Instructor: Rembert Hueser
Ossi Oswalda, the German Mary Pickford, starred in several early German films by Ernst Lubitsch, such as I Don't Want to Be a Man (1918) and The Oyster Princess (1919). Ossi usually plays the spoiled brat who likes to stick out her tongue, throw things around, and smash up the place when she does not get her way. This class will discuss the emergence of the star system in early German cinema. It will focus on female leads such as Ossi Oswalda, Pola Negri, Brigitte Helm, and Lil Dagover. Recommended first reading: Richard Dyer: Stars (British Film Institute, 1998).
Instructor: Rembert Hueser
Cinephilia and market interests often converge in fantasies of controlling the channels of distribution. Our class will explore ways in which film collections, search engines and the formation of canons are connected, and also how they can be set in motion once they have been established. The foreign film collection of Netflix will serve as a point of departure for our inquiries. What is a foreign film supposed to be? How do Netflix and its recommendation pattern work? And why haven’t we seen a good German film for quite a while?
None of the films that we will see in class will be available on Netflix. As a result, many of them won’t have English subtitles, but we shouldn’t let this intimidate us. Film topics will include architecture, singing cowboys from the GDR, splatter & necrophilia, Karl Rossmann going to Amerika, female drinkers, surveillance specialists, home movies, Germany’s contribution to the rocket program, the basic training of managers, German mercenaries in Africa, and Oktoberfest. We will also pay interest to the work of some of the German-speaking filmmakers coming to the Walker in February and March.
Instructor: Leslie Morris
This course will explore what a poetics of Diaspora might mean in a range of literary, film, and visual texts from diverse geographical locations. We will explore how notions of the border, migration, nationhood, immigration, displacement, hybridity, dispersion, transnationalism, deterritorialization, the loss of origin and "reality," and nostalgia for the homeland constitute what we will call Diaspora poetics. The course will also examine the shifts within the term Diaspora in a variety of cultural and geographical contexts, with special emphasis on the complex reconfigured social and cultural spaces of Europe today. Discussion will explore the relationship between interior poetic spaces and geographical spaces of dispersion; the tension between poetic utterance and assertion and negation of place; the relationship between place and exile; and the critical interrogation of the meaning of "origin."
Instructor: Rembert Hüser
Die Republik, edited by Uwe and Petra Nettelbeck and first published in 1976, is by far the most innovative and uncompromising contemporary German journal. Written by various authors, modeled after Karl Kraus's Die Fackel, and published in book-length thematic issues, Die Republik has the reputation of standing at the core of various aesthetic and political debates, as well as of helping us understand the importance of certain topics that seem random at first sight. In our class, we will read Die Republik and will deal with a series of projects: Kraut Rock (Faust); crime fiction and the emergence of the surveillance state; the ideology of the "essay;" the question of how (and how not) to write a dissertation; artistic drawings, censorship, experimental film; criteria for the critical editing of literary texts; the German and English competition in mountaineering in the 1920s and 1930s; anti-Semitism in the 18th century; the writing of film criticism; portraits of the French Revolution; and transcripts of German TV shows. We will read texts by Heinz Emigholz, Harun Farocki, Gustave Flaubert, Frieda Grafe, Herman Melville, Uwe Nettelbeck, Gertrude Stein, August Strindberg, Klaus Theweleit, and Charles Willeford, among others.
Instructor: Rick McCormick
This course borrows its title from Siegfried Kracauer's famous study, From Caligari to Hitler (1947), which we honor – but also critique. One basic aim of the course is to introduce students to a crucial period in the history of the German cinema: its "golden age" in the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), up until the Third Reich. We will of course look at the work of famous directors like Lubitsch, Murnau, Lang, and Pabst. But understanding their films will also necessitate a familiarity with aesthetic/historical categories: Expressionism and "Neue Sachlichkeit," (i.e., "New Objectivity") – two important manifestations of German modernism – as well as "American" melodrama and Soviet-influenced montage. In addition to the film-historical context, the course places films into their socio-historical contexts, with a special emphasis on modernity and shifting notions about gender and sexuality. We will investigate some of the critical discourse that has shaped the way we think about these films (no matter how inaccurate some of that discourse may be). We will examine Kracauer's famous post-World War II study, with its social-psychological analysis of Weimar cinema viewed retroactively through the experience of Nazism, as well as Lotte Eisner's art-historical study, The Haunted Screen (orig. 1952). We will critique these classic works of film history with the help of more recent film scholars, such as Patrice Petro and Thomas Elsaesser. Also of importance is the question of Weimar sexual "decadence": was it, as Kracauer and so many critics after him have argued, something that facilitated the rise of the Nazis? Or was it about emancipation from rigid gender and sexual identities, something that threatened the Nazis and their sympathizers? Something "postmodern" – or even "queer" – in a positive sense?
