Department of Germanic Studies

Sabine Hake

ProfessorPh.D., University of Hannover, Germany

Professor, Texas Chair of German Literature and Culture
Sabine Hake



German film, Weimar culture, modernism and the avant-garde, the culture of the metropolis, fascist aesthetics, working-class culture, Marxist theory


I am the Texas Chair of German Literature and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to coming to UT in 2004, I taught at the University of Pittsburgh for sixteen years. Since receiving my Dr. Phil. from the University of Hannover in 1984, I have worked primarily in two areas, Weimar culture and German cinema. As a cultural historian/film historian, I am most interested in the relationship between cultural practices and aesthetic sensibilities, on the one hand, and social movements and political ideologies, on the other. The central terms informing my research are mass culture, popular culture, urban culture, and working-class culture; modernism and modernity; the historical avant-gardes; the fascist aesthetic; classical film theory and theories of culture. My research on German film has focused primarily on the first half of the twentieth century, with a special emphasis on Weimar cinema and Third Reich cinema. In my work on Weimar culture, I have written on  the representation of Berlin in literature, photography, and film.I am currently working on two book projects, a reassessment of German cinema from the perspective of media convergence and a study on the German proletariat as an imaginary subject in literature, art, film, and political theory.


GER 382M • The Modern Metropolis

37895 • Fall 2016
Meets T 330pm-630pm BUR 232
(also listed as C L 381)


In the late nineteenth century, the metropolis emerged as the center of modern mass society, the culture industry, and the avant-gardes. Paris, Berlin, and Vienna became both laboratories for artistic innovation and social change and models for theorizing modernism and modernity. The flourishing of urban culture in these European capitals produced new cultural practices, sensibilities, and mentalities; but the big city also inspired new modes of thinking that continue to resonate in cultural theory to this day. It is the main purpose of this course to introduce students to the rich urban cultures of post-World War I Paris, Berlin, and Vienna and to discover the metropolis as a category of critical inquiry.

We will start out with Walter Benjamin’s work on Paris as the capital of the nineteenth century and conceptualize urban subjectivity through key terms such as experience, perception, and spatiality. Other critical models—the blasé habitus or the cult of distraction—will be examined through select writings by 1920s essayists Joseph Roth and Franz Hessel, and the connection between urbanism and capitalism explored through the work of urban theorists Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey. Taking a comparative, interdisciplinary approach, this course emphasizes the transnational, cosmopolitan nature of the metropolis and seeks to reconstruct the connections between the radical expansion of space and time, the rise of commodity culture and new media technologies, and the arrival of new social groups, radial movements, and alternative lifestyles. 

While the main focus will be on literature and film, class lectures and discussions will also examine the representation of the modern metropolis in modern painting and photography (expressionism, surrealism) and the importance of modern architecture and city planning (New Berlin, Red Vienna). Other topics include the function of typical urban figures such as the New Woman, the bohemian, and the flaneur; the affinities between urban culture and the modernist aesthetic (montage, shock, stream-of-consciousness); and the importance of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna capitals in giving rise to a transnational culture of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism and in organizing the movement of radical artistic, social, and political ideas within interwar Europe.

The seminar will be conducted in English, with all materials available in English translation. Whenever applicable, students are encouraged to work with the materials in their original language. Most readings will be made available as PDF files on Canvas; the film screenings will be scheduled separately. Key texts include city novels such as Andre Breton’s Nadja, Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, and (in excerpts) Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities and city films such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and René Clair’s Under the Roofs of Paris.

Class format/ method of instruction: Class will be conducted in a seminar format with short introductory lectures and individual student presentation. The course will be of greatest interest to students in Comparative Literature, Germanic Studies, Art History, Architecture, History, and Geography.


Course Objectives

The main objectives of the course are to

--give a historical overview of the discourse of the modern metropolis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century

--discuss key works and movements in a comparative, interdisciplinary, and transnational context;

--study and apply theories of the metropolis in relation to questions of urban representation, perception, experience, and cultural life.


Course Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to

--use critical categories and theoretical models in analyzing the modern metropolis as an aesthetic, social, cultural, political and theoretical phenomenon;

--situate urban representations, including canonical texts, in a historical and comparative context.



