The Goethe and the Kafka Effect
Spring 2012 not offered
In this course we will explore some of the major works of two of the biggest names in German literature. In spite of their popularity, however, Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Franz Kafka have hardly anything in common. Goethe is the icon of the bourgeois artist and universal genius, an Enlightenment philosopher, a researcher of nature, a poet, and a minister in the state of Weimar. The modernist German-Jewish author Franz Kafka, on the other hand, worked as an agent in a Prague insurance firm, suffered from a weak constitution, and is well-known for his enigmatic and opaque but often shockingly realistic and humorous texts. This course will focus on the novelistic writings of these two authors. In the first half of the semester, we will explore the genre of the so-called BILDUNGSROMAN, or psychological novel, for which Goethe's 1795 WILHELM MEISTER'S APPRENTICESHIP provides the prototype. Based on the consistency of a narrative perspective, this genre explores the moral and intellectual development of the individual in the mode of biographical storytelling. Franz Kafka's writing is also closely connected to this concept. No other author has emphasized the relation between writing and life more prominently than Kafka. In his novels, however, the protagonist's perspective from which his life can be told is strangely displaced and often taken by impersonal institutions that generate biographies. In the second half of the course, we will focus on Kafka's two later novels THE TRIAL and THE CASTLE and on their relation to biographical narratives, and we will ask whether they can be characterized as modernist versions of the BILDUNGSROMAN or, more precisely, as "institutional" novels. (Readings and discussions in English.)
Intercultural Literacy, Interpretation
Interpretation: close textual analysis and contextualizing comprehension will be integral components of this course.
Intercultural Literacy: The course will critically explore and compare two different cultures: Weimar Classicism and Jewish-German-Czech Prague Modernism.
|Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Lecture / Discussion
|Grading Mode: Student Option
|Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Johann Wolfgang Goethe, WILHELM MEISTER'S APPRENTICESHIP.
Franz Kafka, THE TRIAL; THE CASTLE; excerpts from his diaries and notebooks.
Other authors: Friedrich Schlegel, Georg Lukacs, Alfred Weber, Theodor W. Adorno, Arnold Gehlen.
Films: Orson Welles, THE TRIAL
|Examinations and Assignments:
Two short essays, one research paper; regular participation is expected.
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