Past Graduate Courses
Authority and Enjoyment.
A far reaching distrust and crisis of authority seems to be coextensive with the European Enlightenment and modernity—but what is authority? At least one thing is certain: our relation to authority is never simple and straightforward, but is the site of intense fantasmatic activity, mixing guilt, defiance, respect, resentment, terror, justice, and love. The word itself is highly evocative, and part of its power lies in the halo of images and meanings it conjures. This seminar will examine a series of questions: Why are we so invested in authority? Can authority be avoided by more inclusive horizontal organizations, or is it inevitably bound up with the social link and even the structure of language itself (the symbolic order)? To what extent is the father the paradigmatic instance of authority, and are we living the end of patriarchy or do we rather witness the return of the father? How has the figure of the master changed under capitalism, and in what new forms does authority appear today? If authority is neither inherently “bad” nor “good,” what use may be made of it for individual and collective emancipation?
Readings will include: Walter Benjamin on language and judgment; Hannah Arendt on the crisis of authority; Alexandre Kojève’s The Notion of Authority which analyzes its four ideal types (Father, Judge, Leader, Master); Jean Genet’s play The Balcony, dealing with the comedy of modern authority; the fantastical figure of the father in the work of Franz Kafka; and the vicissitudes of the Oedipus complex in psychoanalytic theory, focusing on Sigmund Freud (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality) and Jacques Lacan (Seminar VIII Transference). We will also watch Lars Von Trier’s The Boss of It All, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s The Return, and Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause.
Autumn 2016, Aaron Schuster.
Goethe’s Novels II: Die Wahlverwandtschaften.
GRMN 37016, SCTH 37016
After considering Goethe’s Werther and Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre in the first phase of this three-part seminar, we turn to Goethe’s “most beautiful book” (as he put it): Die Wahlverwandtschaften of 1809. The remarkable feature of Goethe’s novelistic production is that each of his four novels develops a distinct formal or generic conception. In the case of Elective Affinities, we have what the philosopher-aesthetician Karl Ferdinand Solger referred to as a “tragic novel” and what others have called a “novel of society.” Other terms suggest themselves, for example: “experimental novel” (in view of the fact that it is a scientific experiment from which the novel draws its leading metaphorical model). The seminar will consider the question of genre along with other, related issues: the place of science/knowledge in the novel, the novel in its historical context, the novel’s mode of citation and signification. Major contributions to the criticism of the novel (from Solger to Kittler) will be discussed as we develop a close reading of the novel across the ten weeks of the quarter. The written requirement for the seminar is a suite of bi-weekly “response papers.” The seminar will include a special one-day roundtable on Walter Benjamin’s essay on Die Wahlverwandtschaften with the participation of guest scholars.
Autumn 2016, David Wellbery.
CDI Seminar: The Debt Drive: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Neoliberalism.
Debt has become a paramount topic of discussion and controversy in recent times, fuelled by the financial crisis of 2008 and the different episodes of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, above all involving Greece. This has produced a great deal of commentaries, economic analyses, and journalistic polemics from all sides of the political spectrum. Despite this profusion of discourse, it still proves difficult to seize the exact contours of the problem. Debt affects both the most isolated individuals and the most powerful states, it is equally a matter of “cold” economic rationality and the “hottest” emotions and moral judgments, it appears at once as the most empirical thing with the hardest material consequences and as a mysterious, ethereal, abstract, and purely speculative entity (the unreal product of financial “speculation”). The concept of indebtedness not only characterizes an increasingly universal economic predicament, but also defines a form of subjectivity central to our present condition. This seminar will examine the problem of debt by first looking at how different approaches to it—economic, anthropological, and psychodynamic—were formed by Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, and then reading more contemporary authors on the theme, including Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Graeber, and Lazzarato.
Autumn 2016, Eric Santner and Aaron Schuster.
Hölderlin and the Greeks.
GRMN 48616, CLAS 48616, CMLT 48616
The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin submitted to the paradoxical double-bind of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s injunction that “the only way for us [Germans] to become great or — if this is possible — inimitable, is to imitate the ancients.” As he wrote in his short essay “The standpoint from which we should consider antiquity,” Hölderlin feared being crushed by the originary brilliance of his Greek models (as the Greeks themselves had been), and yet foresaw that modern European self-formation must endure the ordeal of its encounter with the Greek Other. The faculty of the imagination was instrumental to the mediated self-formation of this Bildung project, for imagination alone was capable of making Greece a living, vitalizing, presence on the page. Our seminar will therefore trace the work of poetic imagination in Hölderlin’s texts: the spatiality and mediality of the written and printed page, and their relation to the temporal rhythms of lived experience. All texts will be read in English translation, but a reading knowledge of German and/or Greek would be desirable.
Autumn 2016, Christopher Wild and Mark Payne.
Yiddish Literature Between the World Wars.
GRMN 25116/35116, YDDH 25116/35116
This course provides an introduction to the major authors, themes, and literary styles of Yiddish prose between the two World Wars. In the wake of WWI—or “The Catastrophe” as it was known in Yiddish—writers tried to make sense of the new cultural, linguistic and political landscapes with which they were met. The result is a body of texts in which discharged soldiers, urban migrants, struggling poets, committed communists and dissolving rabbinical dynasties compete for power and attention. We will examine these issues in texts produced in the shifting centers of Yiddish modernism: Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw and New York. We begin with Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman, published as the First World War was coming to an end and we conclude with a novel by Yankev Glatshteyn, published only months after the German invasion of Poland. This discussion-based course will presume no previous knowledge of Yiddish literature or language. Taught in English. Yiddish readers will meet for an additional weekly session.
Spring 2016, Sunny Yudkoff.
In this course we explore figures and figurations of waiting. We will concentrate on moments of deceleration and distraction; on representations of passivity, abeyance, and postponement. By studying characters who hesitate and cannot act, we will examine the nature of action, decision, and event. Furthermore, we will ask what kind of temporality underlies waiting. By tracing waiters in their many incarnations, we will ask whether it is possible to make out an advantage (epistemological, emotional, etc.) to this temporal stance and the negative connotations it usually invokes. Wherein lies the promise of waiting and inaction? Readings include: Schiller, Schlegel, Novalis, Eichendorff, Büchner, Nietzsche, Kracauer, Blanchot. Course will be conducted in English.
Spring 2016, Ingrid Christian.
The Crowd: From Mass to Multitude.
GRMN 41916, ANTH 41901
At the end of the nineteenth century, the figure of the unruly, affect-laden crowd appeared as both the volatile foundation and the dystopian alter ego of the democratic mass society. By the middle of the twentieth century, following the traumatic excesses of communism and fascism in Europe, the crowd largely disappeared from polite sociological analysis – to be replaced by its serene counterpart, the communicatively rational public. At the turn of the twenty-first century, however, the previously demonized crowd has unexpectedly returned, now in the valorized guise of ‘the multitude’ – in part as a result of a growing sense of the exhaustion of the categories of mainstream liberal politics. This seminar tracks the trajectory of the crowd, from mass to multitude, through a series of classic readings and recent interventions.
Spring 2016, Eric Santner and William Mazzarella.
GRMN 26216/36216, CMLT 26216/36216, TAPS 26216/36216
From its inception in ancient Greece tragedy feeds on a transgression. The ideology and economy of kleos (glory) predicates that the male hero seeks the accumulation of excellence and prestige elsewhere, far from home on the battlefield, so that he can reap the fruits of his heroic labor in peace upon his return (nostos). Like Homer’s Odyssey, in which its eponymous hero turns his home into a battlefield when he slays his wife’s suitors, tragedy routinely violates the relegation of violence to a distant place by letting it back into the house (oikos). What makes these tragedies tragic, is then the return of violence into the home. The seminar will trace the contradictory double coding of the house/home in tragedy as a place of refuge and safety as well as a site of unthinkable, because familial violence. We will start by reading a few representative Greek tragedies alongside Aristotle’s Poetics, then make a stopover in Early Modern theater (probably Shakespeare and Racine) in order to arrive at Bourgeois tragedy, which conceived itself programmatically as domestic. We will examine French examples of the genre (Diderot) as well their German counterparts (Lessing, Schiller, and), and end with its latest flowering in Scandinavia (Ibsen, Strindberg). Readings and discussions in English.
Winter 2016, Christopher Wild
Heidegger’s Being and Time.
A study of Being and Time, directed at novice, returning, or perennial readers of Heidegger. We will supplement the main text with passages from the lectures on The Basic Problems of Phenomenology and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, next to some essay work. It is recommended to read the book in preparation for the class. While the ability to use the German original is not a requirement, Heidegger’s thinking will demand rigorous attention to the poetics of the work.
Winter 2016, Florian Klinger.
Liturgical and Secular Time.
GRMN 37915, HIJD 43805
The seminar will focus on the notion of liturgical time as developed by Franz Rosenzweig in the last part of his magnum opus, The Star of Redemption. New thinking about the political theological aspects of liturgical practices will also be examined, above all in the work of Giorgio Agamben. We will ultimately want to investigate the intersection of liturgical and messianic time in the figure of Sabbath rest.
Autumn 2015, Eric Santner and Paul Mendes-Flohr
Literature as Trial.
GRMN 28815/38815, CMLT 28815/38815, SCTH 38816
The affinities between literary and judicial practice seem as old as literature itself. Countless literary works take the form of a trial, revolve around a case or trial scene, or negotiate competing ways of seeing and talking. What is the relationship between judgment and poetic form? Can "trial" be understood as a distinct form of discourse? What role can the literary play in the legal process? Is there a privileged relationship between the trial and the dramatic genre? Can literature be a training for judgment? Are there specifically poetic forms of justice? Readings include Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Kleist, Kafka, Arendt, Weiss, Derrida, Coetzee.
Autumn 2015, Florian Klinger.
Sex and the Absolute: Hegel and Freud.
This “compact seminar” will stage an encounter between these two remarkably heterogeneous thinkers. On the one hand, we have the man who extolled the powers of reason and knowledge to the point of raising the claim to absolute knowledge, and on the other hand, the man who devoted his career to entities that present the cracks of reason and knowledge, the unconscious, the drives, desires, traumas. The bottom-line of the course will be the exploration of the spirit (or the demon) of negativity and the trajectory that the very notion of negation accomplished between Hegel and Freud, underlying so much of what is going on in contemporary philosophy.
Autumn 2015, Eric Santner and Mladen Dolar.
The Very Concept of Criticism.
GRMN 38015, SCTH 44915.