  • 40%     Participation: 20% class participation,10% presentation of class reading,10% final presentation
  • 60%     two short writing assignments (5 double-spaces pages, 15% each) and one      conference paper based on original research (1/2 page abstract,10 double-   space pages plus endnotes, 30%)



  • André Breton: Nadja. New York: Grove, 1960.
  • Alfred Döblin: Berlin Alexanderplatz. New York: Continuum, 1992. (parts)
  • Robert Musil: The Man Without Qualities. New York: Vintage, 1996. (parts)



  • René Clair: The Crazy Ray (1925) and Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)
  • Walter Ruttmann: Berlin, Symphony of a Big City (1927) and Fritz Lang: Metropolis (1927)
  • Hans Karl Breslauer: City Without Jews (1924) and Georg Wilhelm Pabst: Joyless Street (1925)


Shorter Texts:

  • City Essays by Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Joseph Roth, and Gertrude Stein.
  • Chapters from theoretical works by Georg Simmel, Henri Lefèbvre, and David Harvey.

GER 363K • German Cinema Since 1933

38240 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am GEA 114

German films feature prominently on most “greatest films of all times” lists. Likewise German film directors are celebrated for their innovative forms and styles. What can we learn about twentieth and twenty-first century German culture and society by looking at these films? Which artistic traditions and cultural sensibilities distinguish the German approach to narrative, genre, authorship, film form, and the star phenomenon? How did films participate in, and respond to, the transformations of modern mass society and media culture? Focusing on the art film, this course offers a survey of German cinema and the cultural, social, and political conditions that gave rise to and shaped its thematic preoccupations and filmic styles. Designed to offer an introduction to film analysis, the course features internationally known directors from Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau through Konrad Wolf and Wim Wenders to Tom Tykwer and Christian Petzold and presents classics such as Nosferatu, Metropolis, Olympia, Die Mörder sind unter uns, Angst essen Seele auf, Im Laufe der Zeit, Yella, and so forth. We will cover all periods of German film history, from the Weimar Republic and Third Reich to the divided cinemas of the Federal Republic and German Democratic Republic to the most recent films made after unification. In addition to the close analysis of selected films, a number of broader issues will be discussed, including the contribution of German filmmakers to the making of Hollywood and the role of innovative directors in the search for new images and stories.

The entire course will be taught in German; however, the films have subtitles. In addition to analyzing individual films (to be housed in the AV Library), the students will read short critical essays pertaining to film analysis and film history.

Prerequisite: Three courses beyond GER 506 or equivalent credit on the placement exam.


20% Attendance, preparation and active participation

20% Class presentations

30% Quizzes

30% Screening Diary

Course Objectives:

The course is designed for German majors to

--receive an overview of German cinema from the beginning to the present;

--learn about the leading directors of German national cinema;

--study the different filmic styles and artistic visions associated with an important European art cinema; and

--practice their German speaking, writing, and listening comprehension through the work with classic films in their original version.

Recommended background reading:

Sabine Hake, German National Cinema (2008)

Stephen Brockmann, A Critical History of German Film (2010)

GER 382M • Gdr Culture

38545 • Fall 2013
Meets T 330pm-630pm BUR 232

Course Description

The course offers a historical overview of the culture of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and a consideration of terms that have been, and are today, central to its scholarly (re)assessment. The selection and presentation of the material is based on two premises: that the study of GDR culture offers a privileged perspective on key problems of postwar culture in general (Cold War culture, German division, history of socialism) and that the overdetermined function of culture in GDR society brings into sharp relief central questions unique to German culture since the nineteenth century (the public role of the writer and intellectual, literature in/as the public sphere, the importance of cultural heritage).    


Focusing on literature and film but also considering other cultural forms (official painting, punk music), the historical overview follows the emergence of Aufbauliteratur and Ankunftsliteratur to the liberalization of culture and the development of an underground culture in the 1970 and 1980s; it concludes with the various manifestations of a East German memory culture (Ostalgie) after 1989. Literary debates (socialist realism vs. modernism) and political crises (Eleventh Plenary) are essential to this overview, as are comparative perspectives involving the Federal Republic and the Eastern Bloc and recent scholarship on the historiography of the GDR and GDR culture. Discussions will be organized around the following themes: 1) the writer/artist and the state; 2) the myth of antifascism; 3) socialist modernisms; 4) the problem of gender and everyday life; and 5) postsocialist history, memory, and nostalgia.   



