GER 386 • Age Of Goethe: Self & Society
MW 100pm-230pm BUR 232
The Age of Goethe – Self and Society from 1750 to 1830
Martin Baeumel, firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of now widely accepted notions of the self, art, and society originate in the Age of Goethe: every individual is and should be a unique mix of emotional and intellectual qualities; literature is a good – and entertaining! – way to experience the world and others; all art is autonomous, independent of immediate political, moral, social, and other concerns; society is the public assembly of private individuals.
This course will survey this founding age of modern German literature, which encompasses five conventionally defined literary periods: Aufklärung, Empfindsamkeit, Sturm und Drang, Klassik and Romantik. We will read and engage with poetry and prose texts as well as some philosophical and aesthetic essays written between 1750 and 1830, among them such classics of German literature as Goethe’s suicidal Werther, Heine’s biting satires, the disturbing (and disturbingly contemporary) stories written by Kleist, and the reflections on the powers, limits, and duties of humans and of art by thinkers like Kant, Herder, or Schlegel. The texts are chosen to cover the important genres and sub-genres of the time, such as Erlebnislyrik, i.e. lyric poetry that captures an individual’s emotional response to the world, or the Bildungsroman, i.e. a novel that follows an individual as s/he searches for and (hopefully) finds his/her place in society.
A few overarching considerations will guide our readings and discussions:
- The literary, social, and philosophical notions of self, art, and society mentioned above are the outcome of almost a century of fierce debate and experimentation, making it imperative to reconstruct the historical context of individual texts and to trace reasons for and effects of literary change.
- We will also acquire and practice using the analytic vocabulary required to interpret literature, both in terms of its internal mechanisms as works of art and how it can (or cannot) represent the world and society.
- Finally, we will contextualize our readings with reference to seminal secondary literature on the Age of Goethe. We will see how literary scholars frame and make their arguments, and will investigate how certain assumptions and approaches lead to different interests and results when analyzing literature. Most articles will be in English.
The class will be conducted in German, but temporary switches to English are fine if you find yourself in a linguistic bind. Papers will be in German.
Texts and Sections
*Students must purchase items marked with an asterisk as Reclam editions. All other texts will be available on the course site.
I. Methods and Tools
Texts on narratology, poetics, poetry
Research tools: encyclopedias, literary histories, bibliographies
II. The Politics of Enlightenment – Thinking and Seeing a better Self and Society
Kant, Was ist Aufklärung, philosophical essay
Hippel, Über die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Weiber, pedagogical/sociological treatise (excerpts)
poems by Brockes, Haller, and Hagedorn
III. Sentiments and Geniuses – When Self and Society Connect and Clash
*Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, epistolary novel
Herder, Shakespear, essay
poems by Klopstock and Goethe
IV. The Art of Improvement – Perfecting Self and Society through Literature
*Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the first Bildungsroman
*Schiller, Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung, essay on aesthetics
*Schlegel, Athenäums-Fragmente, philosophical fragments (excerpts)
poems by Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin, and Novalis
V. The Dark Side Within – National Disasters and the Self
*Kleist, Die Verlobung in St. Domingo, novella
*Heine, Die Harzreise, semi-fictional travel report
poems by Eichendorff and Heine
(More detailed instructions and rubrics for assignments will be available at a later point.)
In preparation for class discussion of the assigned readings, each student will choose a passage from the text and prepare a brief (1-2 minute) statement about it. Issues might include: how the passage relates to the whole text, how it exemplifies (or contradicts) the general formal and thematic aspects of the text, and how the passage could serve to compare this text with other texts read. The choosing and presenting of a passage will be part of your participation grade.
2) Methodology Paper
After the first section, each student will write a 3-page paper applying one or more of the methodological approaches we covered to a text of their choice. The paper will explain why the chosen methodology is well suited to analyzing the text in regards to the interpreter’s overarching interests, and will illustrate the value of the analytic tools in a few examples.
3) Textual interpretation and analysis
In order to practice the interplay of technical scholarly terminology and analysis, each student will present a 15-minute introduction to the central issues, themes, and formal concerns of one text in more detail, advancing a coherent interpretation of the work and identifying the approach, methodology, and resources upon which that interpretation draws. The presentation must end with a few theses and/or questions to start class discussion.
4) Annotated Bibliography
In preparation for the research paper, each student will research and write an annotated bibliography on a field or sub-field of literary investigation. Ideally the annotated bibliography should contain about 20 items, split between the classics of the field and contemporary work. All items must be in MLA style, as must the written manuscript form.
5) Criticism Paper
Based on a few (2-4) scholarly articles of their choice, each student will write a 3-4-page paper advancing a line of inquiry that draws on the scholarship’s results and omissions. The paper should point out the articles strengths and weaknesses, identify the student’s own approach, and make arguments illustrated by select passages of a literary or philosophical text.
6) Research Paper
The final course project is a 10-page research paper (the equivalent of a 20-minute conference paper) making an original argument about one or more of the texts read, drawing on the analytic tools, the scholarly articles, and the thematic aspects we developed and discussed in class. Other texts can be chosen if approved by the instructor. The paper must be presented in MLA style for typography, references, and spelling.
The research paper may draw on previous course assignments. Students may not re-use their own writing word for word, but are encouraged to draw on work done for the methodology paper, the criticism paper, the textual analysis and, of course, the annotated bibliography.
The paper will be developed in stages:
- Week 8: Students meet individually with instructor for 15-20 minutes to develop and discuss their research question.
- Week 10: Each student turns in an abstract and outline of the proposed paper, together with the preliminary bibliography, annotated to represent their contributions to the paper’s research question.
- Week 15: Students have an informal in-class conversation about their papers.
- Due date for final papers is the official exam date.
Preparation and Participation 20%
Methodology Paper 10%
Textual Analysis, Oral Presentation 10%
Annotated Bibliography 10%
Criticism Paper 15%
Research Paper, Outline 5%
Research Paper (10 pages) 30%
GER 346L • German Lit, Enlightmnt-Present
MWF 1200pm-100pm GEA 114
(also listed as
EUS 347 )
A survey of German literature and culture from the mid-eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. This course will cover the intellectual and literary movements of the Enlightenment, Classicism, Romanticism, the Pre-March era, Realism, and Naturalism. We will read and discuss texts from the main literary genres (prose, poetry, and drama) as well as some essays and look at artworks from each of the periods in question. We will also learn about some of the most important historical events of the time, including the French Revolution, Industrialization, the German Revolution of 1848, and the German Empire. Our discussions of the texts and artworks will follow the topics of Love and Nature and the ways each individual text and each time period have similar or different understandings of these concepts. Questions we will ask include: What do love and nature mean for each time period? Which person/group of persons is imagined as most ‘natural’ and most ‘lovable’? How do love and nature relate to political order or disorder? What happens when culture and love, or mankind and nature, clash? What can German literary history tell us about our contemporary understandings of love and nature?
In this course, you will learn to 1) read carefully and thoughtfully, 2) identify the significance of literary works and their relation to historical developments, 3) account for the variations in German writing over the century and a half, 4) compare notions of love and nature in different moments in time.
Lessing: Emilia Galotti
Hoffmann: Der Sandmann
Hauptmann: Bahnwärter Thiel
Additional readings available in a course packet and/or on Blackboard.
2 Exams 25% (10%/15%)
3 Essays 30% (5%/10%/15%)
1 Oral presentation 10%
3 short (15 minute) one-on-one conversations with the instructor 15%
Three semester hours of upper-division coursework in German with a grade of at least C.