Graduate Courses

Autumn 2018

Wagner's "Ring" in Performance
GRMN 29350 / 39350, MUSIC, TAPS

Offered in conjunction with Lyric Opera’s production of *Siegfried*, this course considers Richard Wagner’s tetralogy *The Ring of the Nibelung* by examining its musical language, scenic terms, political aspirations, and production history.  While we will consider *The Ring* in its entirety, we will focus on *Siegfried* complementing our readings and discussions with field-trips to rehearsals at Lyric Opera, seeking to understand the Chicago production in a broader context of stage productions prepared over the course of the past 50 years. No prerequisites.  An interest in one or more of the following is preferable: opera, musicology, German studies, theater & performance studies.
David Levin, Steve Rings

Pragmatist Aesthetics
GRMN 28150/38150
An inquiry into pragmatism’s relationship with philosophical aesthetics. The emphasis is on aesthetic action, making of the self and of the human form. Authors include Emerson, Nietzsche, Dewey, Heidegger, Rorty.
Florian Klinger

Interpretation: Theory and Practice
GRMN 41219, FREN 41219, ENGL 41219, SCTH 41219, CMLT 41219

This seminar will be conducted on two tracks. On the one hand, we will study major contributions to hermeneutic theory (including positions that understand themselves as anti-hermeneutic). Contributions to be considered include works by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, E.D. Hirsch, Manfred Frank, Roland Barthes, Stanley Cavell, and Jacques Derrida. At the same time, the seminar will include a practical component in which we will collectively develop interpretations of works by Heinrich von Kleist, Johann Peter Hebel, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville. English translations of the assigned readings will be provided. (This course is restricted to students in Ph.D. programs.)
David E. Wellbery


Winter 2019

Berlin in Fragments 
GRMN 23715

Berlin at the turn of the 19th century was the epicenter of Germany’s rapid urbanization and industrialization, and as such it became a privileged site for observing the effects of modernity on the human condition. One of the most prominent features of life in the modern metropolis, as noted by contemporaries, was its fragmentary character, both in social terms—the atomization of society as a whole—and in mental terms—the psychic instability of the atomized individual. This course explores a variety of critical and artistic responses to fragmentation: critical attempts to render the fragmented urban landscape legible, and creative explorations of the potentialities of fragmentation through formal innovation. We will examine a range of works from the early twentieth century, with our main focus being the Weimar period. Works include poetry, fiction, criticism, Feuilleton, drama and film. Authors include early Expressionist poets (Georg Heym, Jacob von Hoddis, Alfred Lichtenstein, Gottfried Benn), Raoul Hausmann, Simon Friedländer, Alfred Döblin, Irmgard Keun, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Joseph Roth, and Bertolt Brecht. Films by Joe May, Walther Ruttman, Fritz Lang.
NOTE: This course will be taught in German.
Colin Benert

Gender and Language
GRMN 25519/35519; 
GNSE 25519/35519; FREN 35519
The idea that men and women use language differently is a common trope today, yet this was not always understood to be the case. In this course, we will investigate the origins of modern assumptions about the relationship between sex, gender, and language by tracing their conceptualization in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and scientific discourses. In particular, the course will focus on two topics as case studies: the notion of a separate “women’s language” (or Weibersprache) and theories of the origin of grammatical gender. What political, theoretical, and aesthetic programs do claims about “gendered language” serve, and what anxieties do they reveal? Readings include texts from seventeenth-century ethnography, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philosophy and philology, and twentieth-century literature, linguistics, and feminist theory.
Sophie Salvo

Comparative Fairy Tales
GRMN 28500, CMLT 21600, HUMA 28400, NORW 28500
How do we account for the allure of fairy tales?  For some, fairy tales count as sacred tales meant to enchant rather than edify.  For others, they are cautionary tales, replete with obvious moral lessons. For the purposes of the course, we will assume that these critics are correct in their contention that fairy tales contain essential underlying meanings.  We will conduct our own readings of fairy tales from the German Brothers Grimm, the Norwegians, Asbjørnsen and Moe and the Dane, Hans Christian Andersen, relying on our own critical skills as well as selected secondary readings.
Kim Kenny

Hermeneutics of the Image
GRMN 35215/45215

What does it mean to “read” an image? To achieve an understanding of its “meaning”? This is not an easy question since images don’t directly offer propositional content, which is the usual habitat of meaning. In this seminar, we will approach this question by considering first some foundational contributions to hermeneutics (Gadamer, Hirsch) and to the theory of pictorial meaning (Wollheim). We will then dig into the tradition of pictorial interpretation as it unfolds starting with Winckelmann and Diderot and extending to the present day (Fried, Clark). Freudian hermeneutics (Freud, Adrian Stokes), iconology (Panofsky), and phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger) will also be considered. In each case, we will endeavor to test the claims and interpretive findings through close examination of the images involved. The emphasis will be on the tradition of European painting and sculpture, but the tools acquired in the seminar should also be applicable in other fields.
David Wellbery

