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GE4: The making of German culture

This paper is available for the academic year 2020-21.

*This paper also serves as Paper 10H of Part I of the English Tripos)

This course introduces you to German culture up to the beginning of the eighteenth century through the study of selected texts and contexts. It is the period when the foundations of modern German culture and society were laid. It saw important developments in language, religious ideas, political culture, as well as literature and German culture generally.

The number of texts has been restricted to allow you time to study them in some depth and familiarize yourself with a wide range of contextual materials. They have been chosen with a view to variety (different periods, literary as well as non-literary writing) and historical importance (they have all had significant impact within the German-speaking world and often also beyond it). The related contexts are equally varied, embracing both the social, political and intellectual environments in which a given text was produced as well as longer-term historical developments and themes that still have resonance in German culture and society today.

  1. Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan
  2. Nibelungenlied
  3. Mechthild von Magdeburg, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit 
  4. Thüring von Ringoltingen, Melusine
  5. Martin Luther, Von weltlicher Obrigkeit
  6. Poetry of the baroque
Preparatory reading: 

Helen Watanabe O'Kelly (ed.), The Cambridge history of German literature, 1997. Chapters 2 and 3 are general surveys of the period covered by this paper, which give an outline of some of the important social, cultural and historical contexts.

In addition, read as many of the primary texts as possible before the course begins (see the longer reading list for recommended editions).

Teaching and learning: 

In 2020-21 there will be lectures on topics 1, 3, 4 and 5, spread over the first two terms; there will also be four introductory language classes in the first half of Michaelmas Term. Topics 2 and 6 will additionally be available to interested students through supervisions only. The exam paper will have questions on all 6 topics.

For the Ge.4 Moodle site, please see here.


Three-hour written examination. Questions on three topics must be answered.

This paper is also available for examination by Long Essay.

NB. Arrangements for 2020-21 to be confirmed.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Mark Chinca