Kommentar: Deutsch lernen

First let me thank Stephen Brockmann, Christian Rogowski, and Mary Beth O’Brien for providing such helpful papers, filled with practical advice, suggestions of websites and texts, advice on teaching strategies, how-to’s and not-to-do’s. Indeed the three presenters complement each other well as their presentations speak to each other insofar as one mentions teaching strategies that in fact respond to questions raised by another. Thus, I will not address so much the nuts and bolts of logistics, or how to seduce our students into paying careful and deliberate attention, or what it means to teach German history through film; rather I will focus on more general strategies of teaching.

I will begin, however with a personal comment of where I fit in: I feel like a dinosaur – one of the early (or first?) generation who started teaching German cinema in the late 1970s. It is sobering to think that I have become the history that Stephen and Christian refer to in passing. While this in itself does not make me especially competent to comment in this forum, since witnesses also construct their narratives in particular ways, as I am sure Mary Beth would concur, nonetheless I can attest to the fact that many of the challenges and practical issues mentioned by the presenters have been with us from the very beginning, be they access to films and finding subtitled versions, how to integrate the screening experience, what textbooks or texts to choose, how to balance breadth and depth, what kind of assignments to require, etc. At the same time, the speakers make clear that we are confronted with a dynamic situation: film distribution and screening technologies are changing, so are student viewing habits, and of course approaches to film analysis and film theory continue to evolve along with the changes in film production and accessibility. Hence, echoing their insistence on establishing context, I remind you that there is a context for this discussion of teaching German film courses in our institutions of higher learning, one that goes as far back as the late 1970s. I do not intend to reconstruct that context for you, but I do want to recall three important aspects of that early phase:

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