Film and Philosophy: Issues in Melodrama
GRMN 35550/45550, PHIL 55550, SCTH 38113

The general question to be addressed: might film (realist fictional narratives especially) be a reflective form of thought, and if so, might that form of reflection be considered a philosophical one?  The genre to be interrogated with this question in mind will be melodramas, narratives of great suffering and extreme emotional experiences, the best of which explore how we might make sense of such suffering. A prominent question: the difference between tragedy and melodrama, and the bearing of that difference on the general question. We shall watch several films in connection with these questions, including Max Ophuls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), King Vidor’s Stella Dallas (1937), Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), Written on the Wind (1956), and Rainer Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). We shall also explore different cinematic treatments of a common melodramatic plot, and consider together Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows (1955), Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), and Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven (2002), the last two of which are variations on Sirk’s plot. Readings will include Stanley Cavell’s The World Viewed and Contesting Tears, essays by André Bazin, work by Peter Brooks, Fassbinder, and Thomas Elsaesser, and selected essays on the films.
Robert Pippin, David Wellbery

Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit
GRMN 41250

A study of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Reading in German or English, discussion in English. Please use Suhrkamp or Meiner editions, or the Miller translation from Oxford UP.
Florian Klinger

Spring 2019

Studies in Dramatic Structure: Goethe and Schiller
GRMN 46805

Drama, as theoreticians from Aristotle to Hegel forcefully argued, views the world through the lens of action. But how exactly does action make the world intelligible? In this course we shall consider this question through the close analysis of two (very different) historical plays: Goethe’s Egmont and Schiller’s Maria Stuart. Since both these plays rely on historical sources, we shall have the opportunity to view dramatic structure against the background of historical events (both factual and mythic). Schiller’s theoretical work, centrally his review of Egmont, and Goethe’s essays on Shakespeare will provide important analytical reference points, but our discussions will also draw on theoretical work on drama from Hegel to Juliane Vogel. This course provides a unique opportunity for the close study of dramatic structure.
David Wellbery

The Pleasure of Literature: The Novella
GRMN 25005/35005

According to Ian McEwan, the novella is "the perfect form of prose fiction. It is the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant" (i.e., the novel.) This course introduces students to the short prose form of the German novella from Romanticism to the present. We will use the genre of the novella to explore the many pleasures of reading literature, among which storytelling features prominently. What kind of storytelling happens in a novella? Where does the pleasure of reading stem from? How can we think the relationship between pleasure and literature? How do developments in new media and new modes of reading affect our pleasure? How can we compare our literary gratification to other types of readerly gratification such as those coming from news articles, blog entries, and other short forms (aphorisms, magazine articles) - or, for that matter, the "reading" of images? Might the pleasure of literature also point to its utility? Readings include: Boccaccio, Goethe, Hoffmann, Kleist, Keller, Büchner, Schnitzler, M. Walser, and others, alongside some scientific articles (e.g., cognitive neuroscience) and theoretical texts.
NOTE: This course will be taught in German.
Margareta Ingrid Christian

Aesthetic Ecologies
GRMN 35140/45140

What would an intellectual history of the environment look like when told from the perspective of the literature of art history? The geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who first began using the term “Umwelt” (“environment”) in a systematic way, claimed that, up to the end of the 19th century, the idea of environment had been primarily discussed not in scientific contexts but rather in aesthetic ones, by “artistically predisposed thinkers.” In this course, we will take Ratzel’s claim seriously and aim to recuperate the aesthetic side of theories of environment across diverse areas such as: notions of landscape (“the picturesque”); aesthetic and biological theories of milieu (Haeckel’s “ecology,” Taine’s “milieu,” Uexküll’s “Umweltlehre”); Warburg’s cultural history; the “sculpture of environment” (Boccioni); the “space-body” in modern dance (Laban); artworks-as-environments in spatial installations. This course is about artworks that continue beyond their material confines into the space environing them. We will focus on evocations of air as the material space surrounding an artwork in texts that thematize the continuity between artwork as image and material object. Additional materials include: J.W. v. Goethe, Jacob Burckhardt, Carl Justi, Adolf v. Hildebrand, Camillo Sitte, Alois Riegl, R.M. Rilke, M. Heidegger, and others.
NOTE: Open to all students. MAPH students welcome. Interested undergraduates please email instructor: michristian@uchicago.edu.
Margareta Ingrid Christian