What does it mean to develop a critical reading of a literary text (or artwork or film)? What is the object, the logic, the justification of critical judgment? This question -- or package of questions -- has been raised since antiquity (Aristotle), but has become especially pressing since historical variation emerged into the foreground of aesthetic consideration in the course of the nineteenth century. How can we understand the act of criticism in the absence of clearly formulated norms? If innovation predominates in literary and artistic production, then what is the critic to base her judgment on? In this class, seminar we will examine this question (and its various solutions) as it unfolds from Kant (Critique of the Power of Judgment) to Cavell, with such intermediate stations along the way as Friedrich Schlegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. The seminar will also consider paradigmatic examples of criticism (e.g., Auerbach, Frye, Barthes), while examining the very idea of a classic.
Spring 2015, David Wellbery and Robert Pippin.
Heinrich von Kleist.
The seminar explores the work of Heinrich von Kleist in all its dimensions: The plays, novellas, short prose, and letters. The main focus is on close readings and discussion, but we'll also put to the test Kleist's broader relevance for literary poetics, philosophy, theology, and juridical as well as political thought. While the instructor's interest lies on the question of justice as the driving force behind Kleist's production, participants are asked to bring their own agendas, and we'll use the first meeting to work out a schedule for the class. Readings in German, discussion in English.
Winter 2015, Florian Klinger.
Kafka’s Traumamtliche Schriften.
In this seminar we will try to bring the recent publication of Kafka’s office/official writings--his Amtliche Schriften--to bear on readings of his literary work, above all his novel, Das Schloss. Another central text in the course will be Giorgio Agamben’s Opus Dei: An Archaeology of Duty along with an important essay from an earlier book on “angels and bureaucracy.” Other readings will include essays by Freud, Weber, Kracauer, and Benjamin, along with other literary texts dealing with Traum, Trauma, and Amt.
Winter 2015, Eric Santner.
Aby Warburg and the origins of Kulturwissenschaft.
GRMN 33114, ARTH 33114, CMLT 33114.
This course explores Aby Warburg as a founder of Kulturwissenschaft in the context of other thinkers of the time such as Jacob Burckhardt, Sigmund Freud, and Walter Benjamin. Trained as an art historian with an expertise in Renaissance art, Warburg morphed into a historian of images (i.e., Bildwissenschaft) and – more broadly – into a historian of culture. We will trace Warburg’s cultural historical method as it develops primarily from philology, but also art history, anthropology, the comparative study of religions, and evolutionary biology. How does Warburg read culture? What is his methodological approach for examining a wide variety of cultural artifacts ranging from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Poliziano’s poetry, and Dürer’s etchings to postal stamps and news photographs? How can these artifacts be vehicles for cultural memory? And how does the transmission of cultural memory in artworks manifest itself in different media such as literary texts, religious processions, astrological treatises, photography, and painting? Moreover, how does Warburg’s work help us contextualize and historicize “interdisciplinarity” today?
Autumn 2014, Ingrid Christian.
Goethe's Novels I: Werther, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.
GRMN 37014, SCTH 44914.
This seminar (to be followed in a future year by seminars on the two other novels by Goethe, Die Wahlverwandtschaften and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre) will be centered on a close reading of Werther and Wilhelm Meister. We will also take the opportunity of this engagement with two very different narratives to review the fundamental principles of narratological analysis. Some attention will be paid to the centrality of these works (esp. WM) in the modern theory of the novel from Moritz and Fr. Schlegel to Lukacs. Paradigmatic contributions to the scholarship produced during the past three decades (e.g., psychoanalysis, discourse analysis, rhetorical-deconstructive readings) will be discussed in each session. In this regard, the seminar offers a compact introduction to recent theoretical trends in German literary studies.
Autumn 2014, David Wellbery.
Munich-Chicago Performance Laboratory: Jephta’s Daughter.
GRMN 28914/38914, RLST 28914, RLIT 38914, TAPS 28417, MUSI 28914/38914.
In July, 2015, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich will present the world premiere of a piece tentatively titled Jephta’s Daughter to be directed by Saar Magal and conceived by Magal in collaboration with U of C Professor David Levin. In the autumn quarter, Magal and Levin will offer a laboratory course in which to prepare the piece. As presently conceived, the piece will combine theater, dance, oratorio, film, contemporary composition, and a variety of contemporary performance idioms to adapt and interrogate the story of Jephta’s daughter (in the Book of Judges, from which the story is adapted, she remains nameless). We are hoping to attract students keen to explore a broad cross-section of materials through seminar-style discussion and experimentation on stage (we will work through biblical criticism, films like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2013) or Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love-Faith-Hope, operas like Mozart’s Idomeneo, oratorios like Handel’s Jephta and Carrisimi’s Jephte, and a range of critical theory, including Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred and Derek Hughes’ Culture and Sacrifice). Stage work will encompass improvisational, physical, and text-based work. Students with an interest in any of the following are especially welcome: adaptation, theater practice, performance theory, dramaturgy, design, and/or directing. Undergraduate students require consent of instructor.
Autumn 2014, David Levin and Saar Magal (Choreographer and Director, Tel Aviv).
This course develops advanced German skills through the study of philosophical texts of various authors from different periods. The thematic focus is language: the linguistic production of meaning and the relationship between language and conceptuality. Students will develop their ability to discuss and analyze philosophical issues in speech and in writing. Students will also build philosophical vocabulary, review advanced grammatical structures, and familiarize themselves with more complex sentence structures. Texts by Wittgenstein, Frege, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kant, Schopenhauer, Habermas, and Adorno, and one text chosen by the student for the final project.
Spring 2014, Colin Benert.
Hölderlin and the Greeks.
GRMN 35614, CLAS 45613, CMLT 35614.
The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin submitted to the paradoxical double-bind of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s injunction that “the only way for us [Germans] to become great or — if this is possible — inimitable, is to imitate the ancients.” As he wrote in his short essay “The standpoint from which we should consider antiquity,” Hölderlin feared being crushed by the originary brilliance of his Greek models (as the Greeks themselves had been), and yet foresaw that modern European self-formation must endure the ordeal of its encounter with the Greek Other. The faculty of the imagination was instrumental to the mediated self-formation of this Bildung project, for imagination alone was capable of making Greece a living, vitalizing, presence on the page. Our seminar will therefore trace the work of poetic imagination in Hölderlin’s texts: the spatiality and mediality of the written and printed page, and their relation to the temporal rhythms of spoken discourse. All texts will be read in English translation, but a reading knowledge of German and/or Greek would be desirable.
Spring 2014, Christopher Wild and Mark Payne.
GRMN 46214, CMLT 46214, SCTH 44913.
Continuing the sequence begun in Winter Quarter, this seminar will examine Goethe’s Faust II. Due to the intricacies of this work, we shall devote two sessions to each of its five acts. In addition to the close study of the text, we will consider major issues in the scholarship: a) the question of allegory and its theoretical grounding in Marx and Benjamin; b) the question of the modern (Faust as tragedy of modern consciousness); c) the dialectic of the Classic and the Romantic; d) Goethe’s scientific and aesthetic views as embodied in the play; e) the theological frame, especially in connection with the play’s conclusion. In addition to the commentaries, certain critical works will also be discussed, including contributions by Kommerell, Emrich, Adorno, Schlaffer, Schmidt, and Anderegg. The world-literary background of Goethe’s play will likewise be an important theme of the seminar. This seminar may be taken alone, or in combination with the seminar on Faust I. Students taking both seminars are encouraged to write a single substantial research paper.
Spring 2014, David Wellbery.
Identity and Crisis: Readings in Narrative German Forms.
This course is concerned with close readings of texts which are marked by a deep preoccupation with the concept of crisis and the consequent efforts to achieve and maintain individual identity as a buttress against a world in flux – discursively, politically, philosophically and ethically. The readings will revolve around the possibilities for being in the world as an engaged and self-contained narrative subject. We will work to develop a concept of ‘crisis’ as an organizational topos for 20th-century literature from Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Chandos-Brief (1902) to W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants (1992). The relationships between perspective and voice, exile and memory, language and knowledge, and genre and story construction will be of particular importance for textual analysis and may be supplemented by additional theoretical readings.
Winter 2014, Alicia Ellis.
Voice: Subjective, Material, Abstract.
GRMN 44014, MUSI 44014.
This collaborative interdisciplinary seminar seeks to explore some of the functions assumed by the voice as it takes shape in a bewildering variety of forms--expressive, corporeal, spiritual, material, ephemeral, performative, and ideological—and in an ever widening range of media (vocal music, literature, film, but also digital, recorded forms). Given the broad range of approaches and media that might be considered under such a large umbrella, our work will be less synoptic than “punctual,” lighting down on some revealing moments in the phenomenon that is “voice” in order to hear how voice has resounded in various practices, performative and critical. Principal authors to be read include Carolyn Abbate, Roland Barthes, Stanley Cavell, Adriana Caverero, Michel Chion, James Q. Davies, Mladen Dolar, Nina Eidsheim, Brian Kane, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Kaja Silverman. The first half of the seminar includes five sessions led by Levin and Feldman; the second will consist of four sessions on particular themes led by groups of students, who will assign readings and listenings, etc., provide background and critical views on them in class sessions, and lead class discussions. The last session will be devoted to a one-day conference at which participants will present the results of individual research. Conference papers will be turned into polished written forms for submission within a week after the conference, taking account of feedback gathered at the conference. Students should reserve the entire day on Thursday, March 13 for the seminar conference. The seminar is open to graduate students and to advanced undergraduates with permission. Please note: the syllabus is subject to change after day one, since we will adapt it to the interests and skills of enrolled participants.
Winter 2014, Martha Feldman and David Levin.
GRMN 45114, CMLT 46114, SCTH 44912.
This is the first part of a two-quarter seminar devoted to Goethe’s Faust tragedy, with each segment devoted to one of the work’s two parts. Since three substantial new editions (plus commentary) have been published within the past two decades, scholarship now finds itself in an excellent position to develop theoretically informed readings of what is arguably the most significant work in the German canon. The main task of the first-quarter seminar will be to examine Faust I. However, we will also consider the Faust tradition, including the 1587 Volksbuch (so-called), Lessing’s Faust fragment, and some other contemporary and subsequent renditions of Faust. This segment will also provide an opportunity to survey Goethe’s poetic and intellectual development from 1770 to 1808, when Faust I was first published in its complete form. Of particular interest in our investigation of Faust I will be: a) the theological background; b) structural principles; c) linguistic figuration. Prominent interpretations of the play by Goethe’s contemporaries (e.g., Schelling, Hegel) will be considered. We shall also examine two sequences of Faust illustrations by Peter Cornelius and Eugène Delacroix as well as two performances of the drama (from DVD). This seminar may be taken alone, or in combination with the seminar on Faust II. Students taking both seminars are encouraged to write a single substantial research paper.
