Brigitte Riesebrodt, “Collage 1” (2018), oil and wax on paper and wood. Courtesy of the artist.

Brigitte Riesebrodt, “Collage 1” (2018),
oil and wax on paper and wood.
Courtesy of the artist.

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

GRMN 21821 (Re-)Living Nazi Germany through the Eyes of the Graphic Novel

This course considers the graphic novel as an aesthetic and political response to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Through close reading of three paradigmatic graphic novels by German and American artists from WWII to the present day, we will develop a critical vocabulary to analyze the intermedial form and explore the historical conditions out of which these cultural artefacts emerge. Our journey begins with Charlotte Salomon’s pioneering masterpiece Life? Or Theater? (1941-943), a recently discovered autobiographical account of life in the Third Reich created by the visionary German-Jewish artist before her death at Auschwitz at the age of 26. One generation later, Art Spiegelman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, produces his seminal 1980 graphic narrative Maus based on interviews with his father. In Nora Krug’s 2018 graphic novel Belonging, the author seeks to understand her grandparents’ potential collusion with the forces of ethnic cleansing in Nazi Germany. Our interpretative readings will focus on the authors’ engagement with questions of European and Jewish identity and their treatment of historical trauma and culpability in the graphic novel form.

This course is designed both for German majors/minors and majors from other disciplines. All texts are available in translation and class will be held in English. German majors are invited to engage directly with the German-language editions and historical sources. Additional discussion groups in German will be offered on a biweekly basis.

2020-2021 Winter

GRMN 22320 Das magische Wort: Knights and Nuns in the Middle Ages

This course explores an array of medieval literature in order to describe its conceptions of magic and the mystical. We will consider the chivalric tradition, comparing texts such as the "Nibelungenlied," Wolfram von Eschenbach's "Parzival" and Gottfried von Strassburg's "Tristan" with an epic poem by Hartmann von Aue. Having characterized the kinds of magic operative in such texts, we will move onto religious texts ranging from the "Heliand" to testimonies of religious ecstasy by Hildegard von Bingen and Mechthild von Magdeburg. Key contradictions to be considered include magic's permeation of everyday life, but also it's fantastic or even sacred status. To what extent could magic or sublime states be put to use by the protagonists of each of these texts and how did such forces function as an instrument of fate or divine will? All reading and discussion in German.

Prerequisite(s): GRMN 20300 or placement exam

2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 25521 The Romantic Mountain

Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (1818), in which a figure, back turned enigmatically to the viewer, gazes out on a vast foggy expanse from a craggy mountain, has become virtually synonymous with German Romanticism.  The experience of standing on top of a mountain or of voyaging deep into its interior touches on aesthetics (particularly the sublime), science (the rise of geology), and, increasingly, industrialization, spoliation, and related modern phenomena such as alpinism and tourism.  This course examines the Romantic fascination with mountains from a number of cultural perspectives, as well as its after-life in the early 20th-century Bergfilm genre.  Readings of, among others: Kant, Tieck, Hoffmann, Heine, and Stifter. Readings and discussions in German.

2020-2021 Winter

NORW 26700 Literature of the Occupation

The German Occupation of Norway, which lasted from April 9, 1940 to May 7, 1945 is indisputable the most significant event in modern Norwegian history. The aim of this course is to use literature of and about this period to characterize the Occupation experience in Norway. While our texts come primarily from Norwegians, one novel is German and two others, American. Given the context for these works, we will consider them not only as fiction, but also as history and even propaganda. Ultimately, we will address the issue of national myth-making: To what extent have Norwegians mythologized their Occupation experience and is this apparent in our texts?

2020-2021 Winter

YDDH 21002/31002 Advanced Yiddish II: Women Writing Yiddish

(JWSC 27611)

In this course, we will read from a variety of writing by women - memoirs, prose fiction, and poetry. We will discuss how their gender (and the way they were received as women within the literary marketplace) may have influenced their writing, and will talk about contemporary acts of literary recovery and reinterpretation of their work. Authors in this syllabus include: Kadya Molodovsky, Salomea Perl, Esther Kreitman, Shira Gorshman, and Miriam Karpilove, among others. This class is conducted in Yiddish, and all readings will be distributed in Yiddish. Students must have completed two quarters of Intermediate Yiddish or seek permission from the instructor to enroll.

2020-2021 Spring

YDDH 21721/31721 Women Who Wrote In Yiddish

(JWSC 27651, GNSC 21721, GNSC 31721)

This course explores memoirs, plays, essays, poetry, novels, and journalistic writing of women who wrote in Yiddish, as well as a discussion of the context in which they wrote and their reception and self-perception as "women writers."  Among the writers whose work may be represented in this course are Glikl, Yente Mash, Kadya Molodwsky, Chava Rosenfarb, Yente Serdatsky, Rosa Palatnik, Anna Margolin, Celia Dropkin, Rokhl Korn, Beyle Shaechter-Gottesman, Gitl Shaechter-Viswanath,  Bella Chagall, Blume Lempel, Esther Kreitman, Debora Vogel, Rokhl Brokhes, Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, Malka Lee, Ida Maze, Roshelle Weprinski, Miriam Karpilove, Zina Rabinovitz, Rokhl Szabad, Rokhl Faygnberg, Paula Prilutsky, Shira Gorshman, Esther Shumiatsher-Hirshbein and Freydl Shtok.  Many of these writers have been underexamined in the history of Yiddish literary studies and this course will bring renewed attention to their work.  This course will be taught in English with readings translated from Yiddish.

