Austria in Text and Film II: 1945 to Present

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Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

4 semesters (5 recommended) of College level German, or proficiency in German acquired in other ways (bilingual family, etc), or successful participation in L321 G: Austria in Text and Film I.

Additional student cost: 

Approx. € 10-20 for book purchase.



From 1945, Austria, the country that was left when the borders of Europe were redefined after WW I, tried to (re-)establish itself as a nation. Similar to the problem of German national identity, the Austrian definition of a nation widely uses language as the main means to explain what is Austria and who is Austrian. Based on this definition, political and social discourse often has to deal with the same unfortunate pro-German sentiment that lead to Austria’s annexation in 1938, and also with a rather strong sentiment against Austrian minorities identified by their different languages. While official politics was (and still is) rather reluctant to address these issues, and while populist politicians have abused these sentiments to enhance the nationalistic feelings of Austrians (thus also promoting xenophobia), artists and writers in particular have expressed in their art their concern about such tendencies. With their works, they have succeeded in raising the awareness of such issues with many Austrians, and they have promoted a public discussion of these problems, a discussion which is now generally accepted, but was not tolerated for decades after WW II. Austrian post-war thinkers have found ways to communicate their ideas despite the general taboo to talk about Austrian involvement in WW II, e.g., and a large majority of modern Austrian writers and filmmakers continue to discuss issues the official Austria tries to play down, especially but not only since a populist-lead party with neo-nazi elements was invited to share government responsibilities as recently as 2000 and won over 25% of votes in the Viennese election of 2010.


Learning outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students should be able to...

  • Understand Austrian history, politics, society, and culture, through the study of works of post-WWII and contemporary authors and filmmakers.
  • Discuss outstanding and paradigmatic texts in chronological order
  • Comprehend the development of both contemporary Austrian literature, and the topics and issues relevant in Austrian society from the occupation years to the present.
  • Watch and discuss movies not as a subject of film criticism, but as expressions of their times.
  • Improve their German language skills through reading/viewing and discussion of all texts/films in German.


Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Group discussions
  • Several shorter texts will be read by the entire class and provide the basic structure and chronological frame to the course
  • One or two movie adaptations of books will be shown and discussed. 
  • Each student will be asked to read a novel and watch a movie and present these to class. Depending on the choice of students, the emphasis of the course can vary – from post-war to more contemporary writing and filmmaking.
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Regular physical and intellectual presence and participation in discussions - 20%
  • Two presentations – one on a book, one on a film from the “optional reading/viewing”-list -15% each
  • One term paper - 15%
  • One take-home midterm test - 15%
  • Comprehensive oral final test - 20%

The session-by-session syllabus depends largely on the students’ choice of books and films for reports. It is usually handed out in the second week of the semester.

Required readings: 


  • Ilse AICHINGER: Spiegelgeschichte (1954); Das Fenster-Theater (1954)
  • Ingeborg BACHMANN: Das dreißigste Jahr (1961); Jugend in einer österreichischen Stadt (1961); Ein Schritt nach Gomorrha (1961)
  • Thomas BERNHARD: Der Kulterer (1974, exc., F)
  • Norbert GSTREIN: Einer (1988)
  • Peter HANDKE: Wunschloses Unglück (1971, F)
  • Marlen HAUSHOFER: Wir töten Stella (1958)
  • Peter HENISCH: Die kleine Figur meines Vaters (1975, exc., F)
  • Hertha KRÄFTNER: Wenn ich mich getötet haben werde (1951)
  • Christoph RANSMAYR: Der Weg nach Surabaya (1997; exc.)
  • Gerhard ROTH: Die Geschichte der Dunkelheit (1991, exc.)


  • Peter HANDKE: Noch einmal für Thukydides (2nd ed, 1995, exc.)
  • Josef HASLINGER: Das Elend Amerikas (1992), Politik der Gefühle (new ed., 1995, exc.)
  • Robert MENASSE: Das Land ohne Eigenschaften (1992, exc.)
  • W. G. SEBALD: Die Beschreibung des Unglücks (1985, exc.); Unheimliche Heimat (1991, exc.)
  • Peter TURRINI: Liebe Mörder! (1996, exc.)
  • Isolde CHARIM u. Doron RABINOVICI (ed.): Österreich. Berichte aus Quarantanien (2000, exc.)