Winter 2014, David Wellbery.
Avarice, After All.
GRMN 35713, CDIN 35713, CMLT 35713.
With the help of Freud, Marx, Lacan, Foucault, Agamben (among others) along with some highpoints of the European literary canon, we propose to develop a “critique of avarice,” a project to be sharply distinguished from the moralistic indignation at greed. Our historical and theoretical reflections on avarice open out on to a number of domains and modes of inquiry: from literary criticism to psychoanalysis, from the study of political economy to theories of biopolitics, and finally to the “Jewish question” in relation to all of this. The core text and touchstone of the seminar will be Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, in which the tensions, ambiguities, disavowals, hatreds, projections, and repressions associated with the “avarice complex” are magisterially staged and played out. Attention will also be given to the subsequent history of the figure of Shylock as well as to the capacities for mercy and forgiveness that were posited as the ideal opposites of avarice and usury. One of the goals of the seminar is to interrogate this very opposition.
Autumn 2013, Eric Santner and Mladen Dolar.
Materialism Old And New.
The course will take a close look at the historic emergence of materialism with ancient atomism in Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius. We will then follow the re-emergence of atomism in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the advent of what is commonly labeled as mechanical materialism. Special attention will be given to Hegel’s “account” of atomism with the introduction of the concepts of the one, the void, and negativity as the basis of the dialectical matrix. The further object of close scrutiny will be Marx’s dissertation on the difference between the Democritean and Epicurean philosophy of nature. Finally, the contemporary readings of atomism would include Deleuze on Lucretius, Badiou on clinamen, Michel Serres, and particularly Lacan’s take on Democritus, with the crucial notion of den. We will also consider the new and original work of Barbara Cassin, a figure little known in American academia.
Autumn 2013, Mladen Dolar.
Anagnorisis and the Cognitive Work of Theater.
GRMN 26913/36913, CMLT 26913/36913, CLAS 25513/355134, TAPS 28441.
In the Poetics, Aristotle conceives anagnorisis or recognition as one of the three constitutive parts of the dramatic plot and defines it as the “a change from ignorance (agnoia) to knowledge (gnosis).” Implying the rediscovery of something previously known anagnorisis refers to the emplotment and staging of a certain kind of cognitive work characteristic of theater (as a locus of theoria or theory). For recognition is not only required of the dramatis personae on stage but also of the spectators who need to (re)-cognize a character whenever s/he enters. Just as the characters’ anagnorisis is not restricted to the filiation, i.e. identity, of other characters the audience’s cognition concerns the understanding the plot as a whole. In short, by focusing on anagnorisis we can gain insight in the specific cognitive work of theater (and drama). Naturally we will begin in antiquity and examine the instantiation of recognition in Homer’s Odyssey and several Greek tragedies as well as its first theorization in Aristotle’s Poetics. Then we will jump to the moderns, specifically Enlightenment theater’s obsession with anagnorisis and the cognitive work it performs, and investigate dramas by Diderot and Lessing. Kleist’s dramatic deconstructions of German bourgeois and classical theater test the Enlightenment’s claim to reason and reform of human cognition. Our last stop will be Brecht’s theater of “Entfremdung” that makes the alienation at the heart of anagnorisis into the centerpiece of his aesthetic and political project. If we have time, we will also take a look at comical recognition as self-reflection of its tragic counterpart. Readings and discussions in English.
Autumn 2013, Christopher Wild.
Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus.
This seminar will engage in close readings of Rilke’s famous volume of poems. Supplementary readings will address some of the fundamental issues raised by the poems: the sonorous universe of poetry and the nature of the voice; the “Orphic” dimension of poetry; the religious and profane meanings of praise in relation to mourning. We will furthermore compare the treatment of the voice by Rilke with its treatment by another Prague writer: Franz Kafka. Excellent reading knowledge of German required.
Autumn 2013, Eric Santner.
Modern Rewritings of the Gospel Narratives.
GRMN 24413/34413, CMLT 24409/34409, RLST 28809/RLIT 34400.
This interdisciplinary course focuses on the literary dimension of the gospels and on their artistic reception in modern culture. Starting from a presentation of narrative theory, it asks whether religious and secular narratives differ in structure, and illuminates narrative conventions of different media and genres. Both thematic aspects (what aspects of the gospels are selected for development in modern adaptations?) and features of presentation (how do different media and styles transform similar content?) will be considered. Principal works include Johann Sebastian Bach, The Passion According to St. Matthew (1720); Ernest Renan, The Life of Jesus (1865); Nikos Kazantzákis, The Last Temptation of Christ (1955); Pasolini, The Gospel According to Matthew (1964); José Saramago, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (1991); Norman Mailer, The Gospel According to the Son (1997); and Monty Python, Life of Brian (1979). Secondary readings include Mieke Bal, Narratology, and Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition.
Spring 2013, Olga Solovieva.
GRMN 38513, CMLT 38513.
Centered on the works of Kafka, Beckett, and Musil, this seminar sets out to explore poetic form generated from radical experimentation with force. At around 1900, a recent configuration of the terms force, motion, energy, and entropy, emerging from the intersection of disciplines as varied as thermodynamics, sociology, and philosophy, starts to inform literary production as well. Traditional binarisms such as form/matter, form/content, or form/substance get replaced by the new paradigm of an interplay between form and entropy, force and exhaustion. Is form opposed to exhaustion or does it live off it? To what extent can form be conceived as motion? How does it reflect the cultural shift from energy to information? How can we conceptualize categories such as probability, intensity, or elasticity for literary analysis? Supplementary materials reach from Aristotle to Deleuze, including key modernist accounts of force by Adams, Freud, Warburg, Valéry, and Boccioni.
Spring 2013, Florian Klinger.
Death and the Afterlife: Cultural Models ca. 1800.
GRMN 40413, SCTH 40413, CMLT 40413.
This seminar examines the literary and philosophical treatment of death (and related matters) in literary, philosophical, and theological texts from the late Enlightenment to Classicism and Romanticism. The task is to discriminate the competing models of meaning-articulation that bear on this question in the wake of the Enlightenment critique of religious dogmatism. Among the writers to be considered are: Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Hebel. Readings in cultural history as well as paradigmatic analyses in literature and philosophy will help us to frame our discussions. Primary Readings in German.
Spring 2013, David Wellbery.
Rilke’s Duineser Elegien.
The seminar will be organized around close readings of Rilke’s most famous cycle of poems. We will explore, among other things, the status of the poems with respect to the generic conventions of elegiac poetry; the features of the “angelology” elaborated by the poems; the treatment of the object world in the cycle; the sense of modernity conveyed in the poems. The course will be conducted in English; excellent reading knowledge of German is a prerequisite.
Winter 2013, Eric Santner.
Discovering Scandinavia, c. 1500-1800.
GRMN 26713/36713, HIST 23311/33311.
This course gives an overview of the early modern history of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, that is, from the time of the protestant reformation to the age of Enlightenment. The key word in our context is “discovery." In the course of this period, the popular culture, nature, and history of the Northern countries were explored and conceptualized in science, government, and travel. We will study the interconnections between knowledge, power, and curiosity in this process through readings of recent historical literature and original sources. No knowledge of Scandinavian languages required.
Winter 2013, Erling Sandmo.
Living On: Figuring Baroque Life and Literature.
In Baroque Germany living was surviving; living over and beyond death that threatened and passed by the self only to come to family and friends, neighbors and compatriots. In the face of the high child mortality in Early Modern Europe every adult was a survivor, and the wide-spread devastation of the civilian population in the Thirty-Year War only intensified the perception of the vanity of world and life. Not surprisingly, the enigma of survival, i.e. the ultimately unfathomable question “Why do I live rather than die?” and “How do I go on living?”, is maybe the central figuration of Baroque literature. Every genre finds its own answer to these pressing questions. The seminar will survey and examine the many forms and figures of survival in such diverse texts as Grimmelhausen’s Simplicius Simplicissimus, Baroque mourning plays, meditations of mortality and vanity, funeral sermons, or philosophical consolations to name only a few. We may also, although I do not want to promise too much, consult Benjamin’s Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels regarding his conceptualization of mourning and melancholy. Readings in German.
Note: This seminar is in loose dialogue with David Wellbery’s seminar on “Death and Afterlife: Cultural Models ca. 1800” offered in the Spring, even though both can, of course, be taken separately.
Winter 2013, Christopher Wild.
Winter 2013, David Levin and Majel Connery.
Jewish Political Theology.
GRMN 37812, HIJD 50500.
The seminar will address major texts from Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Buber, Rosenzweig, Benjamin, Scholem, Strauss, and Taubes concerning the borders of secular and divine power and authority, the relations of Jewish law and secular law, and resources of the Jewish tradition for challenging the legitimacy of secular political, economic, and social relations.
Autumn 2012, Eric Santner and Paul Mendes-Flohr.
Narratology: Classical Models and New Directions.
GRMN 40112, CMLT 50103.
This seminar is an introduction to the formal study of narrative. Its purpose is to provide graduate students with a set of conceptual instruments that will be useful to them in a broad range of research contexts. Topics to be considered: 1) the structure of the narrative text; 2) the logic of story construction; 3) questions of perspective and voice; 4) character and identification; 5) narrative genres. After a brief consideration of Aristotle’s Poetics, we will move on to fundamental contributions by (among others) Propp, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Greimas, Genette, Eco, Lotman, Marin, Ricoeur, and then finish with recent work in analytic philosophy and cognitive science. Readings in theoretical/analytical texts will be combined with practical exercises.
Autumn 2012, David Wellbery.
In this class we will read major works by Hannah Arendt with attention to themes of current interest (souvereignty, violence, natality, agency, Jewish modernity) and specific interlocutors (e.g., Freud, Schmitt, Benjamin, among others). Recent work on Arendt and topics of concern (by Agamben, Derrida, Butler) will supplement primary readings.
Spring 2012, Eric Santner and Bonnie Honig (Northwestern University).
Fashion and Modernity.
GRMN 41712, CMLT 41711.
