GERMAN 303 - Topics in German Culture and the Arts
Winter 2017, Section 002 - German Culture and the Memory of Ancient Rome
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: German (GERMAN)
Department: LSA Germanic Languages & Literatures
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be elected three times for credit.
Primary Instructor:


In this course we will explore how German philosophers, literary authors, and painters thought about their present through the lens of the Roman past. The issues that this involves are, of course, German identity; but also, more specifically, the re-appropriation of the opposition of Roman conqueror versus “barbarian”; models of empire and colonialism; and the inter-textual presence of ancient texts. The course will focus on several key moments in German cultural history, starting with the Romantics and their early-nineteenth century appropriation of Tacitus' history and ethnography of the ancient German tribes and their “barbarian” customs. Tracing the context of the anti-Napoleonic movement, we will read the philosopher J.G. Fichte on the difference between "Romanized" French and "un-Romanized" Germans; study Heinrich von Kleist's guerilla theatre about the battle between Arminius and Varus in the Teutoburg Forest; and scrutinize C.D. Friedrich's landscapes. We will then focus on the Second Reich and the role of the Roman past in its colonial culture. Here, we will study contemporary history paintings reviving the image of the German “barbarian”; we will read excerpts from Felix Dahn's rather hilarious novel, The Struggle for Rome (1876) as well as Wilhelm Jenssen’s Gradiva, his “Fantasy tale” about Pompeii together with Sigmund Freud’s analysis of Jenssen’s novella; finally, we will trace references to Virgil’s Aeneid in the work of Freud. From the Kaiserreich we will move to the "Third Reich" and the many ways in which the Nazi leadership advocated the imitation of the Roman Empire in architecture and other realms. Finally, we will look at the re-emergence of Arminius and Varus in the literature about the division of Germany after 1945, and the presence of Scipio in the work of the East German author Heiner Müller; and we will read poems by another East German author, Durs Grünbein, who revives the soldiers of Varus' army after the fall of the wall.

We will complement these texts with scholarly literature about the topic; all readings will be in English.

Course Requirements:

one in-class mid-term exam and two essays


GERMAN 303 - Topics in German Culture and the Arts
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
1/4/17 - 4/18/17
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
1/4/17 - 4/18/17

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