Graduate Courses

Autumn Quarter, 2019:

Narratology of Tears: Goethe, Sterne, and the Sentimental Novel
GRMN 33819, SCTH 33819 
David Wellbery

This seminar will, with a certain intensity of focus, examine two masterpieces of the “sentimental” mode: Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768) and Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774). Since these novels are both generically self-reflective and, each in its own way, boldly experimental, they are well-suited for an analysis oriented toward the theory of narrative. Comparisons will be drawn to passages in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady (1747-8) and Rousseau’s Julie, ou La nouvelle Heloise (1761). We will also take a forward look at Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Liaisons dangereuses (1782), which may be considered the destruction of the form. In addition to fundamental contributions to narratology, works by Roland Barthes (Fragments of a Lover’s Discourse), Albrecht Koschorke (Körperströme und Schriftverkehr. Mediologie des 18. Jahrhunderts), and James Chandler (An Archeology of Sympathy. The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema) will be important points of reference. As always, Schiller’s Über naïve und sentimentalische Dichtung will prove indispensable.

“Maniacs, Specters, Automata:” The Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann
GRMN 34819/24819 
Ingrid Christian

In this course we will read stories by one of the most prominent representatives of Romanticism, the German writer, composer, and painter E.T.A. Hoffmann who wrote “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” on which Tchaikovsky would later base his ballet. His stories of bizarre yet psychologically compelling characters will introduce us to the “dark side” of Romanticism as well as to its fantastical aspects. Students will read Hoffmann’s extraordinary stories, develop skills of literary analysis, and engage in historical inquiry by tracing the way in which Hoffmann’s texts engage with the context of their time, in particular with the history of medicine (mesmerism, early psychiatry) and law (Hoffmann worked as a legal official). Those with reading knowledge of German can read the texts in the original, otherwise readings and discussions will be in English.

What is Authority?
GRMN 34419/HREL 34419
Eric Santner, Mladen Dolar

(Eric Santner & Mladen Dolar; grad seminar, undergrads welcome with permission of instructor)
The aim of the seminar is to clarify the notion of authority in its (historically shifting) relation to neighboring concepts such as power, violence, domination, law, obedience, among others. Readings will be drawn from literature (Shakespeare, Kafka), philosophy (Hegel, Derrida, Agamben), psychoanalytic theory (Freud, Lacan), political and cultural theory (Benjamin, Schmitt, Arendt), anthropology (Geertz), and sociology (Weber, Durkheim).

GRMN 47919 
Florian Klinger

An exploratory class that examines poetry and experimental prose written in German by living poets. We will focus on one author every week. We will take the pulse of the German language in the making – a poetological project – and in doing so, we will build a formal account of the ways of writing that make up the current state of the art of German literary production – a diagnostic project. Authors include Friederike Mayröcker, Thomas Kling, Ulrike Draesner, Dagmara Kraus, Lutz Seiler, Marcel Beyer, Monika Rinck, Marion Poschmann, Nico Bleutge, Kerstin Preiwuß, Steffen Popp, Anja Utler, Mara Genschel, and others. Participants are welcome to contribute to the syllabus with authors of their own selection. Readings and discussion in German.

Winter Quarter, 2020 

Problems in the Study of Gender and Sexuality: On “Women’s Writing”
GRMN 33119/23119 
Sophie Salvo

This course interrogates “women’s writing” as a historical, theoretical, and literary category. Since the 1970s, feminist scholarship has used the category “women’s writing” to recuperate texts by historically marginalized female authors. This practice has led to a reconsideration of the role of gender in literary production, authorship, and canon formation. Focusing on the context of modern Europe, and the genre of narrative prose, this course aims to reevaluate the classification “women’s writing.” Is “women’s writing,” to borrow a phrase from Joan Scott, a “useful category of analysis” in the 21st century? Can it help us account for how gendered subjects have been constructed through narrative? To what extent do traditional generic and disciplinary divisions limit our understanding of women’s texts? Does the concept “women’s writing” allow for intersectional approaches to the study of gender and sexuality?

Course readings will include literary texts from the 18th-21st centuries (works by Jane Austen, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Elfriede Jelinek, and Marjane Satrapi, among others), as well as theoretical approaches from feminist, queer, and transgender studies. Readings and discussions in English.

Domestic Tragedies
GRMN 36219/26219; CMLT 36219/26219; TAPS 36219/26219 
Christopher Wild

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, and will have to skip over Early Modern theater (e.g. 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 continue with its latest flowering in Scandinavia (Ibsen, Strindberg). We will conclude with the Beckett’s deconstruction of the domestic tragedy in his Endgame.

The Concept of Recognition
GRMN 25119/35119 (Grad/Undergrad); Tues/Thurs 1:30 – 4:20, WB 206
Florian Klinger

Reciprocal recognition as proposed in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit has become a notorious idea. What is the idea meant to do? And just as importantly – can we work it out conceptually? This seminar will look at Marxist, Genealogical, Pragmatist, and neo-Aristotelian approaches to put the viability of the idea to the test: Is recognition the source or merely the form of normative authority? Is it the emancipation from oppressive power relations (i.e. freedom) or their manifestation (i.e. unfreedom)? Is recognition between an I and a You, or between an I and a We? Is the concept – if it is a concept – translatable into contemporary philosophical language or does it resist such appropriation? Next to Hegel's source texts, our readings include Kojéve, Sartre, Fanon, Taylor, Pippin, Brandom, Honneth, Butler, Rödl.   

Spring Quarter, 2020

The Romanticism Laboratory
Catriona MacCleod


Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer Project
GRMN 34619
Eric Santner and Ryan Coyne

The seminar will attempt to work through the nine (mostly short) volumes that constitute Agamben’s effort to articulate a theory of the ways in which human life is “politicized,” comes to be inscribed relations of power and authority. Special consideration will be given to Agamben’s recourse to literature—above all, to the work of Kafka--in the elaboration of his theory.

Narratology Laboratory: Basic Concepts and Research Potential
GRMN 38120 
David Wellbery

This seminar is an introduction to the formal study of narrative. Its purpose is to provide students with a set of conceptual instruments that will be useful to them in a broad range of research contexts. Narratology, although it originated within in literary studies, is today an indispensable dimension of inquiry in the Human Sciences generally. Topics to be considered include: 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; 6) narrative in non-linguistic media. After a brief consideration of Aristotle’s Poetics, we will move on to fundamental contributions by (inter alia) Propp, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Greimas, Genette, Eco, Lotman, Marin, Ricoeur, finishing with recent work in analytic philosophy and cognitive science. There will be NO papers or examinations. Rather, the course material will be introduced in lectures and subgroups of course participants will carry out circumscribed projects of narratological research. 

Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung in Performance
GRMN 23419/GRMN 33419 (Open to beginning graduate students) 
David Levin

This seminar, open to undergraduates and beginning graduate students, serves as a critical introduction to and intensive exploration of Richard Wagner’s 19th century tetralogy.  In addition to critical readings (e.g., by Wagner, Adorno, Nietzsche, Badiou, Dahlhaus, et al.) and screenings of a host of productions, we will travel downtown to Lyric Opera to attend performances of the Ring cycle in David Pountney’s new production. Our discussions of the Chicago production will be supplemented by conversations with members of the Lyric Opera production team, including Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera’s General Director.  No previous knowledge is required although a curiosity about opera, German culture, media history, and/or theater & performance studies will be essential