One Course: Investigating German Pasts and Presents

For every student registered for Professor of German Studies and History Tyler Carrington’s course, Investigating German Pasts and Presents, another student placed their name on a waiting list hoping to get in.

Professor Tyler Carrington (right) with his class at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.
Professor Tyler Carrington (right) with his class at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

Carrington’s recently published book, “Love at Last Sight: Dating, Intimacy, and Risk in Turn-of-the-Century Berlin,” became an avenue of inquiry for his students as they visited prominent sites that figured into Carrington’s own investigation into the murder mystery central to his book.

Carrington mastered the art of walking backward while presenting his “lectures” in three cities with a rich history—Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.

“A week’s stay in each city in some ways allows us to get a feel for what the cities are like, experience their rhythms and dynamics, and explore some of the off-the-beaten-path gems each city has to offer,” Carrington says. “And the itinerary and coursework of the class essentially turns the students into historical detectives and challenges them to seek out different historical moments.”

They started in Vienna, which Carrington says represented the pinnacle of European culture before World War I; then on to Munich, which he says gives a great perspective on the turn of the 20th century and even the 1920s and ’30s; and then to Berlin, which Carrington sees as a living, breathing museum of the Nazi period and the Cold War division of East and West.

The students crafted their own podcasts, pulling historical elements into the present. One of the students searched for the building in Vienna where her U.S. Army grandfather had a photo taken of himself, and she attempted to construct stories out of what she found through her investigations.

Kat Edmond ’20 says it was the highlight of her academic career.

“I found that this trip really sparked my passion for intrinsically motivated learning,” Edmond says. “When the class would visit a museum or a monument, I found myself going back to our hotel and conducting additional research on just about everything we experienced and learning far more than I expected to.”

Carrington noted the course is possible thanks to the block plan.

“Most study-abroad programs and semester-abroad courses mostly put you in one place, one city, and deposit you there for a semester,” Carrington says. “With this class, our students were able to get a good taste—not a full meal, but more than just a bite, for a variety of cities. And a week in each place was kind of the perfect amount.”