Undergraduate Courses

Autumn 2017

Creaturely Modernism: Freud, Kafka, Benjamin, Beckett
GRMN 23305/32305

The course will be dedicated to close readings of texts by all four writers in the hopes that the encounter between them will generate new interpretations of each. We will focus on texts that attend to the “creaturely” aspect of human life: Kafka’s animal stories along with The Castle; Freud’s “animal” case studies (Wolfman, Ratman, Little Hans); Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood along with selected essays; Beckett’s novel, The Unnameable.
The class meets Tues 2-4:50 every week; from 10/21- 11/11 we will have an additional meeting on Thursday evenings 6:30-9:00.
Eric Santner, Mladen Dolar.

Literature of the Actual
GRMN 23605

An inquiry into the ways in which poetic language stages its being actual – ways that involve different senses of actuality: (1) Poetic language showcases the fact of its own happening; (2) it produces the effect of a heightened or intensified presence; (3) it marks itself as of a particular historical present; (4) it marks itself as of the particular historical present that is ours. Materials include experimental prose by Alexander Kluge, Hubert Fichte, Werner Herzog, Rainald Goetz, Judith Hermann, Thomas Meinecke, Helene Hegemann, Wolfgang Herrndorf.
Readings and discussion in German.
Florian Klinger.

Winter 2018

Music in the German Imagination
GRMN 23613

What does music mean? This question grew urgent in the late 18th-century, as a range of German-speaking writers came to celebrate music as a “language beyond language” – an art-form that ostensibly contained “deeper” or “higher” meanings than verbal language. In this course we examine through close reading a range of music narratives that plumb the depths of music, while also situating each narrative in the context of German social and political history. We explore how perspectives on music’s significance shifted together with the seismic changes that took place in German society between the French Revolution and WWI. Readings include works of fiction by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heinrich von Kleist, Franz Grillparzer, Eduard Mörike, Richard Wagner, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka, as well as brief excerpts of critical works by A. B. Marx, Richard Wagner, and Theodor Adorno.
Colin Benert.

Scandinavian Women’s Literature.
GRMN 24700, NORW 24700 

This is a survey course of literature by Scandinavian women writers.  We will read and analyze works from Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, beginning with a novel from the 1850’s, when women were struggling to make their voices heard, to the near present, when women hold substantial political power in Scandinavia. We will examine how feminist issues and themes in the texts of these Scandinavian women reflect the changes of the past 160+ years.
Kimberly Kenny, Winter.

Nietzsche: Culture, Critique, Self-Transcendence
GRMN 25120 

This course is conceived as an introduction to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). A range of Nietzsche’s work will be considered, but the focus will be on three themes to which Nietzsche recurred throughout his writing career:

1)    Culture: Nietzsche’s thought on the anthropological roots and the expressive forms of human meaning-making.
2)    Critique: Nietzsche’s critique of moralism, religion, and the vacuous character of much modern culture.
3)    Self-Transcendence: Nietzsche’s account of individual self-realization and freedom.

The selection of these themes is motivated by the fact that they may be considered as fundamental dimensions of humanistic inquiry and in this sense the course may be thought of as a pathway to the Humanities. Students will develop a sound understanding of a writer whose intellectual influence continues to grow, but at the same time they will become acquainted with such core concepts of humanistic/interpretive inquiry as form, expression, ideology, genealogy, discourse, self-fashioning, individuality, and value.
David Wellbery.

Spring 2018

Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Construction of Childhood
GRMN 25413

This course will study fairy tales within the broader context of the history of childhood and practices of education and socialization.  Therefore, we will address issues such as the varying historical conceptions of the child, and the role of adults – parents and pedagogues – in the shaping of fairy tales for the instruction of children.  In addition to our main focus on the socializing forces directed at children we will explore different interpretive approaches, including those that place fairy tales against the backdrop of folklore, of literary history, of psychoanalysis, of the history of gender roles. While we will consider fairy tales drawn from a number of different national traditions and historical periods, we will concentrate on the German context and in particular on Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm’s contribution to this genre.  In order to reflect on the specific mediality of fairy tales, we will examine the evolution of specific tale types and trace their history from oral traditions through print to film.  Last but not least, we will have to consider the potential strategies for reinterpreting and rewriting a genre that continues to shape the cultural imaginary today. Readings and discussions in English (German texts will be available in the original).
Christopher Wild.

Rilke’s Modernity
GRMN 25410/32310

The course will read a selection of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry (including the Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus) along with his novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. We will accompany the readings with texts about urban modernity by Walter Benjamin, Sigfried Kracauer, and Georg Simmel.
Eric Santner.

Kafka and Performance
GRMN 23110/32110

This laboratory seminar is devoted to exploring the texts of Franz Kafka through the lens of performance.  In addition to weekly scenic experiments and extensive critical readings (on Kafka as well as performance theory) we will explore the rich history of adapting Kafka in film, theater, puppetry, opera, and performance.
David Levin, Seth Bockley.

Past undergraduate courses