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 21722 Tönende Körper: Music and the Body (Politic) in German Literature

Beginning in the 18th century, European musicians and writers increasingly came to think of music as a form of expression that was intimately bound to the body. Compared to language, music was viewed as a less abstract, more original mode of human expression, rooted in the vital energies of nature. Music thus seemed to straddle the divide between nature and culture, corporeality and representation, life and meaning. In this course we will explore the relationship between music and the body, including bodily disease, as it is developed in literary and theoretical texts from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. In doing so, we will pay special attention to the political "resonances" of this association, as, over the course of the 19th century, the German increasingly came to think of themselves as "the people of music." That is, music was bound not only to the individual body, but also, and especially, to the sublime Body of the German people.  

 This course is conducted in German and most of the readings will be in German. There will also be a few English-language secondary sources.

 Writings by J. G. Herder, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heinrich von Kleist, Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Thomas Mann, Theodor Adorno, Franz Kafka and Bertolt Brecht. Musical works by Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Kurt Weill.

Prerequisite(s): GRMN 20300 or placement exam

2021-2022 Spring

GRMN 23421 Transcontinental Romanticism

In 1836, at the age of 26, Margaret Fuller began teaching the great works of German Romanticism to students at Amos Alcott’s radically progressive Temple School in Boston. Fuller’s passion for the German Romantics and their propagation in America is representative of the profound importance that the “American Transcendentalists” (Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller) attributed to German literature and its potential to shape American culture and values. In this course, we will explore the elective affinities between German Romanticism and its American counterpart, tracing the ways in which the two traditions mutually illuminate each other. Each unit will pair one major German and one major American text or artwork. Themes / pairings include: gender and mythology in Novalis’ fragmentary novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen and Fuller’s fairy tales; spiritual landscapes in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich and the Hudson River School; slavery and abolition in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience;” exemplarity and individualism in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and Nietzsche’s “Schopenhauer as Educator.”

2021-2022 Spring

GRMN 25005 The Pleasure of Literature: The Novella

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 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, Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, M. Walser, and others, alongside some scientific articles (e.g., cognitive neuroscience) and theoretical texts. Conducted in German.

2021-2022 Autumn

GRMN 25120 Nietzsche: Culture, Critique, Self-Transcendence

This course is conceived as a pathway to the Humanities and an introduction to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). A range of Nietzsche’s work will be considered, but the focus will be on three themes to which Nietzsche recurred throughout his writing career: 

1)    Culture: Nietzsche’s thought on the anthropological roots and the expressive forms of human meaning-making: Apollo/Dionysus; Gesture; Music; Metaphor 

2)    Critique: the vacuous character of modern culture; romanticism, decadence, nihilism. 

3)    Self-Transcendence: individual self-realization and freedom

The selection of these themes is motivated by the fact that they may be considered as fundamental dimensions of humanistic inquiry. Students will develop a sound understanding of a writer whose intellectual influence continues to grow, but at the same time they will become acquainted with such core concepts of humanistic/interpretive inquiry as form, expression, ideology, genealogy, discourse, self-fashioning, individuality, and value. 

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 25121 Intimacy and Desire in German Cinema

This seminar explores representations of intimacy, sensuality and private life through the lens of German- language cinema from the Weimar period to New German Cinema of the 1960s. Departing from Richard Wagner’s revolutionary darkening of the auditorium in the late 19th century, this course considers the emergence of cinema as a social institution and site of desire, fantasy and fulfilment in the broader German cultural context. Close readings of canonic films including Der blaue Engel, Die Büchse der Pandora, La Habanera and Die Ehe der Maria Braun will be guided by literary and theoretical texts on the formation of the film viewer as a sensuous subject. We will integrate journalistic writings on sexuality, degeneracy and bourgeois morality in the public sphere and the historical phenomenon of modern stardom associated with the careers of Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks and Zarah Leander. Films by Joseph von Sternberg, G. W. Pabst, Douglas Sirk, Helmut Käutner and Rainer Werner Fassbinder are accompanied by texts by Irmgard Keun, Lotte H. Eisner, Siegfried Kracauer, Thomas Elsaesser and Erica Carter.

Class will be conducted in English.

2021-2022 Spring

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

This seminar will focus on the political and cultural turmoil of the Weimar Republic from its beginnings up to Hitler’s seizure of power. How did Germany’s first experiment with democracy go so terribly wrong? How was it that the arts flourished while the Republic succumbed ever more to extremist politics accompanied by armed militias? What role did new media and art forms play in the cultural and political turmoil of the period? Course material will include historical studies, novels, poetry, theater, political essays, philosophy, visual art, and film.


