GERM 110
Spies Like Us: Espionage, Surveillance, and Protest in German Cinema and Literature
Last Offered Fall 2021
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 109
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

This First Year tutorial, available in English, investigates the mutual mistrust between the two Germanies in the Cold War period up until the peaceful popular protests that brought down the Berlin Wall. The political tensions between communist East Germany, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its capitalist Western counterpart, the Federal Republic (FRG), created a fascinating culture of governmental spying, but also led to aggravated periods of state surveillance of its own citizens. How were families affected across generations by these divisive politics, including the two states’ differing treatment of the Nazi legacy? What was the involvement of the KGB and the CIA? How did East German intelligence try to destabilize the West from inside? Which locations in Berlin served as centers for spying, given that the city’s terrain is quite flat and exposed? High-profile cases of conflicting loyalties include the Guillaume spy affair that brought down Willy Brandt as Chancellor of the FRG in 1974, and the Brasch family in the GDR, where the father, a communist true believer, turned his three sons over to the Stasi for their dissident activism and engaged art. We will debate filmic treatments of the recruitment of spies as double agents (Coded Message for the Boss, 1979), the chilling effects of police surveillance during the Baader-Meinhof radical left terrorist attacks (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, 1975; Knife in the Head, 1978) the afterlives of former terrorists who were offered new identities as ‘ordinary’ East Germans (The legend of Rita, 2000), to the effects of the Stasi files becoming accessible to their victims after the fall of the wall (Es ist nicht vorbei, Anderson). We will also discuss popular film representations of spying in Lives of Others (2007) and Bridge of Spies (2015), and selected episodes from the popular TV-series Germany 83 and 86 (2018). Literature will likely include: Thomas Brasch, The Sons Die Before the Fathers (1977), Christa Wolf, What Remains (1993), Monika Maron, Flight of Ashes (1981), Heinrich Böll, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974). All texts in English, films have English subtitles.
The Class: Format: tutorial; Students in this course will be separated into small tutorial groups of 3 students, in order to promote intensive exchange of ideas. In a typical week, the students in each group will: (1) study a substantial "text" or film; (2) watch mini-lectures or power points by the instructor to supplement the assigned primary texts.
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 1646
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 5 5-page tutorial papers and 2-page responses (in English)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: First Years, in groups of 3 students.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GERM 110 Division I COMP 109 Division I
WS Notes: This tutorial will teach students to analyze visual media and fiction in German Studies in combination with secondary sources from a variety of related disciplines (History, Political Science, journalism). The toggling between these different types of sources promotes critical thinking skills.

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