Instructor: Evelyn Firchow
This course, taught primarily in German, is intended for graduate and advanced undergraduate students. The course is designed to be taught over two semesters. The first semester will trace the development of the German language starting with Indo-European through Middle High German; the second semester will continue with Early New High German up to present-day German. There will be no midterms or final examinations. In the first semester, class participation, occasional quizzes, take-home worksheets and oral reports will determine the final grade. In the second semester occasional quizzes, oral reports and a term paper will be required. Assignments for undergraduate and graduate students will differ.
Instructor: Anatoly Liberman
The course addresses both the language and literature of the “middle” period. By the end of the semester, the students will form a good idea of the style of several great poets of the period and will have mastered enough grammar and vocabulary to be able to read Middle High German with a dictionary. Since the course does not presuppose any previous exposure to language history, the beginning will be slow, but after the first month we will pick up speed.
Instructors: Kaaren Grimstad and Ray Wakefield
Two monumental thirteenth-century epic texts, the Middle High German Nibelungenlied and the Old Norse Saga of the Volsungs, represent the southern and northern literary reflexes of a widespread and enormously popular cycle of traditional oral legends surrounding figures from the Germanic migration period. The aim of this course is to introduce students to these epics, as well as to other medieval versions of the legends, in order to examine the development of medieval European narrative tradition. Our material is ideal for such an enterprise because we have extensive documentation of the legend cycle, in the form of both literary texts in prose and poetry from three medieval Germanic cultures (Old English, Old Norse, and Middle High German) and in stone and wood carvings of scenes from the story in medieval England and Scandinavia. Our goal is to demonstrate that medieval audiences had a broad awareness of both the Nordic and German versions of the legend that came into play in understanding the version of the story they were told, and that all extant literary versions of the story are equally valid and must be considered in interpreting any one discrete version.
Instructor: James Parente
This seminar is intended to introduce students to the study of medieval literary and historical texts through the lens of Germanic medieval culture from 1200 to 1518. The course will provide an introduction to the political, social, religious, and cultural-historical context in which medieval writing of the High and Late Middle Ages was produced. We will focus on central problems in the interpretation of medieval texts, investigate the invention of medieval studies by historians and literary scholars, and examine the afterlife of medieval writing in later centuries. Topics to be considered include Arthurian romance in both a Germanic and European context; love, gender, and sexuality; medieval historiography; orality, literacy, reading and the emergence of the culture of the book; medieval education; medieval mysticism; autobiographical writing; the relationship between German medieval texts and medieval Dutch writing; the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; and the reception and invention of medieval culture in later centuries. Readings will include texts from 1150 to the Renaissance, including such writers as Wolfram von Eschenbach, Gottfried von Strassburg, Heinrich der Glichezaere, Der Stricker, Wernher der Gartenaere, Konrad von Würzburg, Heinrich Kaufringer; Mechthild von Magdeburg, Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken, Hans Schiltberger, Heinrich Wittenweiler, Hermann Bote, Emperor Maximilian I, and a variety of poems, epics, chronicles, hagiographic texts, and dramas from medieval Latin, German, and Netherlandic traditions. We will read theoretical and critical writings by a wide range of literary scholars, historians (Kantorowicz; Huizinga), and social theorists (Elias; Dürr) alongside the primary texts. Reading knowledge of Latin or a medieval Germanic language is not a prerequisite for the course, but students with a command of Latin and/or one or more medieval languages may work with the original texts. All primary readings will be available in modern English or German translation. This course is designed to appeal to students with no previous familiarity with medieval literature as well as to more advanced students in Germanic medieval studies.