2021-2022 Autumn

NORW 28500 Comparative Fairy Tales

(GRMN 28500, CMLT 21600, HUMA 28400)

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.

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 28922 Play/Spiel

Drawing on Johan Huizinga’s argument in his classic book Homo Ludens about play’s centrality to human culture, this seminar will investigate some of the philosophical, literary, and pedagogical dimensions of Spiel in German culture, with a focus on the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We will also examine one of the most fundamental of objects related to games, the doll, and will explore why this source of childhood nostalgia, imaginative engagement, and delight has also been the starting point for countless horror stories. Readings include: Schiller, Goethe, Froebel, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Kleist, Heinrich Hoffmann, Hans Christian Andersen, Rilke, Freud, Winnicott. Readings and discussions in German.


2021-2022 Winter

YDDH 22321/32321 Advanced Seminar in Yiddish: Lamed Shapiro

In this course we will read, discuss, and write about the poetry and prose of Yiddish writer L. (Leyvi-Shiye, Lamed) Shapiro (1878-1948), including "Zelbshtuts" (Self-defense),  "Der tseylem" (The Cross), "Roykh" (Smoke), "Vayse khale," (White Challah) and "Nyuyorkish" (NewYorkish), "Der shrayber geyt in kheyder" (The Writer Goes to School) and "Di yidishe melukhe"  (The Jewish State).  We will also read critics' responses (in Yiddish) to his work. This is a seminar-style course for students with an advanced level of Yiddish.  Intermediate Yiddish or its equivalent (determined in conversation with the instructor) is a prerequisite for this course.

2021-2022 Autumn

YDDH 23421/33421 Advanced Seminar in Yiddish: Representations of Race and

In this course we will read a variety of Yiddish language material addressing or depicting race and racism.  The course material will include essays, textbooks, children's literature, prose, and poetry. This is a seminar-style course for students with an advanced level of Yiddish.  Intermediate Yiddish or its equivalent (determined in conversation with the instructor) is a prerequisite for this course.

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 33622 Postwar Austrian Literature

The seminar will focus on four of the most important Austrian authors of the postwar period: Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and Elfriede Jelinek. In addition to poetry, prose, and drama we will also read the addresses each author gave upon receiving the Büchnerpreis. All readings are in German.

2021-2022 Spring

GRMN 24422/34422 In the Absence of Power

How can one conceive of agency when one has no resources on which to draw? The Western philosophical tradition and the counter-traditions of critical race, gender, and class theory have produced not only conceptions of agency, the power to act, but also, and almost in equal measure, conceptions of non-agency – that is, conceptions of what to do, what to think, how to conceive of ourselves in the absence of power. Proposals from Aristotle to Hegel to Foucault to conceive power as at once constraining and productive leave unanswered the question what to do when conditions for action are not in place or have broken down, or one is shut off from them. This seminar reviews and puts to the test conceptions of non-agency drawn from the contexts of ontology, political thought, and aesthetics. Materials include Melville, Heidegger, Kafka, Benjamin, Fanon, Beckett, Deleuze, Glissant, Lorde, Spillers, Agamben, Philip, Wilderson. Readings and discussion in English.   

2021-2022 Spring

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

In this seminar, 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, psychoanalysis avant la lettre) 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.


2021-2022 Autumn

GRMN 25322/35322 New German Cinema

(CMST 42027)

This class will offer an intense exploration of the classical New German Cinema and some of the issues in its aesthetics, history and theory.  Thus, we will see a broad variety of films (some familiar, some not so familiar: including work by R.W. Fassbinder,  A. Kluge, W. Herzog, W. Wenders, H. Sanders-Brahms, U. Ottinger, J-M Straub/D Huillet, et al.) and read a broad range of material—incorporating, among others, questions of genre, auteur theory, psychoanalysis, history, politics, and film style. Proficiency in German language, culture, or history is welcome but not required (all films have subtitles); a serious commitment to thinking about the logic, rhetoric, history, and textuality of film is essential.  The pace and conceptual level of the readings make this course most appropriate for graduate students. Undergrads by consent only.


