Friedrich Hölderlin, Der Tod des Empedokles
Friedrich Hölderlin, Der Tod des Empedokles (Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart)

200-Level courses are for undergrads
300 and 400-Level courses are for grads

YDDH 21724 Mothers and Motherhood

Jewish Civilization is a three-quarter sequence that explores the development of Jewish culture and tradition from its ancient beginnings through its rabbinic and medieval transformations to its modern manifestations. Through investigation of primary texts-biblical, Talmudic, philosophical, mystical, historical, documentary, and literary-students will acquire a broad overview of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness while reflecting in greater depth on major themes, ideas, and events in Jewish history. The Spring course in 2022 will focus on mothers and motherhood in modern Jewish culture. From sentimentalized keepers of Jewish tradition to objects of ridicule burdened by stereotypes of overbearing, guilt-inducing behavior, Jewish mothers hold a prominent role in Jewish self-representations. Writing alongside or against these stereotypes, Jewish mothers themselves have struggled with the obligations and expectations of Jewish motherhood. Engaging with a variety of literary, theological, historical, and pop culture texts, this class explores Jewish feminisms in relation to motherhood, Jewish fictions of motherhood, and the role of motherhood in Jewish religious life and thought. This course includes material from a variety of different contexts for modern Jewish life, but places particular emphasis on American Jewish history and culture.

2023-2024 Spring

GRMN 23324 The Human Form in Contemporary Art

In a present where humanity faces planetary challenges with an unprecedented urgency, the human form – what Marx calls our "genus-being" (Gattungswesen) – has become a focus for artistic production of all sorts. The thesis of the class is this: Contemporary art is an actualization of the human form that doesn't presuppose the form, doesn't take it for granted, but instead troubles the form and poses it as a question. The class considers presentations of the form in performance art (Tino Sehgal, Anne Imhof, Wu Tsang), sculpture (Kara Walker, Cai Guo-Qiang, Cecilia Vicuña), writing (Friederike Mayröcker, Layli Long Soldier, Tracie Morris), sound (Maria Chavez, Christina Kubisch, Samson Young), and painting (Michael Armitage, Tammy Nguyen, Mark Bradford). The class contextualizes these artists with theoretical work by Sylvia Wynter, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Jane Bennett, Achille Mbembe, Eva Horn, and Emanuele Coccia. Readings and discussion in English.   


2023-2024 Winter

GRMN 24824 Theaters of Revolution. German Drama 1789-1918

In 1871, the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt put forth the thesis that 1789 marked the beginning of the world-historical "age of revolution," a "great drama" of which only the first "act" had so far been completed. By portraying revolution as an unfinished drama, Burckhardt took up metaphorical language that was commonplace during his time. This course will take the suggested relationship between drama and revolution seriously. We will read German stage dramas that are directly concerned with revolutionary politics throughout the "long nineteenth century" (1789-1918), a period that, from a German perspective, is set off by the French Revolution and terminated by the November Revolution. We will investigate the mutual relationship between revolution and theater from multiple angles. Some of the questions that we will explore are: Does dramatic literature offer a unique perspective on the emergence and unfolding of historical revolutions? How does theater reflect changed notions of historical continuity and rupture within the context of historical revolutions? Can drama open spaces for individual encounters such as romantic love in the midst of dissolving social bonds? Does drama take up revolutionary energy to generate new forms of theatrical presentation? What is theater’s (alleged or real) potential to incite rebellion? We will read dramas by J.W. Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Georg Büchner, Franz Grillparzer, Gerhart Hauptmann, Reinhard Goering, and Bertolt Brecht. We will contrast these literary texts with historical and theoretical reflections on revolution by thinkers such as Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, and Reinhart Koselleck. Readings and discussion in English. 


2023-2024 Winter

YDDH 25524 Advanced Yiddish: Miriam Karpilove

In this course, we will examine the Yiddish reportage, humor writing, short stories, and novels of pioneering popular Yiddish writer Miriam Karpilove in the context of labor politics, gender politics, literary realism, and the middlebrow. We will consider Karpilove's narrative strategies, ask questions about narratorial perspective, use of irony and pedagogical sense of judgement in Karpilove's work - published fiction and nonfiction as well as personal correspondence. Students will read Karpilove's published writing in newspapers and books and also be challenged to read some of Karpilove's work in handwritten manuscript form. The course will be conducted as a literature seminar, and students will be asked to produce three short analytical papers in Yiddish over the course of the quarter.