Instructor: James Parente
This seminar will provide an introduction to literary writing in the German Empire from the late Middle Ages until the early eighteenth century through the exploration of the concept of "Germany" and "the German" that formed the basis of a wide range of writings throughout the early modern period. We will explore early modern writers’ conceptualization of the German past, both the ancient Germanic past and the German Middle Ages; writers’ representations of the German and the Germans’ interaction to other European and non-European cultures; the evolution of the idea of a German state with a distinct national culture; the construction of a German literary language; and the origins of German literary history. We shall also investigate the manner in which early modern writers fashioned themselves as uniquely German, the construction of the idea of the "model German", and the way in which gender distinctions and sexuality were incorporated into the discourse of the nation. Readings will include religious and political treatises, geographic and ethnographic studies, historical chronicles and commentaries, as well as poems, dramas, and novels. We will discuss major authors such as Luther, von Hutten, Frischlin, Opitz, Moscherosch, Zesen, Andreas Gryphius, Grimmelshausen, Lohenstein, and Thomasius alongside several lesser-known writers. Theoretical readings include Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm, Ernest Gellner, and Adrian Hastings, alongside parallel discussions of nationhood and ethnicity in medieval and early modern Italy, France, England, and the Low Countries.
Instructor: Ruth-Ellen Joeres
Seeing the eighteenth century through less-than-traditional lenses is the purpose of this seminar. Most of the readings tend to be canonical, but our ways of reading and discussing them are meant to be different. In order to work with analytical categories such as class, gender, and sexuality, however, we must think in cross-disciplinary ways about what we are reading, establishing contexts for our discussions that cannot and should not confine themselves to purely literary issues. Thus, in addition to the various German literary texts that we read, we will consider:
But above all, our ways of reading will occupy us throughout the semester. How do we do justice to the literary texts as products of a very specific environment – but at the same time, how can we understand these texts from our early 21st-century vantage point? We will thus focus our attention on current theoretical and historical writings on the German 18th-century Enlightenment.
Instructor: Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres
The methodological focus of this seminar will center on the historical concept of the “Long Nineteenth Century,” i.e. 1780-1918, and what happens when that concept is applied to a literary and cultural study of the same time period. The historians who have propounded this enlarged understanding claim that the revolutionary developments of the late 18th century – most specifically, the French Revolution and the “industrial revolution” – should be seen as part of the larger issues of the actual 19th century (and that the years up to the end of World War I bring the 19th-century developments to a “logical” moment of transformation). A principle question in this seminar will therefore investigate what the inclusion of the literary and cultural activities of the last two decades of the 18th century as well as the first two decades of the 20th century in an examination of the long 19th century does to our understanding of the century from 1800-1900. The readings – literary texts, critical readings, and contemporary commentaries – will allow us to think, among other things, about history and literature, epoch-vs.-century, the canon, and traditional historical thinking. We will use the analytical categories of class, gender, and nation to ground our study, and we will trace the changes in each concept as the long 19th century progresses. The literary texts, all but one of them short prose, include works by Friedrich Schlegel, Dorothea Schlegel, Karl Gutzkow, Heinrich von Kleist, Eugenie Marlitt, Louise von François, Theodor Fontane, and Arthur Schnitzler. Schiller will weigh in with a philosophical essay.
Instructor: Leslie Morris
The visual has, to a large extent, shaped debates about memory in German culture: "the visual" has become metonymic for memory, and "memory" has become metonymic for the Holocaust. Exploring modes of anxiety at the center of cultural theory and works of art, the seminar will focus on the acoustic aspects of the memory of anxiety, with particular attention to the phenomena of paranoia, surveillance, and eavesdropping. We will think about the specificity of German anxiety – anxiety about modernity, anxiety about Jews, anxiety about urbanization, anxiety about being German – and how sound and listening bear on these. In turning away from the primacy of the visual to foreground sound, we will also examine what might be meant by the sounds of memory; the relationship between reading texts on translation and eavesdropping; homophonic poetry translation; and the complex relationship between sound and meaning. We will start with Freud's "Problem of Anxiety" and move to works by Benjamin, Adorno, Brecht, Pessoa, Derrida, Barthes, Kittler, Attali, Henze, Schönberg, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Bachmann, W.G. Sebald, Adeena Karasick, Marcel Beyer, Syberberg and Fassbinder.