2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 22118/32118 Nazi Cinema

(CMST 22118, 32118)

Nazi cinema.  An examination of a broad range of films produced under the National Socialist regime, from mass spectacles to domestic melodramas, from comedies to hagiographic bio-pics to dramatized propaganda. We will explore the national aspirations, formal organization, ideological inflections, and conceptual logic of these films in order to ask: what constitutes a National Socialist (film) aesthetic?  Readings in film history, film theory, and cultural theory.  No prerequisites, but a commitment to close readings – of film and criticism – and lively, thoughtful engagement will be essential.  In English. With sufficient interest, a German language discussion section may be added.


2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 22321/32321 Aby Warburg and the Origins of Kulturwissenschaft

This course explores Aby Warburg as a founder of Kulturwissenschaft in the context of other thinkers of the time such as Sigmund Freud and Walter Benjamin. Trained as an art historian with an expertise in Renaissance art, Warburg morphed into a historian of images (i.e., Bildwissenschaft) and – more broadly – into a historian of culture. We will trace Warburg’s cultural historical method as it develops primarily from philology, but also art history, anthropology, the comparative study of religions, and evolutionary biology. How does Warburg read culture? What is his methodological approach for examining a wide variety of cultural artifacts ranging from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Poliziano’s poetry, and Dürer’s etchings to postal stamps and news photographs? How can these artifacts be vehicles for cultural memory? And how does the transmission of cultural memory in artworks manifest itself in different media such as literary texts, religious processions, astrological treatises, photography, and painting? Moreover, how does Warburg’s work help us contextualize and historicize “interdisciplinarity” today?

Conducted in English. Undergrads and MAPH students welcome.

2020-2021 Autumn

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.

2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 25421/35421 Babylon Berlin: Politics and Culture in the Weimar Period

This seminar will focus on the political and cultural turmoil of the Weimar Republic. Course material will include novels, poetry, political essays, philosophy, visual art, and film. Among authors and artists addressed: Ernst Jünger, Walter Benjamin, Alfred Döblin, Fritz Lang, Georg Grosz, Irmgard Keun, Hannah Höch, Bertold Brecht, Carl Schmitt.

2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 25721/35721 Literature as Self-Help: The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke 

(FNDL 25721)

Rainer Maria Rilke’s writing is famous for its lyrical intensity. The pathos of his poetic language appears to “move” and “touch” readers in an unparalleled way. Soldiers going to fight in the Second World War carried volumes of Rilke’s poetry in their knapsacks and letters of fallen soldiers contained quotes from his verse (“Who talks of victory? To endure is all.”). Recent editions of his writings, such as Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties(1994), Rilke for the Stressed(1998) or Words of Consolation(2017), attest to Rilke being viewed as someone from whom readers expect insight into the value or vanity of life. In this course, we will read selections of Rilke’s poetry and correspondence alongside excerpts from his writings on art to critically examine his language’s purported ability to express our innermost feelings and to offer solace. Along the way, we will also pay attention to situating his work in the context of “modernism.” 

Other readings by: Paul de Man “Tropes (Rilke),” Rita Felski “Uses of Literature,” Beth Blum “Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature,” among others.

Readings and discussions in English. Those who read German will read the texts in the original. 

2020-2021 Autumn

GRMN 28446/38446 Apocalypse Now: Scripts of Eschatological Imagination

Apocalyptic fantasies are alive and well today. In beach reads and blue chip fiction; in comic books and YA novels; in streaming TV shows, Hollywood blockbusters, and ironic arthouse cinema. Wherever you look, small groups of beleaguered survivors are banding together to outsmart zombies or crazed survivalists, and generally doing their best to get by on a planet ravaged by disease, pollution, consumerism, and reckless resource extraction. These apocalyptifantasies follow well-established scripts that often date back millenia. Apocalypse scripts allow their users to make sense of the current crisis and prepare for an uncertain future. The course will be divided into two parts. The first half will be devoted to texts, art, and movies that dwell on the expectation of the end and narratively measure out the time that remains. We will begin with examining the biblical ur-scripts of an apocalyptic imaginary, the Book of Daniel in the Old and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, as well as Saint Paul’s messianism in the Letter to the Romans; and then move on to medieval apocalyptic fantasies of the Joachim of Fiore and others; and end with the apocalypticism underlying the religious reforms of Girolamo Savonarola and Martin Luther. The discussion of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia will serve as a pivot to modern post-apocalypticism. The second half will focus on life after the apocalypse — the new freedoms, and new forms of political life and sociality that the apocalyptic event affords its survivors. Readings will include the political theory of marronage, capabilities, and neoprimitivism; literary theory of speculative fiction; and the post-apocalyptic narratives by Octavia Butler, Jean Hegland, Richard Jefferies, Cormac McCarthy, and Colson Whitehead. Readings and discussions in English.

2020-2021 Winter

GRMN 42221 Fragment

A central experimental genre of Early Romanticism, the fragment was defined by Friedrich Schlegel in Athenäums-Fragment 206 as: "entirely isolated from the surrounding world like a little work of art and complete in itself like a hedgehog.” This seminar will consider fragments both conceptually and as isolated texts that are, however, gathered together materially in medial collections such as encyclopedias and albums. What is the relationship of the fragment to totality or coherence? What kinds of knowledge and reading practices does the fragment presuppose? Readings will include fragments and fragmentary works by, among others, Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel, Novalis, and Heine.

2020-2021 Spring

GRMN 42820 Ekphrasis

(ARTH 42820)

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.

2020-2021 Winter