2023-2024 Winter

NORW 28500 Comparative Fairy Tales

(GRMN 28500, CMLT 21600)

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.

2023-2024 Winter

GRMN 22323/32323 Advanced Yiddish: Shikage literarisher khoydesh zshurnal

In this course we will make our way through issues of Shikage literarisher khoydesh zshurnal, the monthly organ of Yiddish Chicago of the 1930s.  Each class we will examine a different piece - poetry, prose, essay, etc. as well as exploring its historical context and drawing out linguistic nuances from the literature we read. Students will be expected to compose weekly response papers in Yiddish discussing the items they read in the journal. 

2023-2024 Autumn

GRMN 23524/33524 Beauty in Nature

In this class, we will examine the relationship between art, nature, and the self around 1800 through the idea of the beautiful. In his Critique of Judgement (1790), Immanuel Kant enshrines beauty as the highest and purest aesthetic category; however, Kant’s aesthetics of the beautiful respond to an already-widespread tendency in his time to present nature aesthetically – as idyll, paradise, arcadia – which only evolves and intensifies in the following decades. What, we might ask, is the appeal of nature as the ideal locus of the beautiful? How can the experience of beauty in nature be both mediated and immediate? What sort of nature is being represented, and where is it located? We will think through these questions together through a range of literary, musical, and artistic works by Salomon Gessner, J.W. Goethe, Ludwig Tieck, Karoline von Günderrode, Franz Schubert, Joseph von Eichendorff, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge, and others.

Note: This seminar is conducted in German and is intended for advanced learners of German (undergraduate and graduate students welcome). 

2023-2024 Spring

GRMN 24921/34921 Robert Musil: Altered States   

(FNDL 24921)

This course is an introduction to the work of Robert Musil, one of the major novelists of the twentieth century. We will focus on Musil’s idea of the “Other Condition” [der andere Zustand], which he once described—in contrast to our normal way of life—as a “secret rising and ebbing of our being with that of things and other people.” What is this “Other Condition”: what are its ethics and aesthetics, and how can it be expressed in literature? We will begin with readings from Musil’s critical writings and early narrative prose, then devote the majority of the quarter to his unfinished magnum opus, The Man without Qualities. Particular attention will be paid to Musil’s experimentations with narrative form and his development of the genre of “essayism.”
Readings and discussion in English.

2023-2024 Autumn

GRMN 25424/35424 The Practice of Thought: Spiritual Exercises and the Care of the Self

(CLCV 25423, CLAS 35423, RLVC 35424, RLST 25424, COGS 26800, CMLT 25424, CMLT 35424)

This course will examine the tradition of spiritual exercises from antiquity to the early modern period. Spiritual exercises were at the core of classical paideia, the regimen of self-formation designed and promoted by ancient philosophers, orators, and other pedagogues. As Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault have demonstrated, ancient philosophy first and foremost has to be understood as a “way of life,” as a set of techniques and practices for shaping the self according to wisdom. It was not until philosophy’s critical turn with Kant that it shed its practical dimension and became a “theoretical” discipline. Early Christianity, stylizing itself as the “true philosophy,” eagerly adopted the ancient spiritual exercises and retooled them for its salvational ends. Throughout the middle ages and early modern period spiritual exercises and meditative techniques informed a host of religious, cultural, and artistic practices and media such as prayer and devotional reading, religious art and poetry, but also theatrical performances and musical works. We will focus on individual exercises like the meditation, the examination of conscience, the discernment of spirits, the application of senses, prosoche(attention), consolation, contemplation, etc., and discuss authors such as Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, John Cassian, Augustine, Bonaventure, Ignatius, Descartes, and others. 

2023-2024 Spring

GRMN 25524/35524 Writing Gender

(GNSE 20129)

In German, even if you are not writing about gender, you are always writing gender: the grammatical categories “masculine,” “feminine,” and “neuter” are implicated in every noun declension and personal pronoun. How have writers negotiated this in their constructions of gender identity?  In this course, we will examine how gender has been thought within and beyond the masculine/feminine binary in German intellectual history. We will study historical conceptions of grammatical gender as well as recent attempts to make German more inclusive for genderfluid and trans people (e.g., neopronouns). Finally, we will consider how authors use literature as a space for gender exploration, such as in Kim de L’Horizon’s recent award-winning novel Blutbuch. Readings and discussions in English. 

