Germanic Languages | German Culture Studies I
G563 | 17138 | Marc Weiner

2:30P-3:45P / TR
Topic:	Harbingers of Decadence: Shadows in the Age of Industry

In literary and cultural studies, one normally thinks of decadence as
exclusively the purview of the Fin-de-Siècle from the nineteenth to
the twentieth centuries, as a l’art pour l’art response to the growing
standardization of public taste under the adamantine institutions
through which aesthetic accomplishments were made accessible to the
masses. The understanding of decadence as a movement defined by the
purportedly symptomatic features of physiological decay, sexual
difference, and the nationally and racially foreign went hand in hand
with its retreat from the public sphere from the Kaiserreich to World
War I; and in the popular imagination, decadence came to be defined as
a debilitating, yet intentionally programmatic, critical,
intellectual, aesthetic, physio-pathological, and thus
all-encompassing and above all, novel heterodoxy.

And yet, decadence was no idiosyncratic and symptomatic sign of the
turn to the twentieth century alone, but had its antecedents in the
appearance of a number of disparate figures and aesthetic
accomplishments that accompanied, and reacted to, the urbanization and
transformation of the public sphere in earlier moments of the
nineteenth century. Even as the early part of the century brought with
it the developing institutions of aesthetic dissemination (e.g., the
increasing development of the book trade and the ensuing growth of a
diversified reading public), and the middle of the century revealed a
concomitant growing standardization of public taste (owing to the
development of serial publication and the dissemination of art and
music through the new institutions of the museum and the concert
hall), both periods also already contained aesthetic achievements and
modes of artistic self-understanding that presaged one of the key
movements of the avant-garde.
The nineteenth-century texts seen in hindsight as demonstrating a
number of features later found in the decadent movement of the
Fin-de-Siècle are far fewer than those of the movement itself, but
still worthy of close analysis both for the aesthetic heterogeneity
they evince and for the similarity they demonstrate with a later
moment in the development of European culture. As that century
proceeded toward its tumultuous last phase, replete with the growth of
a political enterprise characterized by xenophobia, nationalism, and
racism, and by the popularization of medical beliefs that came to
ground the understanding of difference in essentialist terms, diverse
aesthetic and utopian experiments of international provenance—found in
France, Italy, and England, as well as German-speaking Europe—emerged
that, both in terms of the themes they employed and of their critical
social function, recall their aesthetic forebears even as they evinced
a greater concern with physiological features and sexual difference
also found in, ironically, the newer developments in the very public
sphere from which the more modern manifestations of decadence strove
to remove themselves.

It will be the task of this course—an introduction to the
nineteenth-century culture of German-speaking Europe--to analyze a few
works that foreshadowed the development of fin-de-siècle decadence,
and then to investigate that movement itself against the backdrop of
its antecedents. Owing to the fact that it was an international
phenomenon and not solely found in German-speaking Europe, we will
also engage, briefly, in discussion of English, French, and Italian
texts (many of them in translation into German or English). The course
will cover a number of genres (albeit often solely through selections
from the works of the following authors): Criticism and/or Theoretical
Texts (Adorno, Bürger, Fernbach, Wolfdietrich Rasch, Sloterdijk,
Weininger), Novelle (Heine, Hoffmann, von Hofmannsthal, von
Keyserling, T. Mann), Poetry (Baudelaire, George, Heine, Mallarme,
Platen), Polemics (Nietzsche), Music Drama (Strauss, Wagner), Novel
(d’Annunzio, Huysmans, Sacher-Masov, Wilde, von Wolzogen), Symphonic
Tone Poem (Debussy, Mahler), and the Visual Arts (Beardsley, Klimt,
Moreau).  Because the course requires a good deal of reading and
listening—for much of the decadent movement was presaged and
influenced by its antecedents in the acoustical arts—students will
have the option of either

1) presenting at some point in the semester a verbal summary of the
salient features of one text and providing some points for its
discussion, and, in the final weeks of the semester, giving a
lecture—(of 15-20 minutes in length) followed by a discussion with
their colleagues that is intended to resemble the experience one has
when giving a paper at a conference,

2) writing a relatively short research paper (of ca. 15-20 pages in
length), which will be distributed and discussed in the final weeks of
the semester.

In either case, the nature of the project should be discussed and
agreed upon by both the student and the Instructor, preferably by
mid-October.  All students will be asked to provide their colleagues
(and the Instructor) with a bibliography of sources both merely
perused and those used when conducting research for the lecture or for
the paper.  Several class sessions are reserved for these lectures
and/or discussions in the final weeks of the semester.  In this way,
it is hoped that the course will not only provide an introduction to a
variety of texts, issues, and modes of aesthetic exegesis, but
training in widespread and key components of our profession as well.

Grades will be generated as follows:  Participation in class
discussion (66%); Lecture or Paper & Bibliography (34%).

Heine, Heinrich.  Die Bäder von Lucca.  Die Stadt Lucca.  Stuttgart:
Reclam. ISBN 3-15-003602-X

Hoffmann, E. T. A.  Die Bergwerke zu Falun.  Der Artushof.  Stuttgart:
Reclam. ISBN 3-15-008991-3

Hofmannsthal, Hugo von.  Der Brief des Lord Chandos.  Stuttgart:
Reclam. ISBN 3-15-018034-1

Huysmans, Joris-Karl.  Gegen den Strich. Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN

Mann, Thomas.  Tristan.  Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN 3-15-006431-7

Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.  Der Fall Wagner.
Nietzsche contra Wagner. Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN 3-15-007126-7

Wagner, Richard.  Parsifal.  Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel in drei Aufzügen.
Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN 3-15-005640-3

Wagner, Richard.  Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg.
Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN 3-15-005636-5

Wagner, Richard.  Tristan und Isolde. Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN

Wilde, Oscar.  The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Dover. ISBN