Graduate Seminars for Spring 2024

Content for Spring 2024

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

“Heinrich Heine-Studies in Irony”.

The most controversial German author in the 19th century, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) was full of contradictions. He was a Romantic, but he chastised Romanticism; he was a German sentimentalist, but he could be a cynic; he was patriotic, but he lived in Paris; he was a revolutionary, but he warned of Marxist iconoclasts. Whatever he wrote, he ridiculed and subverted German ideology, and in doing so, he indulged, more than anybody else, in the playful use of irony to attack sacrosanct beliefs, be they religious, social, or political. Introducing a very personal style of writing, the first-person narrator most often is identical with the biographical author, his attacks are meant to be personal and are often offensive. Despite an abundance of allusions to persons and events no longer known to the average reader today, Heine’s texts make for amusing reading. Yet, the pleasure may be deceptive, because behind the playing on words, the ironical twists and the satirical polemics lurks a concept of social criticism urging revolutionary change. As a leftist Jewish intellectual in French exile Heine combined too many suspicious traits not to be hated by many readers. As a Jew, as an exile, as a radical and as a Francophile he became a challenge to conventional thinking and, until the student revolution of the 1970s, would never be accepted into the German sanctuary of national culture. Thus, Heine criticism became the most obvious and most ominous paradigm of anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Against the backdrop of this problematic reception, the compact seminar (from January 19 to February 16) will deal with a selection of Heine’s best known poems (Die Loreley, Belsatzar, Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen, Nachtgedanken, Die schlesischen Weber et al.), with excerpts from his essays (Briefe aus Berlin, Ideen. Das Buch Le Grand, Verschiedenartige Geschichtsauffassung, Die Romantische Schule, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland et al.) and the full texts of Deutschand. Ein Wintermärchen and Atta Troll. Ein Sommernachtstraum, and it will place Heine in the context of 19th century social and intellectual history in Germany.

NOTE: This short seminar meets for 5 Fridays from 01/19-02/16/24 only!

German 206/Comp. Lit. 215 (4) Studies in Early Modern.Largier
(Taught in English)

“Studies in Renaissance Literature-The Grotesque, Foolish, and Satirical in Early Modern Literature: Styles, Images, Intellectual Exploration”. 

In his reading of Rabelais, Mikhail Bakhtin foregrounds an imagistic style that reflects the “fullness of life” in a dialogic and carnivalesque manner. At the same time, he observes that early in the history of followers and imitators of Rabelais, this use of images starts to “disintegrate”; that “Rabelaisian images become petty”; that they “begin to acquire the character of genre and manners”, that their “universalism is considerably watered down”; and that they “began to serve the purpose of satire” where “a weakening of the ambivalent image’s positive pole takes place. When the grotesque is used to illustrate an abstract idea, its nature is inevitably distorted. The essence of the grotesque is precisely to present a contradictory and double-faced fullness of life.” The spread of humanism at the end of the fifteenth centuries, and through the sixteenth century in Europe, is a period of radical experimentation of the type that Bakhtin envisions. New technologies appear, new vernacular languages are instituted, and new models of representation take shape. In this seminar we will study the linguistic, literary, and visual cultures of the grotesque, tracing both their evolution and their imbrication in political and religious struggles. While we will question some of Bakhtin’s assumptions about the carnivalesque and its origin we will explore the investment of early modern intellectuals in the—strategic, erudite, pleasurable—play with the very ambivalence of images Bakhtin is speaking of here. Why are the humanists so fascinated by figures of the fool, the satyr, and of the grotesque? What meanings (religious, political, ethnographic) cling to these images? What critical potential of these figures do they explore and how is this exploration elaborated in their styles? What is the role they ascribe to the literary and pictorial imagination in this process? How do these experiments lead to the stylistic excesses of what cultural historians call “The Baroque”? These are some of the questions we will ask and discuss based on a selection of texts by Clément Marot, Marguerite de Navarre, Poggio Bracciolini, Teofilo Folengo, Sebastian Brant, Desiderius Erasmus, Ulrich von Hutten, François Rabelais, Johann Fischart, and William Shakespeare. In our discussion, we will also include images—most of the texts entail illustrations—and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Jan Brueghel, and Hans Baldung Grien, and we will be in dialogue with contemporary critical writing on the grotesque heritage.

German 267 (4) Media Archaeology. Baer
(Taught in English)

This seminar surveys the burgeoning field of media archaeology, exploring its wide-ranging implications for media theory, historiography, curation, and creative practice. We will read core texts in the field, including writings on time axis manipulation, topoi, deep time, radical media archaeology, zombie media, and experimental media archaeology. We will also consider recent scholarly interventions on a broad array of media (e.g., paper, screens, sound, television, wireless, virtual reality)—interventions that have extended, challenged, and reoriented the field and placed it in more sustained conversation with decolonial, Afrofuturist, feminist, and queer thought.