Vassar Today


German 105–106, Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood
Associate Professor Jeffrey Schneider and Professor Patrice Nganang

Course Description This course offers a yearlong introduction to the study of German language and culture through media for and about children. Since such texts tend to be linguistically easier, they are ideal for beginning language learning. Moreover, their role in socializing a new generation makes them important sources for understanding a culture’s fundamental values and ways of looking at the world. In addition to using a standard textbook for learning German grammar, students will spend the year engaging with a rich variety of primary materials from three centuries. Already this semester, students have examined a Nazi reading primer as well as adventure stories set in the American West, which differ quite dramatically from American Westerns and have been staple reading material for German boys for more than 100 years. Students also use these same genres for writing assignments. For instance, they have already compiled their own collective “Vassar ABC Buch” and have written children’s poems and animal stories. For the final project of the fall semester, each student will write and illustrate a children’s book in German, which we hope to present to a kindergarten class at the Deutsche Schule (German School) in White Plains, New York.

Partial Reading and Viewing List
Fähnlein-Fibel [Scout’s Primer], by Curt Beyer and Kurt Rübner
Max und Moritz [Max and Moritz], by Wilhelm Busch
Lotte in New York, by Dorris Dörrie and Julia Kaergel
Der Struwwelpeter [Slovenly Peter], by Heinrich Hoffmann
Kinder- und Hausmärchen [Fairy Tales], by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Das Beste aus der Sendung mit der Maus [The Best of the Show with the Mouse], by Armin Maiwald and Christoph Biemann
Weihnacht! [Christmas! An American Western], by Karl May
Alles erlaubt? Oder: Immer brav sein, das schafft keiner! [Everything Allowed? Or: Always Being Good—That’s Impossible!], by Nele Moost and Annet Rudolph
Winnetou I [A film based on Karl May’s novel Winnetou I], directed by Harald Reinl

This new, intellectually rich approach to beginning language study is the result of several years of development by the department’s faculty, including Silke von der Emde and Elliott Schreiber and taught this year by Jeffrey Schneider and Patrice Nganang. Schneider is an associate professor and chair of the German studies department. In addition to articles on language learning, he is completing a book-length study on militarism and masculinity called Uniform Fantasies. Nganang is currently the Randolph Distinguished Visiting Professor of German Studies. He has published several novels and volumes of poetry. His novel Temps de chien [Dog Days] won the “Prix Litteraire Marguerite Yourcenar” in 2001 and the “Grand Prix Litteraire de l’Afrique Noire,” Francophone Africa’s most distinguished prize for literature, in 2002. A native of Cameroon, Nganang earned his doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Frankfurt in Germany before moving to the United States.