Dealing with the German cultural archive of the last 30 years means dealing to a large extent with representations of militant left politics of the seventies and of the response of the German state apparatus. One can't help thinking that almost all authors, filmmakers and artists have contributed to this discussion at some point in their careers: Kluge, Jelinek, Vesper, Fassbinder, Heiner Müller, Goetz, Meinhof, Petzold, von Düffel, Abish, Delius, Böll, Cosgrove, Polke, Beuys, Haines, and Cabaret Voltaire, to name just a few. How do versions of the story of German terrorism in their diverse media and genres vary over the past three decades? How do concepts of the relationship between politics, violence, and aesthetics change? What notions of the terrorist, the partisan, and the urban guerilla are employed in the discourse of terror? What fantasies of control are deployed in the memoirs of politicians, bureaucrats and terrorists?
This class is about the o-eyness of the O. And the a-eyness of the A. And about how letterforms from A to O work in literary texts, advertisements, fine arts, architecture, and films.
How do we read the meaning of the letter? Analyzing a broad range of texts, both historically and systematically, we will deal with letterpress printing in Early Modern Europe, with type and national identity, with the cult of the lower case, with spacing, with the meaning of helvetica, and with moving typography in film title sequences in the digital age. We'll deal with egg-poems of the Baroque, the monstrous text of Hamann, the advertisements of Schwitters, the exoticism of letterforms, with hieroglyphs and calligraphy in comparison, and with the question of how to film Mallarme's A Coup des Dés. We will read The Telephone Book and The Making of the Typographic Man, Peirce, Derrida and Giesecke. O je! (Geez!)
On October 2, 2007, DaimlerChrysler and Sony announced to sell their property in the centre of the Potsdamer Platz as they had “overrated the importance of Berlin for their business.” Also this year, and after much political pressure, the Freie Universität finished ninth and last in the consolation round of the so-called ‘Exzellenzinitiative’ to identify “elite universities” in Germany. (Humboldt Universität and the TU did not qualify.) The Love Parade moved to the Ruhrgebiet. A second attempt after 1970 to sell a so-called “Berliner Schule” of filmmakers did not catch on. In June 2004, Texte zur Kunst, the most important German journal of contemporary art and culture, which had emphatically moved to Berlin in 2000, published issue 54, titled “Escape to New York?”. What’s wrong with Berlin? Nothing, of course! It’s not Berlin’s fault that it cannot live up to its hype. The class will look at the Berlin hype both in Germany and the USA in historical perspective. What has fueled the Berlin fantasy since the 19th century? What is Berlin kitsch? What has become of the repeatedly proclaimed encounter of the East and the West? What does it mean to understand culture in terms of center and periphery? What constitutes a city? We will look at films, literary texts, works of art and architecture, and scholarly and journalistic texts.
Instructors: Leslie Morris, Amy Kaminski
Fünf Minuten Amerika, Mein Bummelleben in Amerika, Amerika ist anders, Amerika und Griechenland, Paradies Amerika, Yankeeland, Im Dollarland, Amerika wie ich es sah, Drüben steht Amerika, Hallo, hier spricht Amerika - in the 1920's tons of books with titles like these were published in Germany. They begin with sentences as 'Seitdem er aus Amerika zurückgekehrt war, war mit dem Mann nichts mehr anzufangen", they end with sentences as “Wir stehen jetzt Aug' in Auge dem lebendigen Amerika gegenüber - was kümmern uns noch Bücher!" Even the yearbook of the Goethe Society had to publish an article ‘Goethe in Amerika' in 1929.
What are the semiotic/touristic markers these authors deploy in their travelogues? What versions of America do they narrate? Which topoi can be isolated from their books? Why are Germans so fascinated by elevators? Why are German men afraid of the American Girl? The course will focus on how 'Amerika' functions as Europe's other in these texts. Most America/Europe binaries that are still used nowadays – such as 'surface' vs. 'tradition', 'superficial' vs. 'profound' – had become popular in the years after World War I. In the late eighties and early nineties, the German band FSK launched a series of albums (American Sector, Son of Kraut, The Sound of Music, Original Gasman Band) that explored various forms of cultural transatlantic imports and re-imports. Its frontman, Thomas Meinecke, one of the forerunners of so-called German 'Popliteratur', says that when looking for Germany you have to go to Texas. What are the strategies of these artists for displacing Euro-American-Euro desires?
