Course Syllabus, Fall 2006

Useful Information


GER 271 is an introduction to German-speaking culture from its earliest beginnings until the later 19th century. We cannot speak of Germany at this time - no such country existed until 1871 - but we can speak of lands in central Europe that shared a common tongue, the emerging German language.  The fractured political situation of this area did not prevent it from producing some fine cultural artefacts, however.  This course will look at how the arts – i.e. art, architecture, music, literature – defined and reflected pre- and early modern German identity.

Course Objectives
  • To learn about the cultural history of German-speaking central Europe by reading some important German literature, and to experience other forms of German culture (art, music, architecture, etc.).
  • To develop skills in thinking, interpreting, and writing about cultural objects.
  • To develop the independent learning skills by becoming better able to make use of the UW Library's e-reference collection.
What is a "cultural object"?

In GER 271 a cultural object or artefact is a specific item that we study in order to gain insight into the development of German cultural history. A cultural object can be a novel, poem, play, work of art, building, memorial, even an event or a person. For the most part, the cultural objects in this course will objects from the creative visual and literary arts.

How the Course is Organized

GER 271 is divided into 7 Units. These units are roughly in chronological order, although there is overlap in some of the later units when various intellectual and artistic movements co-existed:

Unit One: Ancient and Medieval German Culture
Unit Two: Humanism, Reformation, and Baroque
Unit Three: Enlightenment
Unit Four: Sturm und Drang
Unit Five: Klassik
Unit Six: The Early 1800s
Unit Seven: Jewish-German Culture

Each unit has its own webpage where you will find an introduction to the content of that unit, readings, exercises, and the such.  Each unit also has Prof Moments, short e-lectures that alert you to the instructor's take on key issues.

In the third week of term you will be assigned to a Study Team, a group of three students with whom you will make two Field Trips to websites related to a particular unit and report back to the entire class.

During the term you will submit two Reading Responses, short essays on the course readings. The course ends with a Final Exam during the final exam period.

Throughout the term you have the opportunity to visit the GER 271 Question and Answer Forum to answer review questions about the material and to post your own questions and comments for class discussion.

Please note: this course is mounted entirely in UW-ACE, UW's online course environment. (You can learn more about UW-ACE in the banner on the right.) The on-line activities are designed to motivate you and to engage your imagination with interesting activities. GER 271 has an on-campus and a Distance Education section; the only difference between the two sections is that the on-campus section meets for 2 hours every week to discuss the readings and activities.


It is important while at university to develop into an independent learner. This course expects you to do a number of readings in addition to shorter and longer learning tasks, and to do them with a minimum of guidance. It also helps you to develop independent learning skills that can contribute to a successful university education: information literacy skills (i.e. the art of finding educational resources on your own) and writing skills.

Since I believe that university courses should challenge you, I've designed GER 271 to be both content- and activity-rich. German cultural history is extremely rich, and in order to give you even a tiny sampling of it requires a fair amount of reading. This course requires some effort - about 8-10 hours a week - but if you put that effort into it, you will reap many rewards.


Mary Fulbrook, A Concise History of Germany (Second Edition!)
The Nibelungenlied
J.W. Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm Tell

All of the above are available at the UW Bookstore.  A copy of the Fulbrook text is on reserve at Porter Library.

Other readings are available online. Check each unit for details.

Tasks and Assignments

This course has a variety of tasks and assignments. The shorter and less grade-intensive activities test basic knowledge and give you an opportunity to formulate ideas in cooperation with other students. Other assignments take more time; they help you develop your ability to think intellectually and to communicate that thinking in writing.

Syllabus Quiz: 5%
Unit Exercises: 20%
Field Trip Reports: 15%
Reading Responses: 30%
Final Exam: 30%

Please note: exact due dates for the term in which you're studying can be found by clicking on the Calendar tab of UW-ACE.