The relation between fashion and modernity has always been taken for granted. Indeed, it is guaranteed in the very etymology of the French and German words “mode” and “modernité” (Mode und Moderne). Yet, on closer inspection, there is a blind spot in this relation in that fashion seems rather to be the other of modernity. The modern discourse of fashion testifies to the ambivalences and paradoxes in this relation. From the beginning until now, it is strangely split: there is fashion and fashion. Properly speaking, men’s fashion is not really fashionable. The perfectly functional suit without superfluous adornment is, in its world-wide constancy through the centuries, almost invariably classical. Its staggering universal success is due to the fact that it is the ideal modern dress: beautiful, because functional. Women’s fashion, on the contrary, is a remnant of the old, effeminate aristocracy – a frivolous frill, an all-in-all dysfunctional ornament, badly in need of thorough modernization. The “new woman” is born in agonizing pain and perpetual fallbacks: while Chanel almost lead us toward a functional feminine form, Dior’s new look was a setback. It brought back the unhealthy, restrictive corset and offered a slap in the face to the modern aesthetic dogma of “form follows function”. Fashion therefore seems to be the locus of a strange intimation of the political set against the common politics of modernity. The course will center around this blind spot between fashion and modernity and the new gendering of fashion in the bourgeois, post-feudal era. Texts by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Charles Baudelaire, Heinrich Heine, Georg Simmel, René König, Alfred Loos, Roland Barthes, Anne Hollander. There will be a reader for the students.
Spring 2012, Barbara Vinken.
Prophecy and Poetry in Bible and Literature.
GRMN 49012, RLIT 49002.
Biblical prophecy belongs to the poetic parts of scripture, and poetry often assumes the authority of being prophetic. Prophetic texts are therefore paradigmatic for a literary reading of scripture and a scriptural reading of literature. They have been fundamental for the Western literary and political tradition. Moreover, the prophet is an intermediary figure as a messenger who represents the paradoxes of literary communication as well as of textual authority. The course will consist of literary readings in the Hebrew Bible (in English translation) in the poetic tradition from Virgil to the present, and in recent theories of the prophetic such as in Martin Buber, Andre Neher, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, and others, according to the students' interests.
Spring 2012, Daniel Weidner.
Graduate Kompaktseminar: Räume der Literatur / Spaces of Literature.
Seit Lessings Neuvermessung der Grenzen von Malerei und Poesie galt als Medium literarischer Einbildungskraft nicht mehr der Raum, sondern die Zeit. Nicht Gegenstände hat Lessing zufolge die Dichtung darzustellen, sondern Handlungen, nicht das Nebeneinander von Körpern in Raum, sondern das Nacheinander von Ereignissen in der Zeit. Natürlich sind die Lessingschen Teilungen nicht unwidersprochen geblieben, noch weniger hat die Literatur sich an das ‚Beschreibungsverbot’ des Laokoon gehalten. Spätestens im Realismus wird die Musik als Leitmedium der Literatur erneut von der Malerei abgelöst, die rhetorischen Techniken von descriptio, ekphrasis und Vor-Augen-Stellen gewinnen neue Bedeutung im Rahmen eines veränderten Verständnisses von Literatur. Und spätestens seit dem topographical turn in den Kulturwissenschaften erfahren die symbolischen und imaginären Schauplätze der Literatur verstärkte Aufmerksamkeit im Rahmen einer erweiterten und veränderten Raumauffassung. Im Seminar sollen Konstruktionen literarischer Räume von der Aufklärung bis zur Gegenwart vor dem Hintergrund neuerer Raum-Theorien untersucht werden. Literatur zur Einführung: Jörg Dünne u.a. (Hg.), Raumtheorien. Grundlagentexte aus Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften, FfM 2006; Hartmut Böhme (Hg.), Topographien der Literatur, Stuttgart 2005; Inka Mülder Bach u. Gerhard Neumann (Hg.), Räume der Romantik, München 2007.
For this class, reading and listening ability in German are required. Discussions will be in German and English.
Spring 2012, Susanne Lüdemann and Juliane Vogel (Universität Konstanz).
The Paradox of Rights.
GRMN 51812, SCTH 51800, PHIL 51831.
The form of "individual rights" ("subjektive Rechte") is the distinctive feature of modern legal, and in a broader sense normative orders. It develops out of the tradition of Roman Law by breaking with its most fundamental assumption of a conceptual and normative alliance between law and ethics. The importance of the idea of a "right" lies in a reflective rearrangement of the relation between the social and the natural: by its very form, "rights" guarantee an inner-social space to the non-social ("natural" freedom or "interests"). Rights are thereby the form of a revolutionary break in the history of Western societies which is deeply ambivalent. As Max Weber has claimed, rights are paradoxical: they are instruments of liberation which establish new and even more intense forms of social domination. This paradox of rights can be studied by exploring how they establish the dualisms that are at the centre of modern political, legal, and social thought: the dualisms of state and (civil or bourgeois) society, of democracy and capitalism, of the individual and community, of nature and society, and so on.
While the form of rights remains unanalyzed in contemporary liberalism (which takes it for granted and thereby neutralizes or naturalizes it), it has been a central topic of the thinking of modernity in philosophy and legal theory since the late 18th century. The seminar will explore this tradition by reading texts by Kant, Hegel, von Savigny, Constant, Mill, Marx, Weber, Jellinek, Schmitt, Benjamin, Luhmann, Habermas, Derrida, Ewald, Brown.
Spring 2012, Christoph Menke.
Graduate Kompaktseminar: Vorformen des Sinns: Das Feld der natürlichen Zeichen / Pre-Forms of Meaning: the Field of Natural Signs.
This compact seminar investigates historical concepts of natural signification across thee phases of modernity: the classical-romantic period, the late nineteenth century, and the high modernism of the twentieth century. Literary and theoretical texts will be examined.
The seminar will be conducted in German.
Spring 2012, David Wellbery and Albrecht Koschorke.
Genealogies of Media Theory.
Concerning media, a peculiar historical discrepancy exists between the phenomenon and its theorization. Media of communication are as old as culture itself. In fact, there would be no human community without communication. Yet, media theory emerged as a venue for inquiry only with the advent of modernity, and even later as an academic discipline, namely after World War II. How is this to be explained? Why did media remain largely invisible as objects of theoretical and historical inquiry? And why did they come into focus at precise historical junctures? Moreover, we will explore how different conceptualizations of mediality are conditioned by the media-historical contexts in which they formulated. These are some of the questions we will be asking, as we venture into genealogy and/or archaeology of thinking about communication and media. Exploring the genealogoies of media theory, as we will do in this seminar, entails not only to survey the various attempts to theorie technologies and cultures of communication, but trace the different discursive formations in philosophy, theology, and aesthetics that prefigured modern media theory. Therefore, we will analyze modern theorists of media and mediality like Walter Benjamin, Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler, and Niklaus Luhmann alongside pre-modern thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Luther, Lessing, and Hegel. Although we will try to touch on all transformative shifts in media history, such as the transition from orality to literacy, the invention of print, and the advent of the different technical media, our focus will be on the various approaches to theorize media that were prompted by these sea changes.
Winter 2012, Christopher Wild.
Cinema, Catastrophe, and Representation: Readings in Cultural and Aesthetic Theory.
GRMN 27412/37412, TAPS 28450, CMST 37412.
This course examines a series of filmic, dramatic, literary, and site-specific commemorative works which engage the conjunction of narrative representation, historical catastrophe, and political as well as aesthetic resistance. Our consideration of these works will be augmented by a series of critical essays on the limits of representation, the problematics of mediation and aesthetic adequation, the possibilities of commemoration, and the promises of aesthetic resistance. In addition, we will consider a number of theoretical works on the operations of cinematic identification and narrative comprehension that are important to an understanding of the formal operations of film, theater, and poetry. The course will be conducted in English and no fluency in German or the languages of cultural and film criticism is required. However, it is designed for graduates and advanced undergraduates who have a particular interest in (and, ideally, are familiar with) some combination of cultural theory, aesthetic theory, and/or film theory; those who possess no knowledge of any of these fields should consult the instructor before signing up for the course.
Winter 2012, David Levin.
Cavell on Literature.
GRMN 47212, CSTH 47212, PHIL 47212.
This course is a successor course to the seminar on Cavell's The Claim of Reason offered in Fall Quarter 2011 by Prof. James Conant (Philosophy). Students may participate in this seminar, however, without having taken the Fall seminar. The aim of this seminar is to delineate and assess Cavell's contributions to literary studies. In particular, we shall consider: 1) Cavell's theory of interpretation and criticism (mainly in terms of the essays inMust We Mean What We Say); 2) his theory of genre (Pursuits of Happiness; Contesting Tears); his theory of tragedy (essay on King Lear in Must We Mean What We Say) and, more generally, his reading of Shakespeare (Disowning Knowledge); his interpretation of Romanticism, esp. of Emerson and Thoreau.
Winter 2012, David Wellbery and James Conant.
Figures of the Sublime.
GRMN 35411, CMLT 35411, ARTH 35411, RLIT 35411.
This seminar will consider theoretical figures of the sublime from Longinus to Jean-François Lyotard and their incorporation in literary texts and painting. Readings will include aesthetic writings by Longinus, Shaftesbury, Edmund Burke, Kant, Schiller, Kleist, Stifter, Freud, Lyotard, Hans Blumenberg, and others. Special attention will be directed to the renaissance of the sublime in the 20th century, and to the question of whether the aesthetic sublime has a political counterpart.
The course is designed for graduate students of all levels. All readings and discussion will be in English. MAPH students are especially encouraged to participate.
Fall 2011, Susanne Lüdemann.
Kleist's "Invisible Theater."
The seminar takes as its starting point Goethe's remark about Kleist's play "Der Zerbrochne Krug" that it is "unsichtbares Theater," i.e. a theater that lacks dramatic action unfolding before the eyes and senses ("Augen und Sinne") of the audience in order to examine the specific character of Kleistian theater and theatricality. Goethe's contradiction in terms (given that "theater" is derived from the Greek verb theatein ("to see") and is thus something to be seen) suggests that Kleist's dramas consciously stage and work through the paradoxical conditions and limits of theatrical visibility and mediality. The critical tenor of this paradoxical formulation suggests further that Kleist's dramatic and theatrical project sets itself apart from the aesthetics of Goethe's Weimar court theater as well as from the aesthetics of the contemporary bourgeois theater - and thus was 'ahead' of its time. Therefore, our close readings of Kleist's 'invisible' dramas will need to be contextualized within the dominant theatrical cultures around 1800. As 2011 marks the 200-year anniversary of Kleist's untimely death, the department will orgainze and host an international conference with the same thematic focus as our seminar. The conference will take place Dec. 1-3 and thus will constitute a fitting end to our seminar and provide an opportunity to enter our own ideas and findings into a broader discussion. Texts in German; possible discussion session in German.
Fall 2011, Christopher Wild.
Primal Scenes of Mediality.