2023-2024 Spring

GRMN 25823/35823 Fascism

Developments in recent years have clearly shown a resurgent interest in “fascism”. While it designates a phenomenon which might concern everyone, it is also a term used more often in the manner of an insult than a precisely defined concept. One might even say it is what W.B. Gallie once called an essentially contested concept—not because many claim it for themselves today, but on the contrary, because virtually everyone denounces it in their own specific way. In this course, students will consider what “fascism” means by engaging with several influential explanations of it. We will read and discuss more contemporary philosophical views (Stanley, Eco), historical perspectives and documents (Paxton), but also classic perspectives from political theory (Arendt), philosophy (Burnham), and critical theory (Horkheimer, Adorno, Pollock), as well as political economy (Neumann, Sohn-Rethel, Gerschenkron, Fraenkel, Kalecki). With an eye to its historical and contemporary applications, our purpose throughout will be to reconstruct the arguments which we will consider in order to develop a rigorous concept of “fascism”. This course will be offered in English. Its only prerequisite is a non-dogmatic approach to reading and discussion.

2023-2024 Autumn

GRMN 26223/36223 Rainer Maria Rilke: Poetry and Prose

The seminar will address Rilke’s major works, focusing on the New PoemsThe Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, the Duino Elegies, and the Sonnets to Orpheus. Critical essays on the conditions of literary production in modernity by Benjamin, Simmel, Kracauer, among others, will be consulted. Undergrads by Consent Only. 

2023-2024 Autumn

GRMN 26423/36423 Improvisation

(RLVC 36423)

What sort of action is improvisation? This seminar aims (1) to elaborate an understanding of improvisation in action-theoretical terms (Can we distinguish between improvised and nonimprovised action?); (2) to consider the political implications (Does improvisation produce its performers' identities or suspend them, and what are the power relations at work in improvisation?); (3) reflect on aesthetic improvisation specifically (What is involved in accounting for improvisation in music, poetry, dance, and the arts in general?). Taking as its main examples the traditions of Jazz, Free Improvisation, and Performance Art, the seminar includes readings by Derek Bailey, Beth Preston, George E. Lewis, Lydia Goehr, Dieter Mersch, Fred Moten, Georg Bertram, Alessandro Bertinetto, Claus Beisbart and Lucia Angelino. The seminar will also seek to include a visit at the improvisation event Freedom From and Freedom To at Chicago's Elastic Arts. Readings and discussion in English. Undergraduates by permission only.

2023-2024 Autumn

GRMN 26524/36524 Hannah Arendt's Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy

(DVPR 36524)

This seminar is a study of Arendt's lecture course on Kant's aesthetics – a text that Arendt did not live to turn into the book titled Judging that was supposed to conclude the trilogy The Life of the Mind. We will consider the conception of the political that Arendt proposes in the lecture. What does it mean to be free? Why is freedom found only in our relating to one another? How can I include an other in my view? What is it to be a citizen of the world? Can we conceive of a planetary right to pay visits? We will also include other text by Arendt that help to understand the lecture, and we will read the texts by Kant on which Arendt draws: selections from the Critique of the Power of Judgment and from the Anthropology, and the essays Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim, and On Eternal Peace. The class is designed for Arendt novices and returning readers alike. Readings and discussion in English. Undergraduates by permission only.   


2023-2024 Winter

GRMN 26624/36624 Ekphrasis

What happens when a text gives voice to a previously mute art work? Ekphrasis – the verbal representation of visual art – continues to be a central concern of word and image studies today. The understanding of ekphrasis as an often hostile paragone between word and image exists alongside notions of a more reciprocal model involving a dialogue or "encounter" between visual and verbal cultures. The affective dimension of the relationship -- ekphrastic hope, ekphrastic fear -- has also been prominent in recent scholarship. Drawing on literary works and theories from a range of periods and national traditions, the course will examine the long history of ekphrasis. Why are certain literary genres such as the novel or the sonnet privileged sites for ekphrasis? How can art history inform our understanding of such encounters, and to what extent can we say that it is a discipline based in ekphrasis? What can we learn from current work on description, intermediality, narrative theory, and translation theory? Readings from Homer, Philostratus, Lessing, Goethe, Keats, A.W. Schlegel, Kleist, Sebald, Genette, among others.

2023-2024 Winter

GRMN 46150 Heidegger and the Poets

(DVPR 46150)
2023-2024 Spring