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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Richard T Gray
GERMAN 542
Seattle Campus

Twentieth-Century Prose

Selected modern German novels, short novels, and short stories by representative authors dealing with the social and political problems of Germany as well as with individual problems of existence and identity.

Class description

This seminar will begin with an examination of three short fictional pieces by Franz Kafka (“Beschreibung eines Kampfes,” “Bericht für eine Akademie,” and “Josefine, die Sängerin”) written in the first-person form. We will take these short stories as “prototypes” for different varieties of first-person narration in modernist fiction. Concentrating in particular on matters of narrative form and perspective, we will examine six recent (postwar) novels for their use of the first-person perspective, keeping the context of Kafka’s stories in mind: Peter Handke’s Die Wiederholung, W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, Marcel Beyer’s Spione, Bernhard Schlink’s Der Vorleser, Thomas Bernhard’s Holzfällen, and Wolfgang Hildesheimer’s Marbot. Participants in the seminar should read Gerard Genette’s book on narrative theory, Narrative Discourse, prior to the first day of class. The first seminar session will deal with principles of narrative theory as addressed in Genette’s book.

Course Requirements: The course project will be a common “conference,” scheduled to take place during final exam week, in which students will present “conference papers” dealing with questions of narrative form in a modern or contemporary first-person novel not treated in the general seminar sessions (a list of possible titles will be provided). Depending on the size of the seminar, students will work individually on a single text, or in small “session” groups centered around a common novel. Participants will submit a “prospectus” for their conference paper, present a twenty-minute conference paper, and turn in an extended written version of their ideas (ca. 12-15 pp.). This format will allow us to gain knowledge about a larger cross-section of modern first-person fictional texts and their narrative possibilities, and hopefully allow us to draw some conclusions about the peculiarities in use of first-person narrative forms by contemporary German-language writers.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Stephanie N. Welch
Date: 02/09/2009