German 43: Exiles and Émigrés


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Course Description

During the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of German-speaking writers and film professionals lived and worked in Hollywood. While some were émigrés who came to better their lot and further their professional careers, the majority of them were Jewish refugees who escaped the threat of Nazi death camps. This course will study the role of prominent exiles such as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, Bertolt Brecht, Salka Viertel, Fred Zinnemann and Klaus Mann within the US film industry. On a historical level, we will focus on the continuties and ruptures between Weimar cinema and Hollywood. Thus we will study how the exiles' sense of (Jewish) identity in the United States was shaped not only by the experience of displacement and the fight against fascism, but also by the political climate of war-time United States and the film industry's war efforts. On a conceptual level, we need to question such terms as national cinema and cultural identity. Here, recent discussions of postcolonial theory, exile and diaspora, hybridity, and cultural mimicry will be examined. On a political level, we will investigate how these films intervene in public debates, and how they reframe political issues in terms of narrative and images. This will also involve a comparative study of the culture industries of wartime Hollywood and Nazi Germany.


Hamid Naficy, ed., Home, Exile, Homeland (New York: Routledge, 1999)

John Russel Taylor, Strangers in Paradise: The Hollywood Émigrés (London: Faber and Faber, 1983)

Both texts available at Wheelock Books. All other texts are available through the website. 


Most films are available at Jones Media Center. All films are also available on streaming format through the server of Humanities Computing; however, the quality of the image is vastly superior on DVD. For all films that are not screened in class, please make sure to have posted your response on the course website by noon of the day the class meets.


Class preparation, attendance, and participation are required. There will be weekly commentary on screenings; one or two short presentations in class; an open-book midterm; two sequence analyses; and one final research paper. Students will develop their topics in consultation with the instructor. Students taking the class for major credit in German are required to do the literary readings in German and write their final paper in German.

We encourage students with disabilities, including "invisible" disablities like chronic diseases, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities to discuss with us after class or during our office hours appropriate accommodations that might be helpful to them.

GERMAN 43: Continental Strangers
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Last updated 30 Jan 2007
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