The history of media has existed as a scholarly discipline for less than one century. Most often it has assumed the form of a history of techniques and technical innovations: writing, printing, photography, film, radio, electronic and digital media. Although recently a cultural-studies approach has emerged that investigates a diversity of material forms and symbolic formations all of which could be described as media, the isolated examination of single media remains the dominant mode of inquiry – single media whose genuine character constitutes something like the blind spot of the examination. However, if we shift our interest from the question ”What is a medium?” to the question ”What can function as medium?” we encounter the much more fundamental problem of the conditions of possibility of media in general. In order to bring about such a reorientation of inquiry, we need to direct our attention not only to the picture that media give us of the world, but also to our imaginings of what media could be. We have to examine the history of the imagination of media – and this is precisely the project that our seminar will attempt to realize. Our procedure will be to study carefully texts that have played a formative role in shaping the imagination of media in the West. The texts are drawn from various discourses (religious, literary, philosophical, fantastic) and from vastly different historical contexts. But what they share is a certain legibility as emplotments of the medial relations constitutive of their historically specific cultural moment. The seminar is closely tied to a one-day workshop which will bring to together scholars of media history and theory from the universities of Zürich and Chicago in order to pursue the questions raised in the seminar with a slightly more theoretical bent.
Fall 2011, Christian Kiening.
Cavell’s The Claim of Reason.
GRMN 47212, PHIL 47212.
This course is the first course in a two-course sequence to be offered jointly by Professors James Conant and David Wellbery. The second course will be titled Cavell on Literature and will take place in Winter Quarter, 2012. The first course will be taught primarily by Prof. Conant and the second course primarily by Prof. Wellbery. The former will focus on a close reading of the first, second, and (most of the) fourth parts of Stanley Cavell’s now classic work, The Claim of Reason, with special emphasis on his treatment of the following topics: criteria, skepticism, the relation between meaning and use, our relation to other minds, and the nature of philosophy. There will be a special focus on Cavell’s readings and responses to the work of the following philosophers: Rogers Albritton, J.L. Austin, Thompson Clarke, John Cook, Norman Malcolm, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. We will also read related essays by Cavell on these topics and figures, as well as some writings by these figures themselves. The second half of the two-course sequence will begin where The Claim of Reason itself ends – broaching topics which touch on the relation between aesthetic and philosophical criticism, and, more broadly, on the relation between philosophical and literary writing.
Fall 2011, David Wellbery and James Conant.
GRMN 53611, SCTH 53611, CMLT 53600.
This seminar will consider Goethe's work after 1805 with the aim of delineating the characteristics of Goethe's post-classical style and thought. One could also say: Goethe’s modernity. It has become a commonplace in the study of Goethe to refer to the "allegorical" nature of his late works. We shall contest this reading. 1805, the year of Schiller's death, is taken as the starting point of a reassessment of the nature of artistic activity that finds expression in Goethe's poetic works as well as in his theoretical and critical writings. Among the texts to be discussed: the Winckelmann essay, Pandora, Wahlverwandtschaften, Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, essays from Kunst und Altertum, selected scientific writings.
Fall 2011, David Wellbery.
Mysticism and Modernist Writing. Philosophy, Aesthetics, Politics.
GRMN 34811, CMLT 34800.
This seminar will explore the question of why so many European writers in the 1930s and 1940s (e.g., Robert Musil, Georges Bataille) were fascinated by mysticism. Although they were intensely interested in authors from the mystical tradition (e,g,. Meister Eckhart), they nevertheless did not seek a new kind of spirituality, but a secular form of mysticism, that is, a special kind of ‘inner experience’. In this seminar, we will investigate the theory of subjectivity that this kind of experience aims at and will ask how it relates to concepts of society. For not only Bataille devises, in his activities for the Collège de Sociologie, the notion of a ”sociologie sacrée”, but also Henri Bergson links mysticism to a renewal of society (Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, 1932). We will also consider the more problematic implications of this conjunction, since exponents of Nazi ideology such as Alfred Rosenberg, or writers (temporarily) seduced by it such as Gottfried Benn, refer to mysticism as a form of collective participation.
Spring 2011, Sandra Janßen.
Judgement and Distinction (Urteilen und Unterscheiden).
Modernity has often been interpreted as a 'crisis of distinction' (Krise des Unterscheidens), that is: as a loss of confidence in the ontological validity of human judgement and linguistic distinctions. On the one hand, this crisis resulted in doctrines of decisionism (Carl Schmitt, Heidegger) and constructivist approaches (George Spencer Brown, Niklas Luhmann); on the other hand, theories of undecidability have been flourishing during the last few decades (most prominent: Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben). Between these extreme positions, a new concept of judgement (Urteilskraft) seems to emerge which combines certain elements of Kant's aesthetic judgement with a rethinking of the political space (Jean-François Lyotrad, Hannah Arendt). This course will therefore investigate judging and distinguishing as elementary forms not only of logical thinking, but also of aesthetic practice and political reasoning. It adresses literary scholars as well as students of political science, and philosophy. Readings will include texts by Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hölderlin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Giorgio Agamben, Niklas Luhmann, and others.
Readings in German or English, discussion in English.
Spring 2011, Susanne Luedemann.
The History of Feeling: On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry.
This seminar is an attempt to understand Schiller’s treatise Über naïve und sentimentalische Dichtung (1796). We will endeavor to reconstruct the literary, philosophical, and biographical context within which the thoughts of that treatise formed themselves and to which they responded. In addition to texts by Schiller, we will study writings by Diderot, Mendelssohn, and Kant on the concept of naiveté; literary works by Geßner, Goethe (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers; Hermann und Dorothea), Voss (Homer translation, Luise); correspondence of Goethe, Schiller, Körner, W. von Humboldt, and others. Key contributions to the interpretation of Schiller’s treatise (e.g., Brinkmann, Jauss, Szondi) will be consulted along with contemporary theories of the emotions.Spring 2011, David Wellbery.
The Modern Regime in Art: II. The Ends of Modernism
GRMN 38112, SCTH 38112.
A continuation of the Fall Quarter Seminar. Readings this quarter will include work by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, von Hofmannsthal, Greenberg, Clark, Fried, Benjamin, Adorno, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and a consideration of abstractionism in art.
Winter 2011, David Wellbery and Robert Pippin.
Barthes, Text, Image
GRMN 48711, CMST 48711, ARTH 48711
Roland Barthes's incisive criticism stands as a major contribution to literary theory, to the semiotics of culture, and to contemporary conceptions of the image – still and moving. His work spans a wide variety of topics (including literature, photography, film, mythology, fashion, advertising, conversation, sport, love, and himself), propelling semiotics, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and post-structuralism towards an incisive and eloquent reflection. Although Barthes did not develop an explicit theory of the imaginary, the relationship of texts and images, the symbolic and the imaginary, are among his constant concerns. Are images 'just another type of text', or is there an independent sphere of the imaginary which escapes structural, or even cultural analysis? This question will be among the guiding themes of the seminar. All principal readings are in English.
Winter 2011, Susanne Lüdemann and Noa Steimatsky.
In this seminar we will read the major writings of the German jurist and political philosopher known for his controversial work on the political theology of sovereignty, friend-enemy relations, the crises of modern parliamentary rule, and the nature of globalization. We will supplement our readings of primary materials with significant writings about Schmitt above all by Giorgio Agamben. Reading knowledge of German is a plus but not required.
Winter 2011, Eric Santner.
Moses, Paul, and Modernism
In this seminar we will examine the reception of the figures of Moses and St. Paul in the twentieth century. The key text for Moses will be Freud's still compelling work, Moses and Monotheism, along with a series of responses to that study by several contemporary scholars (Yerushalmi, Assmann, among others). With respect to Paul, we will consider texts by Jacob Taubes, Giorgio Agamben, and Alain Badiou.
Winter 2011, Eric Santner and Paul Mendes-Flohr.
Three Generations: Gottfried Benn, Elizabeth Bishop, Durs Grünbein, Zbigniew Herbert, C. K. Williams
Three generations of Modernism in poetry: Benn as one of the grandfathers, Bishop and Herbert as representatives of the middle generation, C.K.WIlliams and Grünbein—grandchildren. The idea of the class is to read poems closely and to discuss them in the class. A discussion section for German majors will be arranged fort his course.
Fall 2010, David Wellbery and Adam Zagajewski.
The Modern Regime in Art: I. The Ends of Romanticism
GRMN 38111, SCTH 38111.
This two quarter seminar will discuss and evaluate efforts to conceptualize modernism in the arts from the eighteenth century to the present. Modernism is widely thought to challenge traditional notions of aesthetic success (theories of perfection, the beautiful, harmony, etc.) and by doing so to raise large philosophical questions about perception, experience, language and the modern condition itself. Who first understood this massive change in aesthetic practices? Who best understood why it occurred? Is there such a thing as modernist philosophy? Did modernism ”end”? Of what significance is that fact? Readings in the first quarter will include a range of philosophical and critical texts by Hölderlin, Schiller, Schlegel, Schelling, Hegel, Baudelaire, Benjamin, Vincent Descombes, Michael Fried, and a consideration of some of the paintings of Édouard Manet.
Fall 2010, David Wellbery and Robert Pippin.
Theater and Tragedy in the (German) Baroque
Most Benjamin scholars have only a limited knowledge of the dramas discussed in his seminal work, the "Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels;" and most scholars of the German Baroque theater don't take Benjamin's failed Habilitationsschrift seriously enough in order to engage its insights in a sustained manner. The major task of the seminar will be to reconcile both by first acquiring a first-hand knowledge of major works of seventeenth-century German drama. We will not restrict ourselves to the two best known dramatists, Andreas Gryphius and Daniel Casper von Lohenstein, but will, following Benjamin's lead, peak at the second and third tier and read Haugwitz, Hallmann and others. In order to contextualize the Protestant theater of the 17th Century, we will, as far as time permits, survey other theatrical cultures (Jesuit, English, Spanish et al.). In a second step we will use the historical and textual knowledge gained to seriously engage Benjamin's book in its own right. As one of the profoundest examinations of theater and theatricality in the German Baroque and beyond it has much to offer in way of understanding theater's formal semantics and structure. A sound reading knowledge of German is required. If you are preparing for the seminar by (re-)reading "Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels" you may skip the "Erkenntniskritische Vorrede."
Spring 2010, Christopher Wild.
