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GER2011 : M for Murder: Crime, Law and Justice in Modern German Literature and Film

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Beate Muller
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In consonance with the overall aims of degrees offered in the SML, this module aims to build on skills and knowledge gained at Stage 1, to introduce students to a topic-centred, in-depth study of modern German films, literature, and culture.

This module explores the ways in which murder has been represented in modern German literature and film, focusing on representations of murder created or set round about the first half of the 20th century. Murder, as the ultimate transgressive act, is shown to be a testing ground for questions about the legal framework of a given society, the integrative and normative force of such a framework, and the power relations played out in transgressions and restitutions of the law. Examples from both film and literature cover a range of differently motivated murders, ranging from social causes or economic pressures to killings born of ideological reasons, as well as to murders brought about by mental illness or psychological factors. By analysing these killings in their social and political contexts, the changing approaches to dealing with crime in modern German societies will emerge, which will allow for both a typology and a cultural & political historiography of extreme transgression.

The module will be partly taught in German, partly in English. The exam will be partly in German, partly in English. The essay will be in English.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will take as its starting point the following questions: a) what can motivate criminal transgressions such as murders; b) how societies have been, and are responding, to such crimes and the people who committed them; c) what representations of serious crime in literature and film tell us about the values of society related to law, its transgression, justice and restitution of the social order disrupted by crime.

The films we will watch are: Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and Michael Haneke’s Das weiße Band (2009).

The literary texts we will read are: Franz Kafka’s story “In der Strafkolonie” (1919) and Bertolt Brecht’s play Die Maßnahme (1930). Further texts will be made available as appropriate.

We will compare and contrast the representations of crime and their motivations in these films and texts, exploring similarities and differences over time and across different socio-political contexts.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1164:00164:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching201:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
GER2111M for Murder: Crime, Law and Justice in Modern German Literature and Film - Part 1
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will introduce students to legal and philosophical concepts to do with crime, law, and justice, as well as to the background of individual texts and films on the syllabus.
The seminars will provide the students with opportunities to practice critical engagement with the primary sources by focusing on the module’s key topic and by reading these primary sources with the help of analytical concepts gleaned from selected secondary sources.
Independent study activities will enable students to read primary and secondary sources in preparation for classroom activities and for assessment purposes.
The module will be partly taught in German, partly in English. This will ensure that students practice their German while English can function as a meta-language to enhance the intellectual quality of classroom discussions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50The exam will consist of a commentary (to be written in German) and a question relating to the commentary (to be written in English)
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
GER2111M for Murder: Crime, Law and Justice in Modern German Literature and Film - Part 11N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M50An essay of 2,000 words, to be written in English and submitted in Sem 2 Assessment Period.
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
EssayMThis practice essay will consist of a commentary to be written in German.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam will ask students to write a commentary, in German, on a selected passage from one of the literary texts or on a scene from one of the films. This will test students’ ability to read a primary source closely and to write about it in German. The exam will also test students' wider understanding via an English language essay-style question related to the commentary.

The essay(s) will require students to compare several of the primary sources studied and to engage with secondary sources in order to compare and contrast the primary ones.
Thus, the two modes of assessment complement each other.

Reading Lists