Syllabus Quiz (5%)
Objective: Tests your knowledge of the course structure, tasks, assignments, etc.  Because this course is entirely online, and because people tend to skim online materials, this quiz helps ensure that you have read and understood the course syllabus.
Format: Multiple-choice quiz. 
Grading: Automatic.

Due: The first two weeks of term. Late quizzes not accepted.
Location on course website:  Getting Started page.

Unit Exercises (20%)
Objective: These exercises test your understanding of the historical background to each unit in addition to your comprehension of the readings and Prof Moments.  Doing these exercises are your "studying" for the course; doing them will help prepare you for the final.
Format: Multiple-choice and open answer questions. 
Grading: Automatic (for multiple choice); by instructor (for open-ended questions).
Due: Various dates. You are encouraged to do all seven Unit Exercises, but only your top four scores will count.  Since you have multiple opportunities to complete the Unit Exercises, late exercises will not receive any marks.
Location on course website:  Unit pages.

Field Trip Reports (15%)
One of the goals of the course is to give you experience with interpreting cultural objects. The Field Trip Reports give you an opportunity to develop your skills in this regard; you make a "virtual" field trip to an object of culture and report back on what you find there.
Format: You are assigned to a three-member Study Team, and that team is assigned two field trips.  Your Study Team has its own Discussion Board in which you discuss questions about the website you have visited.  Your team together writes a field trip report which is then posted in the Field Trip Forum for all class members to see. 
Grading: By instructor.  The Reports are graded on the basis of effort: evidence the task was done in good faith counts more than the accuracy of the answers.
Due: Various dates.  Late Field Trip Reports do not receive any marks.
Location on course website:  Field Trips page.

Reading Responses (30%)
Objective: The Reading Responses are designed to let you explore some of the course readings in greater detail, thereby giving you the opportunity to reflect critically on themes covered in the course.  Doing the Reading Responses helps you learn how to discuss and interpret literary texts.
Format: You will write two Reading Responses during the term.  Each Response is broken into stages:
Stage One: You choose a question from a list provided and write a short (100-150) statement in which you present the core of your argument (i.e. your perspective on the answer).  You also provide clear examples from the text that support your argument.  (Don’t present these examples in detail, simply summarize them briefly.)  The instructor will provide feedback on this stage if it is submitted on time.
Stage Two: After reviewing the instructor feedback, you write the actual response and respond to a couple of additional reflection questions.  Each essay should be between 600 and 750 words.
Grading:  By instructor.  Stage One is reviewed by the instructor, but not graded.  Stage Two is graded according to the grading scheme in the right-hand column of this page.
Due: Reading Response #1 is due about the middle of term, Reading Response #2 is due at the end of the term - check the Course Calendar for exact dates.  The Reading Responses can be handed in after the due dates without penalty.  The final deadline, for which no exceptions will be made, is 11:59pm of the final day of lectures for the term.  The instructor reserves the right to return any part of a late Reading Response at any time (and not necessarily within the one-week turnaround period that is used for Reading Responses submitted on time). 
Location on course website:  Reading Responses page.

Final Exam (30%)
Objective: To examine your understanding of all aspects of the course.
Format: The final consists of three parts. Part A (40 points) is a set of multiple-choice questions on all aspects of the course: historical readings, literary readings, Prof Moments, information literacy, etc.  Part B (30 points) consists of two short essay questions on specific course readings (other than the Fulbrook textbook). Part C (30 points) is a longer essay question on a general topic covered in the course. In Parts B and C you will be given a choice as to which questions you wish to answer.
Grading: By instructor.
Due date:  during the Final Examinations Period.  
Location:  to be announced. DE students need to select an exam centre. Contact Distance Education for details.


Prof. James M. Skidmore
Germanic & Slavic Studies
University of Waterloo

(you can call me Prof. Skidmore, or James, or even Skid, but never, ever Jimmy - unless you want to experience the wrath of my mother!)

