian future. Gymnastics and dance also were the disciplines through which a political transformation from democratic Weimar to the Nazi Third Reich was most successfully achieved.

Introductory Reading

  • Andrew Hewitt, Social Choreography (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005)
  • Karl Toepfer, Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
  • Bode, Rudolph. "Die geistigen Grundlager für Körperbildung und Tanz im Nationalsozialismus." Der Tanz. (Berlin, November 1933)
  • Hannah Schaub, Riefenstahls Olympia (Munich: Fink, 2003)


Further reading

  • Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (London: Routledge, 1999)
  • Christopher Balme, Einführung in die Theaterwissenschaft (Berlin: Schmidt, 2003)
  • Rob Burns (ed.), German Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Oxford: OUP, 1995)
  • Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1990)
  • Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (London: Routledge, 1993)
  • Marvin Carlson, Performance: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2004)
  • John Corner, Critical Ideas in Television Studies (Oxford: OUP, 1999)
  • Tracy Davis (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)
  • Elin Diamond (ed.), Performance and Cultural Politics (London: Routledge, 1996)
  • Carolin Duttlinger, Lucia Ruprecht, Andrew Webber (ed.), Performance and Performativity in German Cultural Studies (Berne: Lang, 2003)
  • Erika Fischer-Lichte, History of European Drama and Theatre (London: Routledge, 2002)
  • Erika Fischer-Lichte, Kurze Geschichte des deutschen Theaters (Tübingen: UTB, 1999)
  • Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Show and the Gaze of Theatre: A European Perspective (University of Iowa Press, 1997)
  • Sabine Hake, German National Cinema (London/New York: Routledge, 2002)
  • Eva Kolinsky, Wilfried van der Will (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern German Culture (Cambridge: CUP, 1998)
  • Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatic Theatre (London: Routledge, 2006)
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, A. Parker (ed.), Performance and Performativity (London: Routledge, 1995)
  • Andreas Kotte, Theaterwissenschaft: eine Einführung (Cologne: Böhlau, 2005)
  • Helen Thomas, The Body, Dance and Cultural Theory (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  • Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)
  • A History of German Theatre. Edited by Simon Williams and Maik Hamburger. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 445 pp
  • Performative Body Spaces: Corporeal Topographies in Literature, Theatre, Dance, and the Visual Arts, ed. Markus Hallensleben (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010)