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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

Urban Writing. Schreiben in der Stadt.

Taught by Karl Flender

Starts 20.10. / Thursday, 12:00 - 14:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Language requirements: min. English B2, German A2



Course Description

This semester will be spent exclusively to study Potsdamer Straße in Berlin (it is long, so we won’t get bored easily). The course has a dual approach: We will discuss theoretical and methodological approaches to studying the city, then practise these approaches in ethnographic, journalistic and literary writing ourselves. We will thus spend most of the time in the urban space, discovering Potsdamer Straße as a stage of social practice and reflect on these findings in different text formats.


The urban space around Potsdamer Strasse is especially well suited for this kind of research, as it is currently undergoing a process of rapid transformation. Numerous galleries have occupied empty stores, the old Tagesspiegel area is filled with design agencies and concept stores, the Potsdamer Platz with its measly collection of skyscrapers is still trying to become the centre of the capital. At the same time counterculture-pubs like Ex'n'Pop or Kumpelnest, where the queer scene is at home, still thrive – right next to the postmigrant culture of barbers and import/export shops. As you might know, even David Bowie has lived on Potsdamer Strasse.

At the end of the semester, each of the students will have written four texts plus shorter journal-entries, from which we will create a small booklet (or PDF). This booklet can then be used as a guide to Potsdamer Strasse or as a small contribution to urban studies – but at the same time it serves as a time capsule of the student’s year abroad in Berlin.


Course Requirements

Active participation in class, conducting field research, writing a journal throughout the semester, composition of four different texts.



All texts will be made available via Moodle. Please prepare the course readings in advance of each session.

Language concept

This is a bilingual seminar, so the language in class will be English and German. We will try to speak as much German in class as we can, to improve the German language skills. English will be our Lingua franca.

The texts will be, if possible, in German and English. Basis for text discussion should be the German text.

The students are encouraged to write their own texts in German, but English is also fine.


Attendance Policy

You may not miss more than 2 sessions. If you do know you will miss a class let me know as soon as possible via mail. Appropriate catch-up assignments might need to be done.


Plagiarism Policy

Using the words of another person’s thoughts, ideas or data as though they were your own – whether intentionally or unintentionally, is understood as plagiarism. This will result in failure of the course.


Course Structure

The course is divided into four blocks, each consisting of three classes. In the first session, theoretical/methodological texts on various aspects of urban culture are read and discussed. In the second session we will do further reading of journalistic/essayistic/literary texts. In these texts we will investigate how the theory is translated into practice and analyze the composition in order to write our own pastiches.

After that, the students write their own texts on Potsdamer Straße. The resulting texts are then discussed in session three. In a workshop the class will offer advice on content and style to improve the students’ writing.