This year, Level 6 students taking the module ‘Transitions: Identity in the Inter-War Years’ were lucky enough to enjoy two fantastic and relevant events right on their doorsteps. In October we went to see the exhibition Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 at Tate Liverpool. Although it was particularly relevant to one of the texts on the module, Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (1939)it also gave us a much broader sense of the period. Students found the intense portrait photographs by August Sander difficult to look at with a sense of what was to come. They also found his organisation of experience particularly compelling:

‘I loved seeing how the Sander photographs were paired with a timeline of the interwar years. It was also brilliant to see the categorisation of a poor woman as “the city”, rather than any class of people.’

The Otto Dix paintings, whether engaging with his war experiences or with life in the Weimanr Republic, were challenging but stimulating.

‘Some of the Otto Dix work was disturbing.’

 

The paintings have since provided a useful point of reference when thinking about literary techniques and their relation to German Expressionism in our seminars. Overall the Tate exhibition – with its very useful timeline painted directly onto the Tate’s walls – really shaped our understanding of the period.

‘An engaging and interesting visit. I learnt about the interwar years in an unconventional yet useful way.’

Less intellectually demanding, but also engaging, was our visit to see Murder on the Orient Express at FACT Liverpool in November: free, once again, to all students who signed up. One person (we won’t name and shame them for their tears) in fact found the ending of the film almost too emotional to bear! Everyone enjoyed the film and its special effects. The module asks students to read Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and so the trip allowed some interesting comparisons between the texts and their reinterpretation in different contexts.

 

‘It was interesting to see a modern take on another Agatha Christie novel […], to see it play out on screen and compare it to my reaction when reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

‘I loved seeing how a classic Christie text could be made to fit the role of a 21st century movie. The film also gave me insight into travel in the interwar years.’

It was great to move out of the classroom and engage in different ways with the fascinating interwar period. As one student summed up:

‘Both the trips were thoroughly enjoyable and enriching, providing valuable contexts for the module.’