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Cancelled: Writing the City

Let’s turn the city into a text! Capture the moments and the feeling of being in a new environment, turn people you meet into characters, and create stories about places you visit. Read and write about Berlin!

Course periodJuly 20, 2020 - Aug. 14, 2020 Session II
Category Language, Literature & Creative Writing
Course levelsBachelor, Master, Ph.D.
Class size

max. 12 participants in class

Credits and certificate

Participants will receive a final grade certificate and 5 ECTS credit points only in the event of regular attendance (must be present 80% of the time), as well as active participation. Additionally, six weeks after the end of the course a Transcript of Records is issued by Humboldt-University.

Application deadline June 1, 2020, or when participant quota is reached Application period over.
Course fee680.00 Euro | (excl. program fee and discounts)


To some, the city is a text asking to be read; to others, the city is a multi-layered phenomenon that defies readability. None of this has ever prevented writers writing about the city - so much so that city literature has become a genre of its own. In this course we will study examples of city writing and then will try our own hand at writing the city: Berlin.

In our reading of literature we will explore various possibilities of turning urban structures, urban encounters and urban experience into text. Reading assignments will be from European and American city texts, but will eventually zoom in on representations of Berlin. How can literature, through the use of images, narrative perspective, plot structure, rhythms and juxtapositions, capture the voices, spaces and characters of the city? What meanings of the city do individual texts create? What are the traditional expectations of and perspectives on Berlin, and how have specific motifs and techniques developed?

We will study the texts both in order to understand how the city is written and as starting points for your own writing of the city. Writing assignments will draw on your own experiences of Berlin: capture the moment of your arrival, the strangeness of the new environment, possible misunderstandings, and turn them into a text.

Walk through a neighbourhood, ride your bikes or the subway looking for motifs and characters. Describe people you meet and turn them into characters. Research the history of a person, a building, a trend, a scene, and take ownership of your urban experience - observe how you become a writer of Berlin. Writing will take place in-class, on-site and in take-home exercises. Be prepared to share some of your writing in class and learn to give and receive constructive feedback.


Course Program (pdf)

Course structure

Academic lessons

  • You will receive a total of 45 contact hours (one contact hour equals 45 minutes; 11 contact hours per week).
  • The lessons are held three times a week.
  • Lessons will comprise lectures, group work, discussion sessions, excursions.


Schedule (Track C)


Tuesday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.30 pm – 5 pm
Wednesday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.30 pm – 5 pm
Friday: 9 am – 10.30 am & 11.00 am – 11.45 am


Cultural extra-curricular activities:

HUWISU offers a fine selection of interesting extra-curricular activities and aims to give all participants an unforgettable stay in Berlin. Your program includes excursions, sport activities and social gatherings providing you the opportunity to get to know the city, the university and your classmates better and to meet students from all parts of the world. The costs for these offers are included in the course fees.

Activities and tours we offer regularly: Federal Chancellery, German Parliament, House of Representatives, Topography of Terror, Political Archive, Museum Island, Kreuzberg Tour, Daytrip to Potsdam, Boat trip, Beach Volleyball, Exhibitions, Farewell Party…

Language skills English: C1
Motivation Letter about one page in English
Student Profile

Students of all subjects with a strong interest in writing.

In order to follow the course, a very good command of English is required. The minimum age requirement is 18 years.

Ms. Donna Stonecipher, PhD

Donna Stonecipher grew up in Seattle, Washington, and Tehran, Iran. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa and her PhD from the University of Georgia. She is the author of four books of poetry, most recently “Model City” (Shearsman, 2015). Her third book, “The Cosmopolitan”, won the National Poetry Series. Her prose and poetry have been published in many journals, and her poems have been translated into six languages. She has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Georgia, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and has conducted workshops on poetry and translation around Europe and the United States.
She translates from French and German, and her translation of Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker’s collection “études” is forthcoming. She lives in Berlin.

CoordinatorPierre Steuer/ Carmen Opolski/ Sanja Müssig
Contact detailsInternational Department
Unter den Linden 6
10999 Berlin


This course can be combined with: