GERMAN 303 - Topics in German Culture and the Arts
Section: 001 German Culture and the Memory of Ancient Rome
Term: FA 2018
Subject: German (GERMAN)
Department: LSA Germanic Languages & Literatures
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Taught in English.
May be elected three times for credit.
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This is a course about memory studies using the case study of modern Germany and its relation to the Roman past. 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 the construction of national/imperial identity; but also, more specifically, the re-appropriation of the opposition of Roman conqueror versus “barbarian”; and the inter-textual and inter-visual presence of ancient texts, works of art, and architecture. We will read essays by Karl Marx, Ernest Renan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and other authors in order to create our intellectual framework for memory studies.

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 landscape painjtings. We will then focus on the Second Reich (1871) and the role of the Roman past in the imagination of German colonialism. 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. 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.

All readings will be in English.

Course Requirements:

Requirements are:

  1. mid-term in-class exam;
  2. participation in the performance of Kleist's play and essay (5 pages double-spaced) on the ideas informing the performance;
  3. final paper (5 pages double-spaced) based on group in-class presentation about a Roman (archeological) site in Europe and its role in the present.

GERMAN 303 - Topics in German Culture and the Arts
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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