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Topics in Modernism: German Expressionism from 1900-1945

ENGL 259.403
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

 This course examines the development of modern German dance as one of the foremost forces to articulate a new language of the body at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is also known as expressionist dance. The course will focus on the notion of "modernity" and compare different concepts of modern dance from the beginning of the twentieth century until 1933: within the German dance world and within other modernist movements such as futurism, DADA or surrealism. It will examine how expressionist modernism was evaluated by the Nazis and how and why they thought of some modernist art as 'degenerate' and other art as acceptable. We shall also look at the theoretical and practical responses to Nazism by artists.

We shall study the impact of the formal properties, theoretical frames and general ideas on subsequent dance history by studying several of the most important representatives of expressionist dance and their choreographies: Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Kurt Jooss, Oskar Schlemmer, Valeska Gert. Students will work with their writings, designs, videos and other material to understand the relationship between ideas and artistic expression.

Students will also be introduced to expressionist music, literature, theatre and fine arts and asked to consider their relationship to dance.

Requirements: Interest in cultural history, history of ideas, dance history and the ideological context of dance in general. Examinations: seminar presentations (10%); one book and one film review (30%); in class discussion (10%). Final exam: Take home essay (50%).