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GE338 Gender Trouble in Contemporary German Culture

Module Code: GE338
Module Name: Gender Trouble in Contemporary German Culture

Module Coordinator: Dr Katherine Stone

Mode of delivery: 2hr in-person mixed lecture and seminar

Virtual Student hours via MS Teams: Mondays 10-11 and Tuesdays 11-12

Date and time TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) radically changed the way that we think about gender and sexuality. The philosopher argues that gender identity is not an intrinsic essence. Instead the illusion of a gendered identity is created through the way we walk, talk, dress, and act in accordance to gender norms. The “trouble” that Butler evokes in her title refers to several things. In patriarchal culture, she argues, woman (other and unknowable) has always been a source of trouble. At the same time, patriarchy is founded upon a perception of sexual difference that affirms the superiority of the male subject. Binary notions of masculinity and femininity, attached to heteronormative sexuality, bolster existing power structures. To challenge these concepts thus challenges the social order.

This module aims to demonstrate how Butler’s thinking has permeated German culture and politics. It will provide students with an overview of contemporary gender debates in Germany, from ongoing discussion of abortion, family politics, sexual violence, marriage for all, transgender rights, and the legal recognition of non-binary gender to the gender politics of the far-right. At the forefront of our conversations will be a consideration with how gender intersects with other forms of oppression and privilege. Excerpts from contemporary gender and queer theory will support students’ work with primary material, from films and novels to media sources. On top of this, we will consider the different ways in which cultural production troubles gender norms.

Indicative Module Plan:

Alongside excerpts from theory and debates in mainstream and social media, we will be examining the following primary works:

  • Week 1: Excerpts from Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and Kutluğ Ataman, Lola und Bilidikid (1999)
  • Week 2: Angelina Maccarone, Fremde Haut (2005)
  • Week 3: Benjamin Lebert, Crazy (1999) --- Random House, ISBN 9783570305805
  • Week 4: Benjamin Lebert, Crazy (1999) --- Random House, ISBN 9783570305805
  • Week 5: Sharon Dodua Otoo, "Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin" (2016) --- Fischer 9783103971859
  • Week 7: #regrettingmotherhood: Verena Friederike Hasel, Lasse (2015) --- Ullstein, ISBN 9783843711845
  • Week 8: Mithu Sanyal, Identitti (2021) --- Carl Hanser 9783446269217 [The Ebook can be loaned via the Goethe Institut "OnLeihe" ELibrary]
  • Week 9: Mithu Sanyal, Identitti (2021) --- Carl Hanser 9783446269217
  • Week 10: Mithu Sanyal, Identitti (2021) --- Carl Hanser 9783446269217

Within the conceptual frame of gender trouble, these works will allow us to consider the pop literature movement, postmodern literature and plagiarism, transculturation, Germanness in the post-unification era, ethical storytelling.

Please note that these texts deal at times with difficult subject matter, including suicide, bereavement, sexual violence, racist abuse, incest, and drug use, as well as some graphic depictions of violence and sex. Students will be warned in advance if these topics will feature in the reading and will have the opportunity to flag any potential concerns before class --- either anonymously or in person. Where classroom discussion focuses on these issues, the approach aims to be both sensitive and academically rigorous; however, the module convenor is open to discussing and accommodating student concerns.

Assessment Method:

70% essay (3000-3500 words in English)

30% multimedia presentation (max. 15-minutes in the form of a video recording / podcast / narrated PowerPoint / video essay). Student-research led. Past topics have included:

  • Critically analyse how the introduction of a "Frauenquote" for large companies in Germany has been portrayed across the media
  • To what extent does Meinecke anticipate contemporary debates about “wokeness” in Tomboy?
  • What role does Angela Merkel’s gender play in the media’s representation of her relationships with Gerhard Schroeder, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump?
  • To what extent does Kutluğ Ataman portray machismo as a cultural problem?
  • Critically examine how Thomas Meinecke’s Tomboy represents the relationship between music and the construction and performance of gender and sexual identity.
  • To what extent has Conchita's drag practice influenced perceptions of gender and drag in Europe?
  • Oriental Cabaret: How does Ataman’s Lola and Bilidikid interact with depictions of the feminized oriental body in German film and visual culture
  • In what ways does Lola und Bilidikid depict the intersectional experience of being a queer person of colour?
  • Why do German women vote for the AfD (with a focus on the 2017 elections)?
Comprehensive module reading list on Talis Aspire
Module Moodle Page

Student Showcase