In the last part of our course we will see what happens to German authors with literary projects sitting in New York on September 11. How do Germans witness the first major historic event of global society?
Questions of gender and citizenship in the West have their roots in the transatlantic "age of revolutions," and they have remained central to political developments in Europe and the Americas to the present day. Subsequent moments of intersection between transformations in gender relations and political struggles, such as the feminist movements of the second half of the twentieth century, have also been transatlantic phenomena. These recent periods of movement resurgence lend themselves to analyses that parallel the research on the late-eighteenth century and early-nineteenth century revolutionary moments.
This seminar is organized around analyses of and comparison across a series of key historical moments when challenges to the political order and challenges to the gender order intersected in Europe and the U.S. It will integrate literary, historical, and sociological perspectives on these struggles. By using literary texts and political tracts produced by women themselves in diverse revolutionary moments, as well as secondary analyses theorizing these transformations, we examine issues of political language and identities, perspective, voice, and intersecting inequalities. We consider competing definitions of feminism, radicalism, transformation, inclusion, equality, and citizenship in European and American politics from 1776 to 2000.
The periods/transformations on which we will focus are:
Instructors: Arlene Teraoka and Ruth-Ellen Joeres
Our seminar addresses literary and cultural theories and primary texts in German studies in an exploratory spirit on various levels of complexity, using a team-based and case-based approach to learning. We seek to develop an interpretive practice based on fluid collaborations between all seminar participants: between students, between students and faculty, as well as between faculty. Our goal is collaboratively to explore and to articulate a complex interpretation of texts that incorporates different, even competing, standpoints and analytic categories. We are most interested in learning to talk about texts where a discussion of one category of difference (race, for example) leads to problematic erasures, assumptions, or tacit claims about another category (for example, class or gender). While we will familiarize ourselves with various critical approaches that form the foundation of our discipline, we want to integrate the study of theory with the complex and often messy practice of interpretation. We do not think it is easy to read texts, and our seminar seeks to explore, to exploit, and to articulate that difficulty to its fullest extent. We hope to invite several guests to speak with us about their own work as cultural critics in an educational institution ostensibly committed to diversity.
The assignments will be selective in order to allow time for discussion and analytic depth. They will encompass a variety of genres, from critical essays to novels, from short stories to films, in English and in German. Primary texts will include the film Beyond Silence, Bernhard Schlink's Der Vorleser, Caroline Auguste Fischer's "Wilhelm der Neger," and Franz Zorn's Mars. Readings will include classic (foundational) and current writings in feminist theory, cultural studies, minority discourse, and queer theory.
Instructor: Jochen Schulte-Sasse
The course, which is cross-listed with Comparative Literature and CSDS, offers a close reading of Kant's Critique of Judgment. Although most sessions will focus on close readings of particular sections of Kant's third critique, several sessions will be dedicated to the philosophical, historical and biographical background of Kant's third critique. Lectures on the philosophical background of the third critique will focus on the notions of self-consciousness and intellectual intuition in Kant and German Idealism, on the concept of “inner sense” from Locke to Kant and on the relationship of the third to the first critique (Critique of Pure Reason).
Instructor: Jochen Schulte-Sasse
This course focuses on short theoretical texts (such as fragments and aphorisms). While a few short essays are on the reading list (by Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Engels, and Nietzsche), the main focus will be on sayings, epigrams, aphorisms, apothegms, and fragments written (roughly) between 1784 and 1996. Besides the ones mentioned, authors include Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Benjamin, Adorno, and Hans Blumenberg.
Instructor: Poul Houe
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) was one of the most original thinkers and writers of the 19th century. Deeply indebted to Christian scriptures but also to philosophical writings from Plato to Hegel, he assaulted traditional Western philosophy and the social and religious smugness of his time. Probing the question, “What does it mean to be(come) a fully human being?” Kierkegaard made a compelling case for the personal and subjective and paved the way for the literary and philosophical movement of Existentialism. He became one of the dominant cultural forces of the twentieth century, and in the twenty-first century his influence seems unabated.
