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German Reading Lists

Structure of the Preliminary (‘Prelims’) Course

General introduction

The German Sub-Faculty has an integrated First Year course in which undergraduates are introduced to the study of literature in historical context and encouraged to make active use of oral and written language skills in discussing historical topics. This lasts three terms and leads to the preliminary examination (‘Prelims’). The following gives an overview of the papers. Further details (such as how they are examined) will be provided upon your arrival in Oxford.

1. The language component: Paper I and II

The language component of the course consists of Paper I and II. Paper I focuses on German society and culture from 1890 to the present, and you will practise reading comprehension and German essay writing. There will be a focus on the following topics: Generationen und Geschlechter; (Aus-)Bildung: wozu?; Umwelt; Nation und Nationalismus. Paper I is taught by a German native speaker ‘Lektor’ or ‘Lektorin’, and classes are held in German.

Paper II is a translation paper, and you will practise translation into German of a passage from a prose text, and translation from German in a modern literary register. You will receive college-based teaching for both parts of Paper II.

It is important to put in work on consolidating your German grammar and expanding your German vocabulary before you come to Oxford to start your course. For this, you can read and listen to as much German as possible, such as Deutschlandradio (available online and as an app) or reading daily newspapers such as Der Spiegel or Die Zeit. It is important to develop a habit of consolidating your knowledge of the language every day, and by keeping a note of new vocabulary, including the forms of verbs, and, for example, whether they conjugate with sein or haben.

Make sure you get a good dictionary, e.g. the New Concise Langenscheidt German/English English/German dictionary (recommended; min. 165,000 entries), or the Collins Concise German/English English/German dictionary. Also useful is the Collins German Dictionary (Complete and Unabridged). The College library will have a stock of dictionaries you can use, as does the Taylorian.

For the first-year course, you will need to have Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage, revised by Martin Durrell, seventh edition (revised) (London, 2021) and Practising German Grammar – A Workbook by Martin Durrell, Katrin Kohl and Claudia Kaiser (now in fourth edition).

For vocabulary work, all students need to have a copy of Sarah M. B. Fagan, Using German Vocabulary (Cambridge, 2004).

In addition, the Duden Stilwörterbuch comes highly recommended (vol. 2 in Duden’s 12-volume series of linguistic reference books; this shows words in context and gives standard collocations: ISBN 978-3411040292).

Expanding your German vocabulary

The following books are recommended but not essential to assist you with your learning:

  • Paul Stocker, Wort für Wort. New Advanced German Vocabulary, fifth edition (London, 2010)

And for basic German grammar consolidation, highly recommended:

  • Annemarie Künzl-Snodgrass and Silke Mentchen, Upgrade Your German (London, 2003), also available in a Kindle edition

Also helpful:

  • Annemarie Künzl-Snodgrass and Silke Mentchen, Speed Up Your German: Strategies to Avoid Common Errors (London, 2017)

Online dictionaries:

Online dictionaries are useful, but should be used in tandem with a physical dictionary, which often gives greater detail and examples of the usage of a given word or phrase. The following websites are reliable online sources:

2. The course in German Literature: Paper III and IV

The first year of your literature course at Oxford is based on a number of set texts for the First Public Examination (‘Prelims’), which takes place at the end of your first year. Throughout the year, you will write essays and commentaries on selected prose texts, dramas, one film, and poems. Papers III and IV are taught in college tutorials, accompanied by lectures on the prescribed texts throughout the year.

Please buy your own copies of the following books and film, and read/watch them prior to starting the course in October (indeed, re-read and re-watch them, if possible). When purchasing them, pay attention to the edition and ISBN, as editions can vary slightly, and having the same page numbers facilitates discussion in tutorials as well as making it easier to follow lectures.

Prescribed texts for the Preliminary Course in German

Paper III: Drama and Poetry: Essay and Commentary

The set dramas for this paper are as follows:

  • Frank Wedekind, Frühlings Erwachen (1891) [Stuttgart: Reclam, 1991. ISBN 3150079519]
  • Bertolt Brecht, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (1943) [Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2024 (BasisBibliothek 25). ISBN: 978-3-518-18825-5]
  • Thomas Bernhard, Heldenplatz (1988) [Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2023 [1995]. ISBN:3518389742]
  • Dea Loher, Unschuld (2003) [Stuttgart: Reclam Theater der Gegenwart, 2022. ISBN: 3150142059]

For this paper, you will also study a selection of poems from the anthology Deutsche Gedichte. 1500 Gedichte von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, edited by Hans-Joachim Simm (Frankfurt am Main, 2009) ISBN 3458174400.

The list of poems from the anthology set for special study are as follows (with relevant page numbers in brackets):

  • Der von Kürenberg: Ich zôch mir einen valken (28)
  • Walther von der Vogelweide: Ich saz ûf eime4 steine (73)
  • Wolfram von Eschenbach: Sîne klâwen (85-6)
  • Fleming: An Sich (232)
  • Gryphius: Thränen des Vaterlandes (236)
  • Greiffenberg: Auf meinen bestürmeten Lebens-Lauff (285)
  • Goethe: Erlkönig (430)
  • Goethe: Römische Elegien VI (435)
  • Hölderlin: Hälfte des Lebens (536)
  • Hölderlin: Andenken (537)
  • Müller: Der Lindenbaum (603)
  • Eichendorff: Lockung (622)
  • Droste-Hülshoff: Die tote Lerche (656)
  • Heine: Sie saßen und tranken am Teetisch (668)
  • Heine: Gedächtnisfeier (677)
  • Mörike: Auf eine Lampe (706)
  • Meyer: Der römische Brunnen (784)
  • George: Wir schreiten auf und ab (815)
  • Hofmannsthal: Ballade des äußeren Lebens (818)
  • Rilke: Archaïscher Torso Apollos (835)
  • Rilke: O dieses ist das Tier, das es nicht giebt (842)
  • Lasker-Schüler: Ein alter Tibetteppich (853)
  • Stramm: Patrouille (863)
  • Trakl: Grodek (873)
  • Benn: Kann keine Trauer sein (948)
  • Brecht: Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik (995)
  • Celan: Sprachgitter (1066)
  • Bachmann: Böhmen liegt am Meer (1075)
  • Mayröcker: nachdenken über Zeitläufte, (1099)
  • Kling: falknerei (1314)

Paper IV: Prose and Film: Essays

The prescription for this paper is as follows:

  • Theodor Fontane, Irrungen, Wirrungen (1888) [Stuttgart: Reclam XL, 2021. ISBN 3150161215]
  • Franz Kafka, Die Verwandlung (1912/1915) [Stuttgart: Reclam XL, 2021. ISBN 3150161096]
  • Elfriede Jelinek, Die Liebhaberinnen (1975) [Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch, current edition. ISBN 978-3499124679]
  • Fatih Akın (dir.), Aus dem Nichts (2017) [Warner Home Video, 2018]

Do let me know if you have any questions, and have a lovely summer.

All the best, und bis bald in Oxford.

Dr Joanna Raisbeck, Fellow in German

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