The Mise-en-Scene of Voice
GRMN 43810, MUSI 43810, CMST 43810
This seminar explores the staging of the voice in a host of media (focusing on opera, but including film and literature), across a wide span (from the 17th century to the present), and for a cross-section of theorists. Given the broad conceptual, medial, and temporal range of the materials under consideration, our work will be less synoptic than ”punctual,” affording a sense of the conceptual, generic, and historical stakes of the staging of the voice. Among the topics to be considered: the voices of tragedy and comedy; the vocal object; commodification of the voice; desire in & desire for the voice; the maternal voice; the voice and spectacle; the grain of the voice; the voice and presence. Operas by Monteverdi, Rossini, Johann Strauss, Debussy, and Schoenberg; films include Jeannette MacDonald in I Married an Angel (1942), J-J Beineix’s Diva (1981), and R-W Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen (1981); short stories by Kafka and excerpts from Homer's *The Odyssey*; theoretical & historical writings by Abbate, Adorno, Barthes, Cavell, Dolar, Feldman, Freud, Gossett, Heller, Lacan, Rosand, Silverman, and Starobinski. Team-taught by David Levin (Chicago) and Juliane Vogel (Konstanz), this is the latest in an ongoing series of collaborative seminars undertaken in cooperation with the University of Konstanz. Readings & discussions in English.
Please note: We will meet for 2 ½ days over the weekend at the end of Week 1 and then bi-weekly on Friday afternoons from 1:00-4:00 for the rest of the quarter in WB 206. Open to MA & PhD students; also open to advanced undergraduates by permission
Spring 2010, David Levin and Juliane Vogel.
Opera and Affect in the 17th and 18th Centuries
GRMN 45510, MUSI 45510
This seminar explores the relationship between the expression and the transference of emotion in selected 17th and 18th-century operas (Monteverdi, Purcell, Lully, Händel). Topics to be considered include the relation of the planned (strategies, notations, and instructions for the presentation and evocation of emotion) to the unplanned (performance and perception) in the scene of emotional transference, the interaction of the aural (voice) and visual expression (gesture) of the singers/performers; the variegated history of theoretical disputes surrounding the term "affect," and finally, the extent and terms of physiological/medical knowledge of the body, as well as current developments in emotion research.
Spring 2010, Clemens Risi.
Arabesque Narrative: A Hybrid Form of the Imaginary
GRMN 51400, CDIN 51400, ARTH 46210, SCTH 5140.
This seminar takes as its object of study the arabesque narrative, a form located between verbal and pictorial modes of representation. Our task will be twofold: 1) to analyze a specific tract in the history of pictorial-literary relations that extends, roughly, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century; 2) to develop an analytical vocabulary for the analysis of verbal-pictorial relations that will support productive intellectual exchange between literary and art history. From Gotthold Lessing to Clement Greenberg, a predominant tendency in the theory of the relationship between the arts has been to emphasize their mutually exclusive character. One correlate of this oppositional mode of thought is an emphasis on ”purity” in representation: that is, the proscription of modes of interference and interlacing between the artistic media. The tradition of ”arabesque narrative” is an intriguing theme just because it represents a counter-trend to the purist tendency in, broadly speaking, ‘modern’ aesthetics. For this very reason, of course, arabesque narrative constitutes a privileged zone in which to explore the relations between art-historical and literary-historical inquiry. We will discuss texts by Sterne, Lichtenberg, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Baudelaire among others and the work of artists such as Hogarth, Runge, Menzel, and Klinger.
Sponsored by the Center for Disciplinary Innovation at the University of Chicago
Winter 2010, David Wellbery and Ralph Ubl.
Landscape is to literature what setting is to theatre. ”Where should something take place, if not in the landscape?”as Matthias Goeritz put it. Thus, even the first book of Genesis opens with a pastoral scene, in fact with the opening up of landscape per se as a backdrop to humanity. The first book of Genesis also shows that the creation of landscape is the creation of a symbolic order where things and beings are placed in specific spatial and social relations to each other. However, landscape as a concept and aesthetic object (rather than just a ‘region’ or a ‘tract of land’) only arose in the 16th century, when the poetic act of ‘staging’ or opening up of fictional spaces through words or images became self-reflective, i. e. artists no longer saw themselves as replicating God’s creation, but rather as creators of their own artificial settings. In this course we will examine landscapes and their topologies from the late 18th to 20th centuries. Although the course will focus on (German) literature, it will also take the interrelationship of literature and painting into account. Readings will include Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Jean Paul, Eichendorff, Fontane, Stifter and others. Reading will be mainly in German and discussion in both German and English.
Winter 2010, Susanne Luedemann.
The Age of Extremes: Literature and Totalitarianism in the 20th Century
This course examines literary responses and philosophical reflections on what the historian Eric Hobsbawm has called the ”Age of Extremes”: the twentieth century, its radical aspirations and its terrors. Our starting point are two recent theoretical works that seek to reassess, from two diametrically opposed angles, the totalitarian experience which has marked the century, Alain Badiou’s Le siècle (2005) and Peter Sloterdijk’s Zorn und Zeit (2006). The main focus of the course is on a series of literary works that embody the century’s exalted aspirations and their price. Readings, in German and English, include Kafka, Brecht, Ernst Jünger, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Varlam Shalamov, Danilo Kiš, Peter Weiss, and Heiner Müller.
Winter 2010, Robert Buch.
Jewish American Literature, Post-1945
GRMN 27800/37800, CMLT 29800/39800, ENGL 25004/45002, YDDH 27800/37800
The goal of this course is to expand the conception of the field of Jewish American literature from English-only to English-plus. We examine how Yiddish literary models and styles influenced the resurgence of Jewish American literature since 1945, and we discuss how recent Jewish American novels have renewed the engagement with the Yiddish literary tradition. Readings are by I. B. Singer, Chaim Grade, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, Jonathan Safran Foer, Art Spiegelman, and Michael Chabon.
Winter 2010, Jan Schwarz.
Jacques Derrida: Early Writing.
Jacques Derrida, Early Writings Deconstruction can be conceived as both a philosophical project and a practice of reading. As a philosophical project, deconstruction inscribes itself in the tradition of the critique of metaphysics, from Nietzsche via Heidegger and Adorno to poststructuralism. As a practice of reading (and, consequently, of writing), deconstruction performs the movement of a decentering and a displacement of traditional concepts which is to challenge classical figures of identity, being, sense and others. Both the philosophical project and the practice of reading belong together: According to Derrida, ‘to be an heir’ means to assume responsibility for one’s own reading of the texts of the metaphysical tradition; ‘Reading’ means to follow a significant trace which has to be produced by the act of reading itself. In this course, we will examine the exposition of the project and the practice of econstruction in Derrida’s early books: ”Of Grammatology”, ”Writing and Difference”, and ”Margins of Philosophy”. We will not only deal with important concepts such as ‘writing’, ‘trace’ and ‘différance’, but also with the political and ethical commitment underlying Derrida’s attack on logocentrism. All reading and discussion will be in English. Recommended editions: ”Of Grammatology”, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Johns Hopkins University Press, corrected paperback edition 1998. ”Margins of Philosophy”, translated by Alan Bass, The University of Chicago Press, paperback edition 1985. ”Writing and Difference”, translated by Alan Bass, The University of Chicago Press, paperback edition 1978.
Fall 2009, Susanne Luedemann.
Interpreting Goethe's Faust.
GRMN 36409, CMLT 36400, SCTH 47011.
Intensive study of Goethe’s Faust, Parts I and II. The major task of the seminar is to develop a synthetic reading of the entire Faust drama, as Goethe conceived it. What are the leading concepts of a contemporary interpretation of Faust? Discussion will address the major lines of interpretation as developed especially in the philosophical literature and in the major recent studies commentaries. Selective consideration of the tradition of Faust-representations (from the so-called Volksbuch to Valery will enable us to circumscribe the historical and aesthetic specificity of Goethe’s work. Sound reading knowledge of German required.
Fall 2009, David Wellbery.
Acquisition/Teaching of German.
An introduction to foreign language acquisition and to the theoretical models underlying current methods, approaches and classroom practices, as well as their practical applications. Required of all graduate students who wish to teach in the College German Program.
Fall 2009, Catherine C. Baumann.
Shakespeare, Marlowe, Benjamin, and Brecht
GRMN 36709, ENGL 16709
In this course, we will read several plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe in relationship to the theoretical writings of two twentieth-century critics, Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. Why did Benjamin and Brecht think Shakespeare and Marlowe were radical, avant-garde playwrights? What conclusions did they draw from Shakespeare and Marlowe for their own political moment? How were Brecht's own plays and dramatic theory influenced by these earlier writers? Texts will include Shakespeare, Hamlet; Marlowe, Edward II and Tamburlaine; Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama and Understanding Brecht; Brecht, Selected Plays and his Short Organon for the Theater. For students with an interest in both Renaissance literature and European modernism, as well as a strong interest in literary theory.
Fall 2009, Victoria Kahn.
Literary Case Studies
Since the French lawyer Francis Gayot de Pitaval published his famous collection of criminal cases (”Causes célèbres et intéressantes”, 1734-1743), the case study as a specific genre has basically been developed in the fields of clinical and juridical anamnesis. At the same time, this genre has always been very close to literature: Not only have lawyers and psychiatrists always used literary techniques to present their cases, but literature itself has picked up these ‘real’ cases and made them the initial basis for investigating the hidden mainsprings of crime and madness. However, the objectives of literary case studies are neither clinical nor juridical in the narrower sense of these terms: whereas medicine and law aim at subsuming the individual case under general categories of disease or crime (such as ”schizophrenia” or ”murder”), the cognizance of literature is more directed at bringing out the stress ratio between singular case and general norm. In literary texts, an individual becomes a ‘case’ just because his or her singular fate cannot be subsumed under general rules, because he or she remains excluded and / or exempt from the law. If deviant subjectivity in modern literature can nevertheless be called exemplary, this exemplarity is paradoxically due to its state of exception. In this course we will read literary case studies from Schiller to Handke to examine how they deal with this paradox of a ‘particular general’ or an ‘exemplary singularity’. We will also read selected clinical and juridical case studies with regard to the mutual interferences of law, literature and medicine.
Readings will include Friedrich Schiller, “Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre” / “Schillers Pitaval” (“Merkwürdige Rechtsfälle als ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Menschheit, verf., bearb. u.hg. v. Friedrich Schiller”) / Carl Philipp Moritz, “Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde” [excerpt] / Heinrich v. Kleist, “Michael Kohlhaas” / E.T.A. Hoffmann, “Der Einsiedler Serapion”; “Der Sandmann” / Georg Büchner, “Lenz” / Theodor Fontane, “Unterm Birnbaum” / Sigmund Freud, “Studien über Hysterie” / Michel Foucault, “Der Fall Rivière” / Ingeborg Bachmann, “Der Fall Franza” / Peter Handke, “Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter”. The course will be given in German.