This topics course is an introduction to Kierkegaard as a literary, philosophical, psychological, social, and Christian writer. It relates his work to the Golden Age of early- to mid-nineteenth century Denmark and outlines his later influence upon thinkers and writers worldwide from the nineteenth century onward. His controversy with systemic reason and institutionalized religion will be explored in texts that are of particular interest to today's readers. Attention to the dialectical and poetic dimensions of Kierkegaard's oeuvres is key to an understanding of his concerns. When he communicated his uncompromising ideas indirectly – under the guise of pseudonymity, irony, and other artistic devices – it was to entice each of his readers to undertake a personal search for existential and religious truth. Far from advocating an anti-social stance, Kierkegaard wished to counter what has been called "the self-interested individualism of modern civil society."
Instructor: Kaaren Grimstad
The aim of this course is twofold: to introduce and set in their historical context the major primary sources for the tales we think of as constituting Scandinavian (or more properly Norse) mythology; and to examine the narrative structure of the mythological tales themselves. In order to facilitate the integration of the two parts of this goal, the course has been structured in the following manner: during the first six weeks we will read and discuss the primary material and a selection of articles dealing with medieval historiography and interpretation of the texts; the remaining nine weeks will be devoted to reading and discussing specific groups of tales. Lectures and discussions in the first part of the course will focus on the historical background of the primary sources (Snorri Sturluson's Edda and Ynglinga saga, the Poetic Edda, Saxo Grammaticus's History of the Danes) and will introduce the theoretical material. Discussions in the second part of the course will focus on questions about the individual tales that could be answered by applying the theoretical material.
Instructor: Kaaren Grimstad
How would you like to spend your fall with shape-shifters, dragons and dragon-slayers, witches and wizards, man-eating ghouls and giants? These are some of the characters from traditional Icelandic folklore and legend that you will meet in the 13th-century Icelandic sagas. This course surveys the historical-fictional prose chronicles written in thirteenth-century Iceland known as sagas. We will read a selection of these sagas and attempt to understand both how they are structured and what they tell us about medieval Icelandic society. Students will read some critical studies of sagas and participate in group discussions.
Instructor: Poul Houe
The course explores milestones of Scandinavian fiction, lyrical poetry, drama, and criticism since WWII. The dominance of modernism will be seen as challenged by strands of realism and by reconfigurations of modernism itself: postmodernist modes, new strategies and roles for the reader. Around 2000, a simultaneity of literary discourses and voices appears to have supplanted the more univocal scenarios of previous decades, and the literary scene seems to have increasingly become a field of artistic and media transformations. In-depth discussions will address individual texts and authors, socio-cultural trends, and national and transnational characteristics.
Instructor: Göran Stockenström
We will study the selected plays by Ibsen in the context of modern theater, with special emphasis on different critical methods of interpretation. Our starting point is always in the dramatic text and its potential transformation on the stage. Close reading will be our main objective, and together we should be able to open new wedges into the heart of the matter. This course will offer different models of entering and, in turn, being entered by the imaginative world of these wonderful plays. A couple of articles on the sign system of theater will introduce you to the visual, corporal and nonlinguistic signs that are such integral parts of the theater form, text to performance. To offer as broad a spectrum as possible of Ibsen's scholarship, I have also selected a number of divergent critical articles. All texts are studied from a historical perspective and as such they mirror significant changes within drama and theater in the nineteenth century with important ramifications for theater in the twentieth century.
Instructor: Göran Stockenström
In this course we will examine Strindberg's naturalistic tragedies from The Father (1887) to Creditors (1890), and what Eugene O'Neill termed his "supernaturalistic" or "behind-life plays" from To Damascus (1898) to The Pelican (1907). Theater can develop essentially in two directions: to bring the audience closer to a mimetic/objective "reality," and to take the audience into the realm of interiority by imaginative and expressive means. The accelerating hunt for the illusion of reality on the stage culminates in the latter part of the nineteenth century. At the turn of the century, dramatists seek to formulate different solutions to the dilemma of representation. The continuum from realism to expressionism is reflected with varying emphasis in different movements in the art and literature of the twentieth century. This course will attempt to study the latter in the context of Strindberg's literary and dramatic oeuvre, taking as its starting point the crisis in the theater in the late-nineteenth century. Our analysis will center on the dramatic text and its transformation through the mise-en-scène of the theater.
