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GER4018 : Place, belonging and identity in the German-speaking Alps

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Richard McClelland
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To introduce students to cultural conceptualizations of alpine space and how these are connected to concepts of identity and belonging. These will be explored through a range of German-language literary, filmic, artistic and philosophical texts, both historic and contemporary.

Outline Of Syllabus

We will explore how questions of identity and belonging have been negotiated in the German-speaking Alps. To do so, we will engage with a broad range of literary, filmic, visual, aesthetic, and philosophical texts. We will begin by considering how the Alps are invested with cultural and personal meaning at an individual and collective level, and how the mountains have served as inspiration for a broad range of cultural texts. We will then move on to consider five themes or ‘topoi’ that represent major ways in which people have understood the Alps at a cultural level, both historically and today:

1. First, we will explore historic alpine myths and legends and modern adaptations of these to examine the Alps as a ‘horrible place’.

2. We will then move on the consider the reconceptualization of the Alps as an idyllic ‘happy place’ from the Enlightenment onwards.

3. We will evaluate the construction of major infrastructural projects in the Alps and the direct impact this has had on the environment, Alpine inhabitants and the labourers involved in construction.

4. We will interrogate and deconstruct the draw of the Alps as a supposedly pristine, natural landscape.

5. We will examine how the Alps have shaped Europeans’ conceptions of the world historically and how this is linked to questions of (de)colonization today.

In each topic we will examine written, literary texts and visual media (e.g. film, photography) and throughout the module we will look at cultural artefacts and texts from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Tyrol.

A full reading list will be provided by the module leader in advance of the start of the module.

This module will be taught and assessed in English.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion641:0064:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00In-person
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1001:00100:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce students to key concepts and topics; each week students will find and bring examples of alternative texts (i.e. from beyond the syllabus) to lectures, and to use these as a basis for workshop-style analysis, to develop their research skills. They will discuss these with their peers. The lecture/workshop will act as a springboard into the seminars. These will be focused on individual and group work and designed to develop students’ critical and analytical skills, as well as introduce key approaches that can be utilized in assessments.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M301200 word commentary
Essay1M702500-2800 word essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

- A critical commentary (Written Assessment 1), worth 30% of the module mark. You will write an analysis of one of the texts that we have explored in the lecture/workshop, linking together the key themes of the module with a close reading of the text in question. Your chosen text may be written or visual and you will be given guidance on choosing a suitable text.
- An essay (Written Assessment 2), worth 70% of the module mark. You will write your essay on a topic of your choosing that relates to one of the topics we have explored in the module. It should engage with one (or more) of the texts listed on the reading list and one (or more) texts of your own choosing. This should combine close reading (as practiced in the critical commentary) with a broader thematic consideration. You will be given guidance in choosing and exploring a topic and are required to speak to the module leader when making your decision. You may not reuse material from the critical commentary in the essay.

Reading Lists