Graduate Seminars for Spring 2023

Content for Spring 2023

German 202A (4) Early Literature.  Tennant

“Problems in Medieval German Literature”

This course is for students who want to learn more about the courtly literature of medieval Germany and the critical strategies that have been applied to studying it since the late 18th century. It can serve either as general background on one of the major literary traditions of the European Middle Ages or as a proseminar for later specialized work on premodern German textuality. We will focus on vernacular German texts from the so-called Blütezeit of the 12th and 13th centuries that showcase special techniques, genres, and cultural concerns of the period. Each session pairs a primary text with secondary readings featuring theoretical and methodological approaches that have been used over time to analyze medieval German literature. These pairings are divided into three groups. We read the first group for those key features of medieval German composition that readers can discover from the texts themselves (e.g., typical genres, subgeneric forms, literary techniques, subject matter). With the second group we use contemporary evidence from other aspects in the German Middle Ages (e.g., the political and social structures of the Holy Roman Empire, religious concerns, notions of nation, prescribed social roles) to provide contexts for the primary readings and enhance our understanding of the of them as literature. We read the last group not for its literary features but as a special category of cultural evidence that allows us to explore how and to what extent an earlier literary corpus may be used to evoke the historical and cultural circumstances that produced it. 

Lectures in English. Course work in English, German, Middle High German.  Interest in the subject and good reading knowledge of German are required. Previous knowledge of MHG or another earlier Germanic language is recommended and helpful. Assignments include brief oral reports to the class, a short midterm writing assignment, and either a written final exam or a paper. Advanced undergraduates are welcome; prior consultation with the instructor is encouraged.

German 204 sec.001 (2) Compact Seminar. Seeba

“THEODOR FONTANE: Social Topography of Berlin”.

For many Berlin tourists, Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) has become a kind of literary tour guide who gives some depth to the popular comparison now and then. The nostalgic fascination with restored or rebuilt architecture in Berlin comes alive with characters of the late 19th century who represent the struggle for significance in a rapidly changing urban world. Especially since the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded for the first time for raising journalism to the level of literature, we can appreciate that Fontane relied on his roots in journalism when he became the foremost writer of German Realism, especially of the ‘Berlin novel’. This now popular genre, with its detailed mapping of a sprawling urban society, was rediscovered more than thirty years ago, when unified Germany reinvented itself as the Berlin Republic, with Fontane being celebrated as its literary herald. The journalistic eye for ‘real life’ made him look for the human condition in the banality of everyday experience and to show the prevailing mentality of the time challenged by social and technological modernity. While Fontane refused to practice Realism as an ideological indictment of misery, there is a marked discrepancy between his rigorous social criticism in his reportages, reviews and correspondence on the one hand and the often delightfully humorous representation of problematic figures of his time on the other. The master of “causerie,” Fontane characterized the scheming parvenus, conceited bourgeois, arrogant nobility, ambitious social climbers, smug idealists, pompous nationalists of his novels by their often pretentious conversational rhetoric. As he set the verbal action in the very real Berlin topography of the 1880s and 1890s, tracing such fictional addresses on historical city maps will add a fascinating critical layer to the present Berlin traveler’s experience. The Berlin novels to be discussed include: Irrungen, Wirrungen (1888), Frau Jenny Treibel (1892), Effi Briest (1895), Die Poggenpuhls (1896).

The seminar (with discussions in German, papers in German or English).

NOTE: This short seminar meets for 5 Fridays from 02/24-03/24/23 only!

German 256/Comp. Lit. 214 (4) Problems of Literary Theory. Largier.

“Forming Perception Poetically: Analogy, Allegory, Symbolism”

Notions of analogy, allegory, and symbolism refer to rhetorical devices and practices, forms of poetic language, and modes of forming perception and knowledge. Often understood in opposition to conceptual thought, they are connected with premodern epistemological orders, magical or mythical relations to things and the world, and to a series of modern movements from Romanticism to Symbolism, Surrealism, and Magical Realism. In this seminar, we will make an attempt to understand the basic aspects of analogy, allegory, and symbolism, moving from modes of allegorical reading in Late Antiquity to medieval practices of the imagination, Renaissance notions of magic and symbolism, and Baroque emblematic thought, to modern and modernist engagements with the symbolic. Each session will focus on one particular primary text. A syllabus, including a selection of theoretical texts, will be available in early January.

German 263A (4) Translation. Gokturk

“Translation: History, Politics, Praxis”

In this seminar, we will critically engage past and present practices and theories of translation, analyzing translations as sites of continuing resonance, poetic creativity, and struggle for recognition. One focus will be on translation as a nation-building practice in the German and Turkish contexts, including initiatives of language purification, vernacularization, and education (Bildung). Historical perspectives on the rise of German as a national language, on German-Ottoman literary exchanges, and on language politics in modern Turkey will factor into our comparative analyses. Thinking about entanglements between translation and nationalism, we will address questions of recognition, visibility, and publishing circuits in markets for world literature. The power dynamics of language contact in contemporary societies shaped by migration, multilingual realities, and monolingual state policies will inform and motivate our engagement with historical case studies.

Based on their particular research interests, participants will choose a text or a constellation of texts for their individual semester projects. These projects will be introduced in an oral presentation and developed into a polished translation with a framing paper. Final works can be considered for publication in the online journal Transit:

Course work in English, German, Turkish. The comparative structure of the seminar will allow for the inclusion of case studies from other languages.

German 265/Film 240 (4) Film Theory. Kaes

“Cinemas in Crisis”

The seminar looks at German cinema between 1929 and 1934 through the lens of philosophical writings about crisis — economic, political, and cultural. We will analyze selected films from the pivotal years before and after the ascent of Hitler and ask how culture registered the gradual transition from a democratic to an autocratic system of government. Occasionally we will compare the German production with crisis films from other countries (for instance, King Vidor’s 1934 Our Daily Bread or Dovzhenko’s 1930 Earth). Our interrogation will also address larger theoretical questions, such as the entanglement of aesthetics and politics, modernity and myth, and populism and working class, as well as the very definitions of crisis, state of exception, and fascist thought. We will screen films by Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst, Leni Riefenstahl, and lesser-known documentary and avant-garde works. Most importantly, we will discuss critical interventions by Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger, and Carl Schmitt, as well as retrospective readings of the period by Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, and Hannah Arendt, among others. Readings are in English.  Taught in English.

German 375B (4) Language Pedagogy II. Euba
(Taught in English and German)

This course expands upon the basis of methodology and theory of language teaching covered in 350 and prepares students for teaching at the intermediate level. The theoretical and practical exploration of recent developments in second language teaching concentrates on instructional technology, teaching writing, teaching literary texts, and curriculum design. Students reflect on their development as teachers through a journal, video, and observation of their teaching, and the final portfolio.