Undergraduate 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, Stephen 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

The Letter in and as Literature
GRMN 25019

This course investigates the role of the letter (Brief) in German literature. Although we will begin with an epistolary novel (Werther), the primary focus of the course will be on the function of letter after the decline of this genre. What does it mean when a letter appears in a drama on stage, or in a novella, or when a poem is written in the form of an address? Are letters true reflections of the soul, reliable evidence, or tools of manipulation? We will theorize the letter as a form as well as the forms in which letters appear. In addition to investigating letters in poetry, drama, and prose, we will examine a historical Briefwechsel and explore the function of the letter in the digital age. Authors include Goethe, Kleist, Hofmannsthal, Benjamin, Kafka, K. Mann, Benn, Celan, Jelinek, and Meinecke.

NOTE: This course will be taught in German.
Sophie Salvo

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.
Colin Benert

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

Gender and Language
GRMN 25519/35519
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

Spring 2019

Reforming Religious Media: Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation
GRMN 22312/32312

The Protestant Reformation began with a carefully orchestrated media event, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg. Concurrently, he resorted to the still new medium of print to disseminate more widely his scathing critique of the Catholic Church’s use of indulgences to communicate God’s grace. This was only the beginning of Luther’s sweeping attack on the Church’s role as the sole mediator of salvation. No religious medium or communicational practice remained unquestioned, resulting in their comprehensive reform. Soon other reformers joined in, pushing the critique even further by questioning the need and validity of all religious mediation. Approaching the Protestant Reformation as a reform of religious media, this lecture course will give particular attention to the congenial alliance between Martin Luther’s religious message and the emerging technology of the printing press, the role of Scripture in legitimating Protestant theologies of communication, controversies around particular religious media like images or the eucharist, and the role of direct inspiration in radical reformers. This course will be taught in lecture format.
Christopher Wild

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

Past undergraduate courses