First Writing Assignment
Due three days after Session 9 (which is a Friday so either drop the paper by my mailbox, or send it via email in MS Word or PDF format).
Write a 5-6 page paper (double-spaced) that makes an argument focusing on one the following questions.
(a) Germany faced a series of “crises” in 1918, both immediate and long-brewing. Which crisis do you argue was the most significant?
(b) Optional alternative focus: Did new cultural forms - such as the art of the avant garde or the new mass culture of revue or film - merely reflect these crises, or were these cultural forms an attempt to mitigate them?
The articles by Nancy Nenno and Günter Berghaus each address spectacles of mass culture (revues, advertising, performances). What differentiates their visions of “mass culture”? What do they see as its positive and negative effects? Which argument do you find more convincing, and why?
Siegfried Kracauer wrote a strong critique of The Blue Angel in 1930. What lies at the basis of his critique? Do you agree with his estimation of the film (and of mass culture in general), or not?
NOTE: writing a film critique can be challenging, often requiring a second viewing to capture enough specific detail to support your arguments. The film will be on reserve at the film office.
No outside research is necessary; however, if you do look at any other sources (including websites, reviews, etc), be sure to cite them fully.
Clarity, grammar and style count (just like in real life); so be sure to proofread your paper carefully. Be sure to include page numbers.
Second Writing Assignment
Due on Session 17 (note change from syllabus; this paper is due next Wednesday, at the beginning of class).
Write a 5-6 page paper (double-spaced) to make a coherent argument about the following question.
Q. Was Adolf Hitler crucial to the success of the National Socialists in seizing power?
The question is intentionally very broad, so you will have to come up with ways to narrow it down on your own.
You could concentrate your paper on the works by Allen and Fest, and on the short Ian Kershaw handout. You are also welcome to reference any other sources we’ve used in class (i.e. films, other readings, lecture).
Alternatively, you can wrestle with the following question:
Q. Do you agree with Detlev Peukert that the Final Solution grew out of the “spirit” of science? Why or why not?
The best route to grapple with this question probably lies in, first, explaining what exactly the “spirit of science” is, according to Peukert; and then reflecting on whether or not you agree with this assessment.
As with the last paper, clarity, grammar and style count; so be sure to proofread your paper carefully.
Third Writing Assignment
Due at the beginning of class on Session 24.
Write a 5-6 page paper on one of the following questions:
Were the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust “ordinary”?
Obviously, you should draw on Christopher Browning’s work, but could also bring in Daniel Goldhagen (discussed in Browning’s Afterword), Detlev Peukert’s essay, or the short posted excerpt on Rudolf Höss (the Commandant of Auschwitz).
Does a detailed and nuanced understanding of the genesis of the Holocaust (or, for that matter, of the ways in which Nazism arose in the first place), promote greater sympathy for “ordinary Germans” involved in this regime?
(A broader version of a similar question might be: does “understanding” historical context invariably lead us down the path of “excusing” their actions?)
This question calls for some philosophical and methodological reflection, but remember to ground your thoughts and arguments with historical evidence and/or incorporate class readings.
Feel free to write on any other topic (including a reflection on Primo Levi’s short book, Survival in Auschwitz.) Just be sure to let me know you’re doing this beforehand.