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

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor 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 in German. 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 completion301:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00partly taught face-to-face on campus, partly online delivery, as appropriate
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching181:0018:00Face to face seminars on campus
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities371:0037:00To include pre-and post-lecture reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1001:00100:00N/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 scheduled teaching and learning activities 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 non-synchronous teaching and learning activities 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.
Evaluation from last year showed that a majority of students appreciated the online elements as part of the module contact hours.
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 discussions.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination601A30The exam will consist of a 500 word commentary (to be written in German). The target language performance will not be marked.
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
Essay2M70A 2,000 word essay to be written in English. Submission week: 35
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MThe commentary will enable students to practice writing a commentary on an excerpt from a core text in preparation for the exam.
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 essay will test students' ability to analyse and critically engage with selected core texts / films.

Reading Lists