Modern German Literature: 1900-1945

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Course Information
Discipline(s): 
Comparative Literature
Literature
Terms offered: 
Spring
Credits: 
3
Language of instruction: 
German
Description: 

The course deals with some of the most significant authors and developments in German literature from the turn of the century until 1945. Special emphasis is to be given to the literary movement Modernity, viewed as an epoch interpreted from a historical aspect and as defined by literary theory. In order to identify the distinctiveness of so-called Classical Modernity, the seminar will examine the first modern literary forms which appeared in Vienna at the turn of the century and will progress on to Exile Literature via German Expressionism. Modernity as a European movement will be depicted using Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Arthur Schnitzler in Vienna as examples of authors who paved the way; then Georg Heym, Alfred Döblin and Gottfried Benn as important representatives of German Expressionism. Preoccupation with Franz Kafka as a special example of modern literature and finally with Thomas Mann as a central representative of Modernity and Exile Literature will complete the picture. Thomas Mann is simultaneously pivotal for the comprehension of European cultural history. For his tale “Death in Venice” provides a connection to Weimar Classicism, in particular to Goethe’s “Diary of an Italian Journey”. The latter is characterized as a recollection of Antiquity – with Johann Winckelmann as precursor– and brings the history of the Occident to the fore. We shall be pursuing the transformation of perception. This includes an incessant enthusiasm for Italy and the Old World up to the defragmentation of the protagonists and the morbidity in Mann’s tales, two central characteristics typical of Modernity. We shall retrace the literary elements of Modernity precisely using text samples. This will take place on two levels: those of content and form. The works of expressionist Modernity are set in the city and at war, for which the authors of Modernity have developed their own language in both their aesthetic and factual realm of experience. By analyzing the language in chosen text segments, the students will not only learn about the characteristics of the epoch of Modernity in theory, but will also experience them vividly.