I am currently teaching in the Department of German Studies at Cornell University. My current and previous course descriptions can be found below.
Cinema of the Weimar Republic
This course introduces the cinema of the Weimar Republic (1918-33), a golden age of German cinema comparable to the classical Hollywood era. During this period, the German film industry developed a variety of influential aesthetics, from the Expressionism of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to the New Objectivity of Berlin – Symphony of a Metropolis. Situating the classic films, directors, and stars of the Weimar era within the cultural upheavals of the period, we will discuss the aftereffects of WWI; representations of class and gender; discourses of nature and technology; relationships between aesthetics, spectatorship, and politics; and processes of industrialization, urbanization, and globalization. Students without experience in film studies are welcome—the course will also double as an introduction to discussing and analyzing film.
New German Cinema
This course introduces the New German Cinema (1962-85), an influential movement of West German filmmakers including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Margarethe von Trotta, and Wim Wenders. Like the French New Wave, the New German Cinema is known not only for grappling with the nation’s complex history, but also for experimenting with early multimedia forms. Watching the movement’s celebrated films and reading its controversial texts, we will discuss the complex search for national identity after World War II; problems of authorship, genre, and literary traditions; and the changing conceptions of media and the public sphere. Screenings in German with English subtitles.
What was Film?
In retrospect, was film anything more than some highly flammable strips of celluloid? Taking its cue from the “digital turn,” this course rephrases a traditional question asked in film theory about the nature of the medium (What is film?) in terms of a historical question: What was film when it was still something to be cut, wound up, and carried around, a thing with a literally explosive potential? Reframing the object of study in this manner will help situate familiar narrative cinema within more unfamiliar scientific, aesthetic, and experimental contexts. Early film theorists saw great potential in the new medium, thought to be capable of conveying a new experience of movement and time, creating a new art of light and shadow, or functioning as a new kind of scientific instrument. Screenings will put readings of early film theory in dialogue with early European silent films that address similar concerns about the nature of cinema, such as A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), and Man with a Movie Camera (1929).
Media in Transit
Media make things move. Ships transport goods, cars carry passengers, devices transmit information. While origins and destinations often seem the most significant, modern media and cultural mobility also invite us to consider the experience of being in transit, of what happens as things move from point A to point B. This course examines the function of media in processes of mobilization and immobilization through readings in travel writing and cultural theory (e.g., Goethe, Kafka, Seghers, Simmel, Benjamin, Kracauer). Our guiding questions will include: What kinds of situations tend to create mobility or immobility? To what extent do technologies like the telegraph, telephone, and radio contribute to increased mobility and global connections? And what might studying the experience of mobility and transition reveal about the project of modernity itself?
Introduction to Medieval German Literature
This course introduces the canon of medieval German literature: lyric poetry (Minnesang), Arthurian romance (Gottfried’s Tristan, Wolfram’s Parzival, Hartmann’s Iwein), and the heroic epic (Nibelungenlied). With a focus on twelfth-century courtly culture, we will investigate medieval problems of form, genre, and representation, as well as post-medieval approaches to materiality, hermeneutics, and textuality. Our larger questions, centering on the controversial concept of medieval alterity, will address the contested legacy of the Middle Ages in German modernity. Reading knowledge of Middle High German is not required; some exposure to the language will be facilitated with the aid of bilingual editions.