Feminist Interventions and the Teaching of German History

Friday, January 7, 2011: 10:10 AM
Yarmouth Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Benita Blessing , Ohio University, Athens, OH
German history courses offer numerous, though complicated, opportunities for teaching women's and gender history. The challenges of feminist theories of history have multiplied, however, in the face of increasing availability of sources traditionally associated with questioning dominant, patriarchal narratives. With films and their perceived immediacy and murky differentiation between “reality” and “representation,” sources once used almost exclusively in cultural or women's history classes have become staples in even the most traditional of history courses. How has the now common use of film clips changed the teaching of German history? Whereas history courses focused on feminist pedagogical perspectives address explicitly the ways in which many students are confronted with important realizations about their own lives, history courses that do not focus explicitly on gender and sexuality do not always provide moments for self-reflection. In this presentation, I use examples from German cinematic history to suggest how feminist theory, regardless of the class' focus, can be used to move students from the contemporary personal (a typical starting point for women's history) to the historiographical public. Questions here include how to deal with students' personal histories that come to light in discussions, and how to negotiate the space between the personal and the historical.
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