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Unit information: Performing Germany: National Identity in Changing Times in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Performing Germany: National Identity in Changing Times
Unit code GERM30075
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will be taught by Dr Richard McClelland

What role does performance play in shaping a nation’s self-image? To what extent is ‘Germanness’ performative? How do democracies and dictatorships employ performance – and do they do so to different ends? How do Germans perform national identity when not in Germany? These are some of the questions that student will investigate in this unit, which addresses the concept of ‘performance’ as it relates to the deliberate and public shaping of Germany’s national image. Here, performance is understood as a ‘broad spectrum’ of practices that allow us to assess ‘historical, social and cultural processes’ (R. Schechner, 1988). At the same time, it allows us to evaluate a broad range of cultural practices that respond to historical, geographical, social and technological change. Beginning with the late nineteenth century, students will assess the divergent ways in which performance has been employed by the German state(s). At the same time, we will interrogate the impact that this has on the individual. In the course of the unit, students will engage with a series of key performance events that allow us to question how and why German national identity has changed in the last 150 years. Topics of study include: 1. Imperial modernity in the German Kaiserreich; 2. Performing ‘Germanness’ in the colonies; 3. Speed and excess in the Weimar Republic; 4. National Socialism and the performing Volk; 5. The Berlin Olympics; 6. After Heimat – German expellees and the performance of identity; 7. Creating Utopia – Performing the GDR; 8. 1968 and the protest movement; 9. Reunification and its aftermath; 10. Germany and the shadow of the past.

The Unit Aims:

  • To give students a grounding in the concept of performance in an historical and contemporary context.
  • To debate how performance can be used to create and mark cultural and national identities.
  • To develop and consolidate German language skills through the analysis of a range of historical sources and cultural texts.
  • To develop skills relating to the interpretation of cultural texts.
  • To develop students’ own critical voices in relation to wider debates in German Studies.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of a significant cultural subject related to the German language to a standard appropriate to level H
  2. Respond critically to a wide range of materials that centre on the question of performance in relation to German national identity.
  3. Evaluate and analyse relevant material from a large body of source materials, often in the German language, to a standard appropriate to level H
  4. Demonstrate an ability to work independently.
  5. Demonstrate an aptitude for responding to questions by presenting their independent judgements in an academic style both orally and in writing.

Teaching details

1 weekly lecture

1 weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1. ONE assessed presentation (40% of total mark) consisting of THREE components:

a. 10%: Individual portfolio of materials used in presentation (e.g. PPT file and/or Handout)

b. 20%: Presentation (delivery, detail clarity etc. as outlined in SML’s criteria for marking presentations)

c. 10% Reflective re-assessment of presentation (500 words) to be submitted on BB within 1 week of the presentation.

Depending on group size the presentation might be individual or joint with other students. Marks for 1(a) and 1(c) are individual; the mark for 1(b) is for all members of the group. (Testing ILOs 1-3, 5)

2. ONE 3,000-word project essay devised by students on a topic of their choice in consultation with the unit director (60% of total mark). (Testing ILOs 1-5)

Reading and References

Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies (Routledge: London, 2014)

Neil MacGregor, Germany. Memories of a Nation (Allen Lane: London, 2014).

Richard Schechner, ‘Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach’ TDR, 32:3 (1988), pp. 4-6.

Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction (Routledge: London and New York, 2002)