40%     Participation: 20% participation,10% class reading,10% final presentation

60%     Forschungsbericht (10pp.) and conference paper (10pp.), 30 % each



Literary texts: Heiner Müller’s Der Lohndrücker; Christa Wolf’s Nachdenken über Christa T and Was bleibt;  Ulrich Plenzdorf’s Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.; Christoph Hein’s Der fremde Freund; Volker Braun’s Die unvollendete Geschichte; Brigitte Reimann’s Franziska Linkerhand, plus shorter poems, songs, and theoretical texts by Bertolt Brecht, Johannes R. Becher, and Wolf Biermann


Films: Wolfgang Staudte’s Der kleine Muck, Kurt Maetzig’s Roman einer jungen Ehe, Konrad Wolf’s Der geteilte Himmel, Frank Beyer’s Spur der Steine, Heiner Carow’s Die Legende von Paul und Paula, Peter Kahane’s Die Architekten


Survey texts: Mary Fulbrook, Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949-1989; Wolfgang Emmerich, Kleine Literaturgeschichte der DDR; and excepts from major studies on GDR literature, film, and culture (David Bathrick, Paul Betts, Konrad Jarausch, etc.)



Please note: Depending on departmental needs, this course can be offered as an English-language or German-language course. All texts are available in English translations  (or, in the case of films, with subtitles.)

GER 392 • The Modern Metropolis

38110 • Fall 2012
Meets T 200pm-500pm BUR 337
(also listed as C L 381)

After World War One, the metropolis emerged as the center of modern mass society, the historical avant-gardes, and the new culture industries. It is the main purpose of this course to study the rich culture of the modern metropolis during the so-called golden twenties: through its new modes of perception and consumption, its redefinitions of space and place, its social types and sexual subcultures, and its cosmopolitan mentalities and radical politics. The formative role of the metropolis as the center of new artistic, social, and political movements will be examined through the interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives most suited to account for its heterogeneous, contradictory, and dynamic nature. Using Walter Benjamin as a guide, we will start with his writings on Berlin, Paris, and Moscow as components of a transnational theory of modernity and urban experience supplemented by other influential thinkers (Georg Simmel, Saskia Sassen, David Harvey). While the main focus will be on Weimar Berlin, comparative perspectives are introduced through famous city novels and city symphonies (i.e., films) and the role of autobiography and short prose in theorizing the urban experience form the perspective of the foreigner, exile, or tourist (Christopher Isherwood and Vladimir Nabukov on Berlin). The representation of the modern metropolis in painting and photography will be used to diagnose the centrality of vision and visuality to conceptions of mass culture and modernity. Likewise the importance of modern architecture and city planning to the debates on urban subjectivity will allow us to uncover the underlying dialectics of radical politics and social engineering. Artistic movements such as expressionism, cubism, constructivism, and surrealism will be analyzed as urban phenomena responding to this double crisis of subjectivity and representation. Other topics to be discussed involve urban figures such as the bohemien, the flaneur, and the New Woman; the relationship between artistic innovation and revolutionary change; the affinities between urban culture and the modernist aesthetic (montage, stream-of-consciousness); and the importance of the Paris-Berlin-Moscow train in organizing transnational cultural exchanges and international political movements throughout the 1920 and early 1930s.

The course will be conducted entirely in English. All texts will be read and discussed in translation, with German original texts provided for students in Germanic Studies.

Selected Texts and Films

Walter Benjamin: Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century/ Paris, die Hauptstadt des 19. Jahrhunderts (1935)

Walter Benjamin: Moscow Diary/ Moskauer Tagebuch (1927)

Walter Benjamin: One-Way Street/ Einbahnstraße (1928)

Walter Benjamin: Berlin Chronicle/ Berliner Chronik (1932)

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929)

Irmgard Keun: The Artificial Silk Girl/ Das kunstseidene Mädchen (1932)

Joseph Roth: What I Saw from Berlin/ Joseph Roth in Berlin

André Breton: Nadja (1928)

Ilja Ilf and Evgeni Petrov: The Twelve Chairs (1928)

René Clair: The Crazy Ray (1923)

Walter Ruttmann: Berlin, Symphony of a Big City (1927)

