Each special topics course examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework.
Classics of German Literature and Thought: Frankenstein read Goethe. Shouldn’t you?
This course introduces students to some inspiring, provocative, and inventive literary writers in the German cultural tradition. Our readings include texts from four centuries, from the first internationally successful German pop novel, i.e., Goethe’s acclaimed Sorrows of Young Werther from 1774, to Daniel Kehlmann’s recent historical bestseller The Measurement of the World, published in 2005. The writers on the reading list are representative of romantic, realist, modernist and postmodern trends in German literature; our focus here is on prose fiction that is highly diverse both in terms of its themes and its styles. We will ask what it means to awaken one night after uneasy dreams to find oneself transformed into a giant insect (Franz Kafka’ famous fantastic tale The Metamorphosis); we will see how a rigid Prussian writer is coming undone in the course of his Italian journey (Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice); we will examine metropolitan street life in 1930s Vienna (Veza Canetti’s The Yellow Street); we will discuss youthful melancholia in the 1990s Berlin Republic (Judith Hermann’s Summerhouse, Later) along with several other interesting topics. Heinrich von Kleist, Joseph Roth, and Adalbert Stifter are the other major writers on our program. Students can expect to sharpen their critical skills in analyzing prose fiction and to gain a basic historical understanding of German literature in the broader European context.
Student learning goals
Students can expect to sharpen their critical skills in analyzing prose and to gain a basic historical understanding of German literature in the larger European context.
General method of instruction
Lecture and discussion format. Readings in English translation. The class is conducted in English.
Class assignments and grading
Course requirements include regular attendance, active participation, short reading quizzes, a midterm and a take-home final.