Spring 2009, Susanne Lüdemann
Translations. Figurations of Trans-Nationality in Texts of Goethe and Political Romanticism
What is now called by historians as ”the long 19th century” (the period from the French Revolution to the end of World War One), was mostly interpreted as the main period of modern European nation building. But nevertheless, already at its very beginning, this period is also a time of thinking the trans-national structure of Europe in a new way. Especially in the ‘Age of Goethe,’ the number of attempts viewing and conceiving Europe as an entity of mutual translations (and transfers) in the domains of culture and politics are increasing. But on the other hand, thinking Europe as an entity of translation means something different in this time: to take up the traditional doctrine of translatio imperii, which had its origins in the Christianity of the Middle Ages. Against the background of current philosophical theories concerning the future of Europe (Rémi Brague, Massimo Cacciari, Peter Koslowski), the course will investigate the contemporary combination of as well as the contemporary tension between these two models of cultural and political translation. It will be devoted to close readings of texts of Goethe, Kant, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel in their cultural and political aspects and implications. Readings in German (and English); discussion in German.
Spring 2009, Uwe Hebekus
GRMN 53500, ENGL 53500
This seminar is concerned with the identification and classification of character types in Germany, England, and France over the long eighteenth century. Between the early modern period and the nineteenth century, the order of knowledge and the grammar of taxonomy underwent a radical change, and so did the ways of naming and grouping human beings. Ancient systems—such as classification by the four humors, or by classical dramatic types, or by Biblical typology—lost their authority in the eighteenth century. But the new sociological typologies associated with the nineteenth century, and with the realist fiction of, say, Balzac, had not yet taken shape. The eighteenth century brings us the genius, the antiquary, the libertine, the virtuoso, the man of system, the dilettante, the man of feeling: an array of figures that become prominent in fiction, drama, and social commentary. What are the taxonomic logics behind these ”descriptions of men” (and women) in the eighteenth century? What did eighteenth-century literature and philosophy contribute to modern understandings of ”characters”? We will explore the many diverse and contradictory attempts to classify and describe types of characters in a multinational enlightenment. Physiognomy, race, climate, talent, and occupation will all be considered for the part they play in shaping the new sense of human typology. We may look at some visual materials along the way. Readings in intellectual history will be taken from such authors as Ray, Montesquieu, Hogarth, Lavater, Blumenbach, and Kant. Literary texts will include works by such writers as Rousseau, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Goethe, Scott, and Balzac. In modern criticism and commentary, we will be reading the likes of Lukacs, Northrop Frye, Ian Watt, Deidre Lynch, Franco Moretti, and Alex Woloch. Requirements will include a class presentation, a short paper, and a seminar paper.
Spring 2009, Jim Chandler, Christiane Frey
Realism in German literature reached its peak in the period between 1850 and 1890 when authors increasingly focused on the literary representation of bourgeois experience and everyday life. However, programs of realism are in a way as old as literature itself: Mimesis, imitation of the contemplated or experienced reality and verisimilitude have been ideals in Arts and Literature since antiquity and they have seen numerous revivals and transformations throughout history. Yet it was only in the 19th century that the ”realistic impulse” (Richard Brinkmann) became so explicit that a whole generation of artists and writers now called itself ”realists”. However, this ”programmatic realism” came along with the withdrawal of reality itself which no longer appeared a simple ‘given’ or self-evident to human perception. Thus, ”realism” is not only a category of style or the designation of a period but also the indication of a problem: the problem of how to bridge the gap between representation and what is represented, between the ‘subjectivity’ of an observer and the supposed ‘objectivity’ of the observed. The more sophisticated the literary techniques of description and hypotyposis became, the more reality revealed itself to be dependent on the media in which it is described. In this course we will reconstruct the history of the ‘realistic problem’ through a range of literary and theoretical texts from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Readings will include Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Franz Grillparzer, Gottfried Keller, Adalbert Stifter, Theodor Fontane and Robert Musil. The course will be given in German.
Winter 2009, Susanne Lüdemann
Richard Wagner and Critical Theory
GRMN 41200, CMST 41200, MUSI 45509
PQ: Advanced standing and consent of instructor. This course examines the intersection of Wagner and contemporary critical theory. We read a broad range of Wagner’s writings and a broad range of writings on Wagner; we explore a number of the stage works on paper and in production. In addition to Wagner’s own writings, we read critical works by: Carolyn Abbate, Theodor Adorno, Elisabeth Bronfen, Catherine Clement, Carl Dahlhaus, Friedrich Kittler, Barry Millington, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Michel Poizat, Michael Steinberg, Hans-Rudolf Vaget, Samuel Weber, Marc Weiner and Slavoj Zizek.
Winter 2009, David Levin
Poor World: Walser, Kafka, Beckett
The seminar will focus on a series of modernist authors whose project would appear to be to discover the possibilities of human life and expression at the point of a radical impoverishment of one's world or form of life. The seminar will begin with a discussion of Melville's Bartlbeyand morve on to novels and short prose by Walser, Franz Kafka, and Samuel Becket.
Winter 2009, Eric L. Santner
Media and Theology
GRMN 35509, CMST 35509, THEO 35509
Theology as the discourse of the divine is predicated on the deep chasm between God and man, transcendence and immanence, as well as the assumption that communication across this divide is simultaneously possible and problematical. At different historical junctures the problem of mediation and communication came especially to the fore. Beginning with the Old and the New Testaments we will examine some of these junctures, but we will focus in particular on the European Reformation and its cultures of communication. Arguably, at the center of the Reformation was a crisis of mediation to which it responded and which it helped to perpetuate. Religious media were thought to be fundamentally corrupted and corruptive and hence in need of reform. To name only a few examples, priesthood, liturgy, worship, and scripture had all been perverted and had to be restored to their original state of ‘pure communication.’ Consequently, media were as much instruments of reform as they were its targets. Likewise, the various theologies of the Reformation offered different solutions to the perceived crisis of mediation. It will be one of the working assumptions of this course that theology and Reformation theology in particular are one of the major tributaries of modern thinking about media and communication. Readings and discussions in English.
Winter 2009, Christopher Wild
Singer and Bellow: Jewish Novelists of the 20th Century
YDDH 23709/33709,GRMN 23709/33709, CMLT 22801/32801, ENGL 28909/48917
The American novelist Saul Bellow and the Yiddish storyteller I.B. Singer, two of the most innovative writers of the twentieth century, created artful fiction that articulated the search for a spiritual realm in a starkly secular world. They both rejected political and religious utopias, which they vehemently exposed in their work. Their writings encompass the major seismic changes in modern Jewish life in the twentieth century: migration, urbanization, war, Holocaust, marital breakup, sexual freedom, alienation, and exile. In this course we will compare and contrast the novels of Bellow and Singer. Both came of age as writers in the polarized political and cultural climate of the interwar period. They were indebted to the Eastern European Jewish culture in Yiddish that continued to inspire them. The Yiddish-American context will be discussed in connection with their only collaboration in print, Bellow’s translation of Singer’s short story ”Gimpel the Fool,” which became the latter’s introduction to a mass readership in English. We will examine how Bellow and Singer developed a neo-conservative world view that articulated their disillusionment with modernity and the political and cultural isms of the twentieth century. The secularization of Jewish life became the backdrop against which the two writers created individual characters who, often in monologue form, elaborated on their discontent with modernity and quest for spiritual meaning. Both writers were at the forefront of the Jewish literary renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s. We will examine how they artistically addressed the aftershock of the Holocaust in their novels of the 1960s, Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1969) and Singer’s Enemies: A Love Story (1972). Bellow and Singer reinvented the novel as a poetic universe of self reflection that gave voice to the Jewish urban experience. As such, to quote Murray Baumgarten, they created ”city scriptures”; novelistic styles that aspired to ”higher” transcendental meanings beyond the market driven conditions of modern life. The novels of these two belated neo-Romanticists encapsulate the central intellectual and spiritual ferments of their times: the secularization of Jewish life and its impact on the individual in the break-up of traditional religious life, the urban experience, and the destruction of European Jewry in World War II.
Winter 2009, Jan Schwarz.
Knowledge and Sensibility from Spinoza to Kant.
Behind the unassuming title of Herder's 1778 treatise, "Vom Erkennen und Empfinden der menschlichen Seele," stands one of the most central and hotly-debated issues of the 18th century. To what extent does "cognition" rely on "sensation"? Are knowledge and sensibility two autonomous faculties? Or are they merely two sides of an inseparable unity? Do they have a history? Do animals share these faculties? These questions are at the crux of developments in the domains of epistemology, psychology and aesthetics that will trigger the emergence of modernity around 1800. The course traces the steps that lead up to this all-important historical juncture by examining the discursive and epistemic history of the relationship of knowledge to sensibility from Spinoza to Kant.
Fall 2008, Christiane Frey.
Between Realism & Modernism: Theodor Fontane and Thomas Mann.
This course will be devoted to two major works of modern German literature: Fontane's "Der Stechlin" and Thomas Mann's "Der Zauberberg." These two monumental novels are about turning points in German history: the decline of Prussia and the spiritual malaise in Europe on the eve of World War I. The two books also straddle the divide between realism and modernism. Traditionally regarded as the culmination of nineteenth-century realist narrative in Germany, there is a distinctly modernist sensibility which announces itself in them. Readings in German (and English); discussion in English. Open to advanced undergraduates pending instructor's consent.
Fall 2008, Robert Buch.
Conversion: Between Philosophy and Religion
It is often forgotten that the experience and concept of conversion originally belonged to the discourse and practice of ancient philosophy, and was only later appropriated by Christianity in its claim to be the true pursuit of wisdom. In this seminar we will investigate the ways in which this double provenance cross-fertilized its historical and discursive fate in both arenas by pursuing questions such as: What lends conversion its exemplarity and evidence, and how does it, in turn, lend evidence to philosophical and religious reasoning? What is its contribution to the founding a new philosophical system or religious faith? How is it replicated to other subjects across time and space? What are some of its most important media and genres? What is its role in the formation and narration of the self, and, more specifically, what is its relation to the tradition of spiritual exercises and meditative practices? We will start with ancient philosophy (Plato, Seneca et al.) and early Christianity (Paul, Augustine et al.), move into early modernity (Ignatius, Descartes et. al.), and, if time permits, will end with 18th-century philosophy (Hamann, Fichte et al.).
Fall 2008, Christopher Wild
Jews in Scandinavian Literature-Scandinavian Jewish Literature.
GRMN 35601, NORW 35601, SCAN 35601, HIST 32803.
The course takes its starting point in the literary and physical attacks on Jews in ##35601. Denmark in the first half of the 19th century and the exclusionary politics of the new-founded Norwegian state, which didn't permit Jews into the country after 1814. Both events sparked reactions by Scandinavian authors amongst them Hans Christian Andersen, M.A. Goldschmidt, and Henrik Wergeland. The course aims at tracing the situation of Jews in Scandinavia historically and focuses on literary representations of Jews and their function both in works of non-Jewish and Jewish authors in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Special attention will be given to the intersections between the categories of race, nation, religion, gender and sexuality.