Click here to see Skid's webpage (there you'll find full contact information, office hours, and details about my research and teaching interests)

Teaching Assistant

Muriel Myriam Fleischer
(just call me Myriam!)

Both instructors are responsible for all aspects of the course.  They can best be reached via UW-ACE e-mail. On the drop-down list of names click on "ALL FACULTY" to send them a message.  If you wish to speak to either or both instructors by phone, please send them an e-mail message to set up a phone appointment.

E-mail: use the UW-ACE e-mail system only

On-Campus Class

The on-campus section meets Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm, in AL 105.  All students - both on-campus and DE students - are welcome to attend!

Course Website

This course is run almost entirely through UW-ACE, UW's on-line course management system. You will submit all of your work (except the final exam) on-line. At the course site you will also find due dates, lectures, discussion boards, extra resources, and your grades. To make full use of the online materials, you will need to make sure that your computer has Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer, Flash, and loudspeakers. A high-speed internet connection is also recommended.  If you do not have a computer of your own, or you have only dial-up internet access, consult your faculty's computing office for the location of computing labs near you!  If you are registered in Arts, you can get a list of computer labs by going to the ACO lab page.

Information Literacy - What's that?

Information literacy - or, if you prefer, information competence - is an idea that has gained a fair deal of currency in library circles over the past few years. One definition states that information literacy is the ability "to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, effectively use, and communicate information in its various formats" (SUNY Council of Library Directors"). More succinctly, information literate students possess "the skills of information problem solving" (Wisconsin Educational Media Association; adopted by the National Forum for Information Literacy)

Tips for Doing Well in GER 271

  • Approach the course with interest and curiosity. Focusing solely on marks and grades will snuff out the fun of learning. You're being given an opportunity to learn: use it wisely!
  • Keep up with the coursework by doing tasks and assignments on a regular basis. Do not cram! And do not leave things until the last minute!
  • Remember that approximately a third of your grade is based mainly on effort and the timely completion of straightforward learning tasks.
  • Participate fully in the online and interactive components of the course.
  • Keep in mind the advice of Lenin: Study! Study! Study!
  • When you need help, ask for it!

Grading Scheme

The following scheme gives you a rough idea of how marks are assigned to subjectively-graded assignments (i.e. content assignments such as Reading Responses or exam essay questions).

Unacceptable: Below the minimum standard set for the course. Less than 50%
Acceptable: Serious difficulties with understanding the material, communicating knowledge, or both. Major factual or formal errors. 50-59%
Satisfactory: Meets demands of assignment. Grasp of material can range from occasionally shaky to very shaky. Communication skills can inhibit understanding. Some factual or formal errors. 60-74%
Good: Meets demands of assignment well. Solid grasp of material. Ideas have been clearly communicated. Minor factual or formal errors. 75-89%
Excellent: Exceeds demands of assignment. Exceptional command of material. Flawless communication skills. Nearly no factual or formal errors. 90-100%

To find about the educational philosophy that informs this course, click here.

Course Schedule

The UW-ACE site has a complete list of due dates for readings, tasks, and assignments! Click on the calendar tab.

Note on the Avoidance of Academic Offenses

Please be aware that, at a minimum, you can expect to get a grade of zero for any task or assignment where there is evidence of cheating, plagiarism, or any other academic offense.   

All students registered in the courses of the Faculty of Arts are expected to know what constitutes an academic offence, to avoid committing academic offences, and to take responsibility for their academic actions. When the commission of an offence is established, disciplinary penalties will be imposed in accord with Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline). For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students are directed to consult the summary of Policy #71 which is supplied in the Undergraduate Calendar (section 1; on the Web at
). If you need help in learning how to avoid offences such as plagiarism, cheating, and double submission, or if you need clarification of aspects of the discipline policy, ask your course instructor for guidance. Other resources regarding the discipline policy are your academic advisor and the Undergraduate Associate Dean.

Students who believe that they have been wrongfully or unjustly penalized have the right to grieve; refer to Policy #70, Student Grievance,