Dziga Vertov: Man with a Movie Camera (1929)


20%      Participation (including two oral presentations)

80%      Short Weekly Response Papers to the Readings

GER 363K • Contemporary German Cinema

37980 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.210


Since unification, German cinema has seen a new wave of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films. Formally innovative, critically provocative, and thoroughly entertaining, these films can be read as the “daydreams of society” (Kracauer) and allow us to better understand contemporary Germany and Europe. On the one side, our discussions will focus on the ways the films engage with the most pressing issues in German culture and society: the problems of a multicultural, multiethnic society (Turkish-German films), the challenges of globalization and rising inequality, the complications of modern love and marriage, the pleasure of urban life and youthful self-discovery, and the burdens of German history (Third Reich, GDR, leftwing terrorism). On the other side, we will examine the original contributions by directors Tom Tykwer, Christian Petzold, Fatih Akin, Andreas Dresen, and Michael Haneke to a contemporary art and genre cinema that incorporates elements from Hollywood while insisting on a uniquely European perspective. Classroom sessions will combine brief lectures on contemporary Germany, German cinema, and the main terms of film analysis with close readings of film sequences, student-led class discussions, and structured group work.

An advanced undergraduate seminar in German film and cultural studies, this course will be taught entirely in German; no previous knowledge of film history or film analysis is necessary.

Course Materials:

All films are shown during separate class screenings to be scheduled in consultation with the students; attendance at the screenings is mandatory. In addition to the films, we will read short texts (reviews, interviews) and basic introductions to film analysis (all provided as PDF files):

Das Versprechen (Margarethe von Trotta, 1995)

Jenseits der Stille (Caroline Link, 1996)

Bin ich schön? (Doris Dörrie, 1998)

Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1998)

Lola und Bilidikid (Kutlug Ataman, 1999)

Halbe Treppe (Andreas Dresen, 2002)

Das Wunder von Bern (Sönke Wortmann, 2003)

Good Bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)

Der Untergang (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)

Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (Hans Weingartner, 2004)

Gegen die Wand (Fatih Akin, 2004)

Yella (Christian Petzold, 2007)

Das Leben der Anderen (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2008)

Das weiße Band  (Michael Hanecke, 2009)

Deutschland ‘09 (Omnibusfilm, 2009)


The course is designed for students to:

• improve their command of German, with special emphasis on oral and written proficiency;

• gain cultural competence through an emphasis on small group work and individual presentations; and

• achieve a deeper understanding of films as works of art and reflections of social reality.


One 5-page papers with abstract and bibliography:20%

Two 2-page Film Reviews: (10% each) 20%

Two in-class presentations: (10% each) 20%

Attendance, preparation, and participation: 20%

Midterm Exam: 20%

Plus/Minus Grades will be assigned for the final grade.

GER 392 • The Fascist Aesthetic

38085 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm BUR 337
(also listed as C L 382)

The fascist aesthetic remains a critical provocation and continued source of fascination that challenges our understanding of aesthetics and politics in the context of the historical avant-gardes, official fascist and Nazi art, as well as antifascist literature and film. But how can we define the fascist aesthetic? What accounts for the central role of culture in Nazism/fascism? How does fascism organize the relationship between politics and aesthetics? And what is the function of the fascist aesthetic in popular culture today?

Based on Benjamin’s famous statement that the aestheticization of fascism can only be countered with a politicization of art, we will address these questions through an interdisciplinary, comparative approach that covers half a century of European culture and includes literature, art, architecture, film, critical theory, and cultural history from Germany, Italy, and France. The connection between fascism and modernism will be explored through the lens of Italian futurism (F. T. Marinetti, Gruppo 7, aeropittura) and canonical modernist authors such as Ezra Pound, Céline, and Ernst Jünger. Official Nazi art will be studied through the work of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, architect Albert Speer, and sculptor Arno Breker, whereas the politics of antifascism will be examined through the expressionism debate (Georg Lukács, Ernst Bloch) and the work of Bertolt Brecht and Friedrich and Konrad Wolf. In addition, shorter texts by German, French, and Italian writers allow us to address core issues of the fascist aesthetic: the fascist mass spectacle, the cult of masculinity, the sexualization of power, and the celebration of war. Finally, through select readings by theorists and historians of fascism/Nazism (George Mosse, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Mark Antliff, Dagmar Herzog, Peter Fritzsche), we will situate the fascist aesthetic in the larger context of twentieth-century mass society and consumer culture and consider its haunting presence in the postfascist imagination.

