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GERM2006 Vienna and Berlin: Society, Politics and Culture from 1890 to the Present

Module Overview

This module will introduce you to German metropolitan culture and politics in the 20th century with particular reference to Vienna and Berlin, using a wide range of sources which will include literature, film and architecture.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• to introduce you to German metropolitan culture and politics in the 20th century with particular reference to Vienna and Berlin using a variety of different cultural forms (primarily literature, film, architecture), and to introduce some key concepts on life/culture in the city; • to problematise the development of the capital city in the course of the 20th century, e.g. how its emergence impacts on the people who live there and how the inhabitants in their turn shape the metropolitan space; • to demonstrate the diversity of responses to social and political change in these central European cities since the end of the 19th century.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the interrelationship of history, politics, society and new scientific developments as evident in metropolitan culture (e.g. issues of technology and the human subject; the influence of psychoanalysis on writers and artists of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna or the impact of the Holocaust on both cities); the impact of modernity on society, politics and culture;
  • gender and ethnicity in metropolitan culture (e.g. Jewish and women writers, and the Turkish subculture in Berlin);
  • the city as a space of representation (e.g. Vienna Ringstraße) and commemoration (Jewish memorials in Vienna and Berlin);
  • Berlin as a site of political division, emigration and migration;
  • social and psychological aspects of urban life.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • apply critical perspectives to specific cultural artefacts;
  • think more productively about the complex relationships between various cultural artefacts;
  • have a better understanding of historical and social constructedness of all cultural expressions;
  • reflect on your own cultural positioning and practice;
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand theoretical approaches and apply them to selected material;
  • develop improved strategies of independent research and learning;
  • carry out close analysis of cultural artefacts and reflect on the relationship between cultural context and the content and form of the works studied;
  • organize relevant material in written and oral discussion in order to communicate clearly and effectively;
  • carry out library research, construct a bibliography and produce accurate and consistent referencing in your work;
  • participate in and lead group discussion.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop your own analysis of literary texts, films, architecture
  • discuss in written and oral form theoretical approaches introduced in the course and apply them to material studied


The module will broadly be divided into two parts: “Cityscapes” and “The shadow of the past” which roughly correspond historically to the early years of the 20th century and the later post-war era. Under each of these subheadings specific issues relating to society, politics and culture in Vienna and Berlin will be discussed in two to three sessions each. The first lectures of each part of the module will introduce you to key concepts such as the interpretation of city architecture or the sociological changes brought about by new technologies. The sessions on Fin-de-siècle Vienna will draw your attention to the impact of the diverse social and political situation on the cultural scene. Issues to be discussed include the influence of Freud and psychoanalysis on bourgeois society, especially in relation to questions of gender and ethnicity; issues of assimilation and marginalization of the Jew; the idea of city planning as a statement of increased self-esteem of the emerging bourgeoisie (e.g. the buildings on the Ringstraße). The session on post-war Vienna will focus on the Judenplatz. Among others the following issues will be discussed: Austria and NS: continuities and discontinuities in Austrian politics and culture; the integration of former Nazis vs. official acknowledgement of Austria’s involvement in NS during the 1990s; the controversial election campaign (Waldheim 1986), and the ‘Year of Commemoration’ in 1988 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Austria’s annexation to Germany will be explored as examples of public and official acknowledgement of Austria’s Nazi past. We shall also debate the emergence of the second generation (daughters and sons of Holocaust survivors) on the cultural scene in Vienna. For Weimar Berlin we shall examine some of the following: technology and the human subject, the filmic mythicisation of the city, the new sense of speed and simultaneity and its impact on aesthetic form, the democratisation (or crisis) of culture, the masses, café culture and flanerie, and the new woman / femme fatale. The sessions on post-war Berlin will focus on the divided Berlin (East and West) and on the question of shifting centres and peripheries since unification. The discussion of the shifting topography and cultural and ethnic make-up of the city will be related to questions of identity, representation and memorialisation. Primary sources will include memorials and texts from Turkish migrants.

Special Features

Introductory lectures will provide historical and theoretical background knowledge for each topic. In the seminars, you will apply your theoretical and cultural historical information within the discussion of one or more artefacts. As the course develops, and especially for your group presentation, you are expected to research the topics with increasing independence. In connection with your presentation, you will also present an analysis of at least one primary source, and will devise 2-3 questions to start off a discussion with the rest of the class. In turn you will take the minutes of a session and post them to the module discussion list on Blackboard. The essay will require your analytical skills and independent thinking. You will also practise and further enhance referencing and bibliographical skills.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • seminars • independent study • group discussion Learning activities include • regular independent reading of texts (all core readings are in English and a range of additional readings in both English and German will be recommended) • viewing of selected films • note taking and preparing of minutes • selecting secondary sources for class presentation and essays • presenting work in class • writing essays • leading group discussion

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Brian Ladd (1997). Ghosts of Berlin. 

Paul Cooke (2005). Representing East Germany since Unification: from Colonization to Nostalgia. 

Iain Boyd-Whyte and David Frisby (eds) (2012). Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940. 

Steven Beller (1989). Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History. 

Nick Hodgin (2011). Screening the East: Heimat, Memory and Nostalgia in German Film since 1989. 

Bill Niven and Chloe Paver (eds) (2010). Memorialization in Germany since 1945. 

Günther Bischof (1997). Austrian Historical Memory and National Identity. 

Andrea Reiter (2013). Contemporary Jewish Writing: Austria after Waldheim. 

Judith E. Berman (2006). Holocaust Agendas, Conspiracies and Industries? Issues and Debates in Holocaust Memorialization. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  minute taking


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Group presentation 20%
Review 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Group presentation 20%
Review 30%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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