Instructor: Poul Houe
World-renowned author of the fictional autobiography Out of Africa (adapted by Sidney Pollack into an Oscar-winning movie featuring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the lead roles) and four major collections of stories and tales, Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen was an immensely astute and fastidious practitioner of the art of storytelling. Her deeply historical yet unconventional imagination and mode(s) of narration make her writings a gem for avid readers and literature buffs. While Dinesen/Blixen's (Danish) background is deeply European, her outlook is colored by indelible life experiences in colonial Africa; and while her visions and artistic devices are informed by layers of cultural tradition and by the canon of world literature, their boundary-crossing range is second to none. A knowledgeable student of the past, Dinesen is a modern writer of great consequence, boldly defying received wisdoms about the roles of men and women, gender and sexuality, societal order and individual freedom, religion and society, persona and identity, desire and destiny, to say nothing of irony, humor, and tragedy. The course will explore Dinesen/Blixen's tantalizing life and work in its 20th century socio-cultural context. Close readings will decode her post-romantic interlacing of history and myth and the intricate functions of narrator and style, artist and characters, nature and society within her texts; we will explore their existential, psychological, philosophical, and political affiliations from a variety of perspectives, such as narratology and semiotics, feminist and post-colonial theory. The question of Dinesen/Blixen's bicultural/bilingual artistic profile will be addressed in the context of reader responses to her work worldwide in the twenty-first century. Lectures and class discussions will be staggered, and group work will alternate with individual student presentations. Brief orientations about past and current Dinesen/Blixen scholarship will be provided, and film adaptations of two stories will be incorporated as well. In addition to oral contributions in class, two term papers and one final take home essay exam are required; Scan 5670 students will need to utilize at least one secondary source in each of their term papers.
Instructor: Poul Houe
The course will focus on Georg Brandes (1842-1927) – arguably the foremost Nordic and European literary critic of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century – and his importance for modern literary (and cultural) criticism.
An immensely versatile, innovative, and influential critic of European literature past and present, Brandes wrote extensively on several principal European writers (e.g., Goethe and Heine) and literary currents (e.g., German Romanticism). He also introduced Nietzsche to the world, initiated research in Hans Christian Andersen and Kierkegaard, inspired both Ibsen and Strindberg, and triggered a modern breakthrough in Nordic literature. Personally connected with countless European intellectuals and artists, Brandes was the outstanding cosmopolitan humanist of his time, devoted equally to international peace and to minority rights.
Representative selections from his multifaceted work will be studied in historical context and English translation, and those which have best stood the test of time will be discussed in depth. Brandes was an activist critic whose involvement in decisive and divisive socio-political controversies invites comparisons to such recent intellectual icons as Edward Said.
Instructor: Kaaren Grimstad
The course will be devoted to developing an understanding of the grammatical structure and acquiring a reading knowledge of Old Norse/Old Icelandic by reading texts, with a secondary focus on general aspects of the culture and its literature, including some practice reading aloud using modern Icelandic pronunciation. In order to accomplish these goals, thoughtful attention to the assigned paragraphs on grammar and some memorization of paradigms will be required. Translation techniques will include both close reading of texts with sentence analysis (parsing/identifying grammatical forms) and rapid reading for content only. In order that students have maximum opportunity to work together and help each other learn the grammar system, I will eventually ask pairs of students to be responsible for acting as teachers and leading the parsing of certain passages. All readings from the reader, An Introduction to Old Norse by E.V. Gordon, will be genuine Old Norse texts from the thirteenth century. We will read a selection of some of the greatest literature of medieval Iceland.
Instructors: Kaaren Grimstad and Ray Wakefield
In this graduate seminar the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch offers a unique "two-for-one special": two great, medieval Germanic stories (Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg and The Saga of Tristram and Isond), two medieval languages (Middle High German and Old Norse), two instructors – and only one day a week! The course is designed so that students only need reading knowledge of one of these languages, and qualified undergraduates are also encouraged to participate. We will look at such diverse topics as translating, narrative structure and cultural themes, character portrayal, and audience. The course will include sessions on medieval illustrations of the story, Wagner’s Tristan, and a 20th-century movie version.