Courses Spring 2021

Please check for course schedules and up-to-date information.

*All course meetings for Spring 2021 will be held virtually.

Aesthetics of Existence, Life as a Work of Art?
GMAN 321 (Yale College) / GMAN 694 (Graduate)

*Max Kade Visiting Professor Thomas Khurana

A research seminar exploring issues at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics. We discuss the modern idea that in order to attain their highest vocation human beings need to form and transform their nature like a work of art. On this picture, we have to turn our sensible nature into a “second nature” that is expressive of supersensible ideas. After a brief look at the affinity of the virtuous and the beautiful in ancient thought, we discuss the emergence and articulation of the modern idea in Kant, Schiller, Goethe, Schelling, Hegel, and Nietzsche, before exploring how this thought has informed 20th century thought (Adorno, Foucault, Rancière, Agamben). In the last section of the seminar, we highlight the critical notion that the most recent phase of capitalism has exploited the idealist, romantic, and critical ideas of artistic creation and self-creation and turned them into a new disciplinary mechanism (Boltanski/Chiapello).

Participants should be familiar with issues in modern aesthetics and ethics.

Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere
GMAN 409

Kirk Wetters and *Max Kade Visiting Professor Thomas Khurana

An in-depth discussion of the idea, the structure and the recent radical transformations of the “critical public sphere,” considered a cornerstone of liberal-democratic society. We explore the modern emergence of the critical public sphere from the public forums of critique and literary-critical discourse, followed by the two waves of “structural transformations of the public sphere” (Habermas). (1) Transformation through mass media and consumer culture, and (2) the most recent transformations of the public sphere through social media. These transformations have been welcomed as a democratization of public life, but at the same time may endanger the emancipatory ideals of enlightenment and critique at the heart of the public sphere. The ambivalent character of the recent changes, the fragmentation, capitalization, and surveillance of public life as well as strategies of resistance are highlighted.

Contemporary German Culture through Sports
GMAN 158 (L5)

Lieselotte Sippel


The History of the German Language
GMAN 164 (L5)

Theresa Schenker

Introduction to important historical and cultural developments in the German language through exemplary literary and cultural texts and objects. Students gain insight into early development of German language from Old High German to Middle High German and to Early New and New High German. Major literary works from each epoch are examined from the perspective of their use of language. Students also explore cultural and historical contexts which led to linguistic changes.

Green Germany, History and Culture of Sustainability
GMAN 167 (L5)

Marion Gehlker

Climate change and global warming, with their catastrophic effects on life on earth, such as accelerated ice-melting and extreme weather patterns, loss of biodiversity and habitat, safety and health risks, are the defining issues of our time. How did we get there? How will we get out? In this course, we explore Germany’s history and culture of environmentalism and sustainability, which is often traced back to Saxon mining administrator Hans Carl von Carlowitz’ demand in 1716 that only so much wood be cut as could be regrown. We discuss Germany’s history and culture of environmentalism and sustainability from 1900 (Lebensreform, biodynamic agriculture, vegetarianism, Gartenstadt inspired settlements) to the present, with emphasis on 70s and 80s social (justice) movements (alternative life-styles,anti-nuclear protests, Green Party) to the present (Energiewende, renewables, coal and nuclear phase-out, food waste, factory farming & bioethics, consumerism & sustainable life-styles, slow growth/degrowth).

Introduction to German Theater
GMAN 172 (L5)

Thiti Owlarn

An advanced language course that addresses key authors and works of the German theatrical tradition. Refinement of skills in reading comprehension, writing, and speaking. Authors include Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Büchner, Hebbel, Wedekind, Brecht, and Müller.

Political Literature in Germany between 1830 and 2000
GMAN 298

Irina Kogan

In this seminar, we will consider several moments in the history of the German letters in which a challenge to intellectual discourse or literary language emerged from an engagement with the socio-political realm. Without a clear-cut definition of either “politics” or “literature” as our point of departure, we will instead explore moments in which a tension emerges between these two terms, stances, or perspectives. Some of the episodes we will consider will include Heinrich Heine’s call for a politically engaged literature in the 1830s, the controversies around Gottfried Benn’s insistence on autonomous art during the Weimar Republic, Paul Celan’s rethinking of poetic language after the Shoah, Hannah Arendt’s reflections on the role of the intellectual in the world, and W.G. Sebald’s retrospective consideration of literature written during World War II.