Class format/ method of instruction: Class will be conducted in a seminar format with short introductory lectures. The course will be of greatest interest to students in Comparative Literature, Germanic Studies, French and Italian Studies, History, English, and Art History. The final selection of texts will be made in discussion with the actual students enrolled.

Course Objectives

The main objectives of the course are to

--give a historical overview of the fascist aesthetic in the context of twentieth century European history;

--discuss key works and movements in a comparative, interdisciplinary context;

--analyze the fascist aesthetic in relation to modernism and postmodernism.

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to

--use critical categories and theoretical models in analyzing fascism as an aesthetic, social, and political phenomenon;

--analyze aesthetic phenomena and cultural practices in a historical and comparative context.



Primary and secondary texts to be discussed (usually in parts) include:

Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Georg Lukacs: Aesthetics and Politics

Bertolt Brecht: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Roger Griffin: Fascism (Oxford Readers)

Ernst Jünger: On Pain

Victor Klemperer: The Language of the Third Reich—LTI

Filippo Marinetti et al: Futurist Manifestos

Ezra Pound: The Cantos

Leni Riefenstahl: Triumph of the Will

Saul Friedländer: Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death

Jeffrey Schnapp: A Primer of Italian Fascism

Susan Sontag: “Fascinating Fascism,” in Under the Sign of Saturn

Friedrich and Konrad Wolf: Professor Mamlock (play and film)

The seminar will be conducted in English, with all materials available in English translation. However, whenever applicable, students are encouraged to work with the materials in their original language. Shorter readings will be made available as PDF files on Blackboard; film screenings will be scheduled separately.



20% Attendance, preparation, and active participation

20% two class presentations

60% three position/reaction papers (5-8 pages/each)

GER 394 • Introduction To German Film

38165 • Spring 2010
Meets T 330pm-630pm BUR 234

Contact Information Sabine Hake

Office: 332 Burdine                            Telephone: 232-6379                             Email:

Office Hours: Tuesdays 10-12 and by appointment


This course provides a comprehensive introduction to German film through changing topics; this semester, the topic will be Germany and its Others. All national cinemas are defined as much through their contribution to the making of national identity, culture, and history as through their construction of specific social and ethnic groups as outsiders or threats to the dominant order; in the German case, this function has been performed by Jews, blacks, and Turks and informed by the discourses or racism, antisemitism, and sexism. Similarly, all national cinemas are defined as much through their exchanges with other cinemas as through their promotion of a specific aesthetic or mode of production; in the German case, this has meant a continuous confrontation with America as the desired and reviled Other. Through selected films, we will analyze the function of these various Others both as stereotype, image, and fantasy and as a place from which other viewpoints, identities, and sensibilities can be articulated. 

Overall, the course’s goals are threefold: to survey German filmmaking from the beginning to the present, to situate filmic texts in the context of German history and society, and to introduce the terms of film analysis and cultural critique that have defined German film studies in the past three decades. We will learn how to apply critical categories such as authorship, narrative, mise-en-scène, camerawork, sound, genre, and star system to the works of Lang, Beyer, Fassbinder, Herzog, Akin and others. We will examine the most influential film forms and styles in the context of larger social movements, political developments, and cultural sensibilities. And we will discuss the socio-psychological function of films as the “daydreams of society” (Kracauer) and consider their contribution to the making of national identity, history, and heritage. Other issues to be addressed include the competing discourses of art cinema and popular cinema, the relationship to Hollywood and other European cinemas, the exchanges with other mass media and cultural practices, the precarious position of film between artwork and commodity, the role of politics in the development of a national film industry, and the contribution of feature films to the production of emotions, fantasies, and mentalities.


The course will be taught in English, with all films shown with subtitles. The course is organized in conjunction with an international conference on German-Turkish Cinema (26-27 March 2010).



20% regular attendance, course preparation, and active participation

20% two oral presentations (sequence analysis, summary of critical reading)

20% two short reaction papers (5 pp. each)

40% final seminar paper (10 pp.) or sample syllabus




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