2021-2022 Autumn

GRMN 36522 Hegel’s Aesthetics

An intensive study of Hegel's lectures on aesthetics. The aim is a grasp of Hegel's conception through a discussion of core sections from the expansive text. To mark our engagement, we ask what to make of the conception for our own thinking about the aesthetic today, with a look to examples from contemporary art. Reading in English or German, discussion in English. Please use Hegel's Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Arts, 2 vols., trans. T.M.Knox, Oxford University Press. For the German text, use Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik I-III, Suhrkamp Verlag. 

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 27621/37621 Philosophical Aesthetics: Heidegger and Adorno

Two major positions in German philosophical aesthetics of the 20th century will be considered in detail: 1) the ontological-hermeneutic theory advanced by Martin Heidegger; 2) the dialectical-critical theory developed by Theodor W. Adorno. Primary readings will be Heidegger’s Origin of the Work of Art and selections from Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory. In addition, selected shorter pieces by the two authors will be studied, with a special emphasis on their work on lyric poetry. The seminar will also consider contributions by Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Helmut Plessner, Arnold Gehlen, Georg Lukács. The course seeks to develop an understanding of the conceptual foundation of each of the two philosophical positions. Particular topics to be considered: a) the nature of artistic presentation (Darstellung); b) the nature of artistic truth; c) the historical character of art; d) the political significance of art; e) the relation of art to philosophy.

2021-2022 Spring

GRMN 39821 Goethe’s Faust: Myth and Modernity

In this seminar we shall undertake an intensive study of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, with close textual study of the entirety of Part I and Act 5 of Part II. We will begin by casting a brief look at the earliest versions of the Faust myth, the so-called Faust Chapbook of 1587 and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus composed 1589-92, premiered 1592), and we will have an eye on later versions such as those of Paul Valéry and Thomas Mann. Some consideration will be devoted to the question of modern “myth” and the Faust myth will be compared to that of Don Juan in particular. Our major task, however, will be to develop a close reading and interpretation of Goethe’s text, which ranks as one of the supreme achievements of the European literary tradition. The interpretive issues at the center of our inquiry will include: a) the theory of (modern) tragedy; b) desire and subjectivity; c) Faust in relation to post-Kantian philosophy; d) the theme of time and the “moment.” In addition to major works of scholarship, we shall touch on interpretations of the play by Schelling and Kierkegaard. Command of German will be helpful, but students may also refer to an English translation. (Recommended English version: Faust I & II, translated by Stuart Atkins, introduction by David E. Wellbery, Princeton Classics, 2014. Recommended German version: Faust I und II, hrsg. Albrecht Schöne, 2 vols. Text + commentary. Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 2017.)

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 45322 Hannah Arendt's Concept of Judgment

The focus of the seminar is Hannah Arendt's pursuit of the concept of judgment. Established in her early Chicago lecture on the topic, the pursuit connects the major book projects such as The Human Condition and Origins of Totalitarianism, the journalistic undertaking of Eichmann in Jerusalem, as well as essays, letters, and notes – all of which she considered preparatory work for a final work on judgment that was meant to conclude the trilogy The Life of the Mind, and that she didn't live to execute. What is judging for Hannah Arendt: The constitutive operation of the political? A way of thinking? A distinguishing marker of humanity? 

As co-editor of the Hannah Arendt critical edition, the instructor will consider next to published also unpublished materials, taking into view, for the first time, everything Arendt produced on the topic. Required reading and discussion in English. 

2021-2022 Autumn

GRMN 48421 Stifter’s Modernity

Probably no other author has been written off as boring as frequently as Adalbert Stifter (1805-68); yet Thomas Mann recognized in this boredom a compelling “sensationalism” and Stifter was admired by writers as diverse as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Handke, and Sebald. His work rewards closer attention today for readers interested in his extreme description, but also for its treatment of ecocritical themes and diagnosis of violence and modernity.  In this seminar we will focus on reading his monumental Bildungsroman Der Nachsommer (1857). We will also consider shorter prose works ranging from his Viennese feuilleton essays to later stories from the collection Bunte Steine, as well as his output as a painter.

2021-2022 Winter

GRMN 48521 Romantic Women Writers

During a period when social definitions of gender, love, and marriage were renegotiated, German women writers were not only active members of Romantic circles in Jena and Berlin, but redefined literary culture through their roles as authors, salonnières, translators, and editors. Our readings, informed by feminist theory and criticism, will encompass works across a range of genres (letters, novels, lyric, Märchen) by authors including Caroline Schelling, Dorothea Schlegel, Sophie Mereau, Rahel Varnhagen, Adele Schopenhauer, Bettina von Arnim, and Karoline von Günderode.

2021-2022 Spring