Spring 2008, Stefanie von Schnurbein and Jan Schwarz.
Iconographies of Violence.
Iconographies of Violence. This course examines representations of violence in twentieth-century German literature, focusing in particular in texts that draw on visual material. Three sets of questions will guide our discussions. (1) Why and how do these texts try to appropriate the "power" of images; (2) what are the iconographic traditions in which they inscribe themselves; (3) what implications does the engagement the pictorial have for the texts’ ”image” of history and for the practice of narration. Primary texts by Franz Kafka; Ernst Jünger; Georges Bataille; Peter Weiss; Heiner Müller; and others; secondary readings on the tradition of ekphrasis (Laokoon) and critical literature on the theory of the image (Louis Marin; W.J.T. Mitchell, et al.). Readings in German and English; discussions in English.
Spring 2008, Robert Buch.
Neogermanic Paganism: History-Ideology-Contexts.
GRMN 34301, NORW 34301, HREL 46700.
The course investigates attempts to create a "German", "Germanic", or "Nordic" religion based on pre-Christian Scandinavian sources, as diffracted through the contemporary imaginary. It will trace the history of these neogermanic pagan movements from their inception within the nationalist and racist "völkisch" movement of early 20th century Germany through contemporary neopagan formations such as Odinism and Asatru in the USA and Europe. Special emphasis will be placed on the relations between spirituality, academic theory, political thought and aesthetics.
Spring 2008, Stefanie von Schnurbein and Bruce Lincoln.
Temporalities of Narrative.
Narrative has its own time, and this in two senses: the fictive world has its time; and the act of narrating itself occurs in a certain temporal context. This seminar explores this double dimension of the ”time of the narrative,” examining both the inherent temporal structure of narrative as well as the function of narration in biographical and historical time. The questions addressed are: What exactly is the relationship between time and narration? In what ways is the biographical time of fictional characters represented? But also: what is the relationship between fictional time and ”real” – historical, cosmological, or biological – time (beyond the difference of histoire and discours)? At what junctures in life and in history is narrating (and reading) considered to be important? And finally: when and how do narrative texts reflect on their temporalities – on the time they represent, and on the moment of their own telling or reading? In addition to relevant narratological studies by Mikhail Bakhtin, Harald Weinrich, Gérard Genette, Paul Ricœur, and others, readings will include novella cycles (Boccaccio’s Decamerone, Goethe’s Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, Hoffmann’s Die Serapionsbrüder, Keller’s Die Leute von Seldwyla) as well as extracts from novels from Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus to Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Conducted in German.
Spring 2008, Christiane Frey.
A Literary History of Schizophrenia (1835-1912).
GRMN 36307. CHSS 36002, SCTH 36307.
This seminar will deal with the development of a modern psychiatric conception of illness in literature. The first part examines Georg Büchner’s story ”Lenz” which was often cited as a case study of schizophrenia. The subject of the story, written in 1835 and based on reports of the philanthropic clergyman Oberlin (1778), is in fact a ”stranded poet.” In the course of the rediscovery of Büchner in the 1870s, ”Lenz” was read primarily as the story of mental illness that can be illustrated first of all by Gerhard Hauptmann’s ”Bahnwärter Thiel.” Following Hauptmann and others, a clinical way of reading the story established itself, which then became manifest in the field of psychiatry itself. In the second part of the course we will turn our attention to psychiatric cases, with the famous ”Schreber case” as a focal point. It provoked a discussion about the incapacitation of the mentally ill and was taken up in the professional literature (S. Freud, C. G. Jung, E. Bleuler) and the press as well. In the third part of the seminar we will look into Expressionist novellas (Gottfried Benn’s ”Rönne,” Georg Heym’s ”The Madman,” and Alfred Döblin’s ”The Murder of a Buttercup”) and into the peculiarities of schizophrenia they represent. Readings and discussion in English.
Spring 2008, Yvonne Wübben.
Re-Forming Humanity: Literature and Architecture in 1920s Germany.
The impact of German architecture and urbanism's turn to Modernism in the course of the 1920s has had repercussions on an international scale up until the present day. Such programs concerning ”New Living” and the ”New City” are, invariably, associated with programs postulating the re-creation of man. The human being envisioned in this model will have freed himself from the ballast of the past; his lifestyle is mobile and modern; he despises sentimentality and prefers technocratic functionality. From Paul Scheerbart and Adolf Loos to Bruno Taut and the representatives of the Bauhaus, the pioneers of new architecture championed applied anthropology and the molding of human beings. The workshop's aim is to identify and discuss relevant strategic coordinates through the study of programmatic writings in question. Looking at the architecture will make us ponder who the prospective residents are to be; consulting contemporary literature and essays will yield some answers. Particular attention needs to be paid to the complementary and anti-type of such urban visions, that is to say the ”cool” and anonymous urban hero of criminal disposition, as envisioned by Serner or Brecht. One promising line of investigation will be into the development of the Bauhaus-philosophy in American exile, especially of course in Chicago (Mies van der Rohe). Due to the source material we will be studying, the seminar will be held in German. A reader will be made available in good time. A reading list for orientation: W. Serner, Letzte Lockerung. Handbrevier für Hochstapler. – B. Brecht, Aus dem Lesebuch für Städtebewohner. – H. Lethen, Verhaltenslehren der Kälte. – Tom Wolfe, From Bauhaus to Our House. The seminar will be taught in German.
Spring 2008, Albrecht Koschorke.
Messianism and Modernity.
This seminar explores the proliferation of messianic thought among German-Jewish writers in the first half of the twentieth century, among them, Franz Rosenzweig, Ernst Bloch, Gustav Landauer, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin.
Winter 2008, Eric Santner and Paul Mendes-Flohr.
Heinrich von Kleist: Skepticism, Contingency, Intensity.
PQ: Graduate students only.
In this seminar we will interpret Kleist’s writing (letters, essays, stories, plays, journalism) from three distinct but complimentary points of view: as an elaboration of the skeptical imaginary (including skepticism about knowledge, meaning and other minds); as a play with contingency (metaphysical, narratological, semiotic); as an experiment in modes of intensity (energetic, affective, aesthetic). A major task of the seminar will be to elaborate a unified conception of Kleist’s literary project that accounts for its historical and structural specificity. Students will be expected to engage critically with major contributions to the secondary literature. Readings and discussion in German.
Winter 2008, David Wellbery.
R.W. Fassbinder: Melodrama, Politics, and the Poetics of Suffering.
GRMN 43500, CMST 43500.
This seminar will explore the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, from the early social melodramas (Katzelmacher, Why Does Herr K Run Amok?) to the later experiments in adaptation (Fontane Effi Briest, Lola, Querelle) and, in between, the extraordinary accounts of domestic suffering (Fear Eats the Soul, Fox & His Friends, Marriage of Maria Braun, In a Year of 13 Moons, Veronika Voss). Readings by Thomas Elsaesser, Kaja Silverman, Alice Kuzniar, Steven Shaviro, and others.
Winter 2008, David Levin.
Jewish American Literature Since 1945.
GRMN 27800/37800, YDDH 27800/37800, ENGL 25004/45002, CMLT 29800/39800.
The goal of the course is to expand the conception of the field of Jewish American literature from English-only to English-plus. The course will examine how Yiddish literary models and styles influenced the resurgence of Jewish American literature since 1945, and discuss how recent Jewish American novels have renewed the engagement with the Yiddish literary tradition. Readings are by I.B.Singer, Chaim Grade, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, Jonathan Safran Foer, Pearl Abraham and Dara Horn.
Winter 2008, Jan Schwarz.
Nietzsche on Art and Literature.
GRMN 47100, CMLT 47100, SCTH 47000.
PQ: Graduate students only. Reading knowledge of German is required. Limit 20 students.
This seminar will undertake a reconstruction of Nietzsche’s aesthetic theory and critical practice as developed across his entire oeuvre, from the Geburt der Tragödie to Der Fall Wagner. Although canonical interpretations of Nietzsche’s views (e.g., Simmel, Heidegger, Deleuze, Danto) as well as recent commentary (e.g., Figl, Gerhardt, Nehamus) will be considered as frameworks of interpretation, the primary concern of the seminar will be the close reading of Nietzsche’s texts themselves. A particular concern will be the elaboration of Nietzsche’s views (much discussed in recent scholarship) on rhetoric and on the relation of philosophical and literary language.
Fall 2007, David Wellbery.
Modern Yiddish Literature: Diaspora and Homecoming.
GRMN 25007/35007 YDDH 25000/35000.
This course will apply various theoretical models of Diaspora literature to the study of Yiddish tales, short stories, monologues, plays, novels and life-writing from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among the topics addressed in the course are Yiddish humor and satire, literary modernism, the classical Yiddish writers’ image of the shtetl (small Jewish town in Central and Eastern Europe) and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s demon narrators. Readings are by Sh. Y. Abramovitsh, Y.L.Peretz. Scholem-Aleichem, Dovid Bergelson, Der Nister, Jonah Rosenfeld, I.B.Singer, Chaim Grade, Ester Kreytman, Chava Rosenfarb, Yankev Glathsteyn and Sh. Ansky.
Fall 2007, Jan Schwarz.
Acquisition/Teaching of German.
An introduction to foreign language acquisition and to the theoretical models underlying current methods, approaches and classroom practices, as well as their practical applications. Required of all graduate students who wish to teach in the College German Program.
What we commonly call our ‘life’ is not something that simply happens, but rather something that is made up, constructed, invented! Classical rhetoric already provided the tools for this task: boilerplates (topoi) and style sheets (enkomion). By the end of the 18th century, however, we seem to have lost sight of, or even repressed ‘life’s’ cultural mediation and replaced it instead with individual memory as a seemingly direct means to the desired end. Especially the short, bold autobiographical texts on our list reflect the fact that, during the 19th and 20th century, autobiography nevertheless continued to avail itself of boilerplates and style sheets. By experimenting with the formats of their own genre, these texts not only critique traditional forms of autobiography, but also develop textual strategies that cast a new light on the relation between ‘life’ and the processes of its invention. In addition to a range of theoretical texts from antiquity to the present, we shall study: Ilse Aichinger, Spiegelgeschichte; Walter Benjamin, Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert; Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit (excerpts); Jean Paul.Selberlebensbeschreibung; Jean Paul, Konjekturalbiographie; Adalbert Stifter, Mein Leben; Peter Weiss, Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (excerpts). (Readings and Discussion in German.)
Fall 2007, Frauke Berndt.