Germanic Languages | Tradition and Innovation in German Literature
G255 | 24993 | Breithaupt

G255 German Heroes (3 cr.) Breithaupt

(The course requires no knowledge of German. Students should take
this course if they are interested in the topic, if they like
reading fascinating works of fiction, or if they look for an
introduction into German culture that is taught in English)

The German culture is full of epics of heroes, many of which we
today would consider anti-heroes. The course examines a wide
selection of these heroes, beginning with the medieval knight
Parsifal to a contemporary fiction of the fall of the Berlin wall,
initiated by a sex hero, and ranging from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra to
Hitler’s infamous self-stylization as the German leader. Our goal is
to understand the fabrication, machination, and functionalizations
of heroes by means of different rhetorics.

Why are we so fascinated by heroes? And what has changed about
heroes, now and then, here and there? Since the heroes we consider
offer extremely different features, ranging from the German blond
beast to the female Jewish conspirator, we will have the opportunity
to consider various theories of what makes a hero and that means,
what forces are behind the need for heroism. We will also conduct an
ethnological field study in which students will identify patterns of
heroism today in the US. We will read some famous German texts (in
translation) and watch three movies (Siegfried, Triumph of the Will,
and Aimee and Jaguar).

Students will have to write several short essays. There will be a

Since I am in Heidelberg during the spring 2004, please direct all
inquiries to I apologize for the
inconvenience. Thank you!


Wolfram von Eschenbach, “Parzifal”
Friedrich Nietzsche, “Zarathustra”
Thomas Brussig, “Heroes Like Us”
Course Reader