The class discussion and reading will take place in English. Depending on demand and interest, a separate discussion section in German may be organized by the instructor.

Game of Thrones and the Theory of Sovereignty
GMAN 313

Kirk Wetters

Introduction to the classical and modern theory of sovereignty in the context of G.R.R. Martin’s popular Game of Thrones series and, secondarily, the television series. Although A Song of Ice and Fire is not a work of German literature, it addresses theoretical and literary‐historical discourses prominent in the German context. Emphasis on literary and theoretical analysis; literature as a testing ground for theory and theory as an analytical framework for evaluating literary and cultural depictions; questioning the basis of the contemporary relevance and popularity of Martin’s fictional universe in light of questions of tragedy, individual agency, myth (vs. history, modernity), realism (vs. fantasy), environmental catastrophe and geopolitics. Students previously enrolled in GMAN 051 are not eligible to enroll in this course.

Philosophy as Literature: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra
GMAN 332 (Yale College) / GMAN 566 (Graduate)

Paul North

A scrupulous reading of Nietzsche’s “great” book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Beyond the three explicit doctrines taught in the book—god’s death, the will to power, and the eternal recurrence of the like—there is a landscape of riddles, paradoxes and parables, songs, screeds and speeches, wise animals, dumb wisemen, teachers who can’t teach, and students who learn everything but the lesson. In short, the book is a summa literarum. We ask what it means to philosophize in and as literature, and how this reckless experiment transforms both.

Performance and Theater
GMAN 341 (Yale College) / GMAN 656 (Graduate)

Katrin Truestedt

What does it mean to perform a role? What does it take to enter a public realm and to be recognized in a role? And how can one play with the expectations of performing a certain self? This course turns to the rich history of theatrical forms and theories of performance and performativity to gain new perspectives on these fundamental questions. Topics include the history of theater, drama, and play from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare, Brecht, and contemporary performances; conceptions of performance, performativity, theatricality, and antitheatricality; speech act theory; subjectivity and authority; performance in the context of race, class, and gender; and the re-entry of the body within the theatrical play. The course combines an introduction to major plays with a historical overview of theatrical forms and a theoretical exploration of performance studies. The course thus practices an instance of “literature in context” studies. While a history of theatrical forms is not the primary goal of the course, it serves as an introduction to that history through the lens of performance studies.

German Novels After 1945
GMAN 365

Rüdiger Campe

The course discusses exemplary novels in German language after 1945 from West and East Germany and Germany after Reunification, as well as from Austria and Switzerland. Part I, “Zero Hour - or Not,” on the political critique of Nazi Germany and the attempt at an aesthetic clean break (e.g., Gunther Grass, Ingeborg Bachmann, Max Frisch); Part II “1968: Revolution or New Interiority,” on social protest versus aesthetic internationalism (e.g., Peter Handke, Christa Wolf, Hubert Fichte, Thomas Bernhard); Part III, “The Attempt at Being Contemporary,” on German and German speaking societies in the global world (e.g., Elfriede Jelinek, Yoko Tawada, Rainald Goetz). While “contemporaneity” is the particular mark of the last section, all works desire to critically intervene in their historical moment. Giving an account of this desire is the goal of the course. Contextualization as needed; close reading of selected passages as the mode of work in the course; all works are provided in English translation and German.

Rethinking Representation
GMAN 734 (Graduate)

Katrin Truestedt

How can we speak for others? What does it mean to be spoken for? And what type of agency is evoked by this constellation? The course explores the implications, both productive and problematic, of representation—for agency and subjectivity, for recognition and acknowledgment, for political action, and for the conception of literature and art. Close readings of major literary works, from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare to Kleist and Kafka, is accompanied by theoretical texts, from Arendt’s notion of the Greek polis to the critique of representation by Foucault, Spivak, and others, and debates about the legal representation of nature in the climate crisis.