Germanic Languages | Historical Study of German Literature III
G575 | 27693 | F. Breithaupt

Topic: Excuses, Accusations, and the Novella

Does the core function of narrative consists in its ability to offer
alternatives? If this is the case, then the event is always a
multitude of events. And this also means that narrative is the
medium of bending, beautification, self-serving bias, and of excuse.

The most celebrated genre of the nineteenth century in Germany was
the novella. While the study of novellas was once a corner stone
of “Germanistik” it has fallen out of fashion since the 1970s. This
course wants to reclaim the novella by focussing less on the aspect
of “novelty” but on “excuse.” A large part of the nineteenth-century
novellas provide some form of excuse, sometimes as an element of
dialogue and plot (as in many texts by Kleist, in Hoffmann’s
Mademoiselle Scuderi, in Gotthelf’s Black Spider, or as a borderline
case in Melville’s Bartleby) and sometimes as a more structural
principle to which the novella as a whole seems to respond.

The course will offer an overview of novellas (beginning with some
Early Modern texts) and place the German novella of the nineteenth
century in context of some other American-European developments.
Among the theorists that we will consider are J. L. Austin, Stanley
Cavell, Paul de Man and some narratologists.  As usually in my
courses, the class will vote about the syllabus in the first session
(s) and will consider various suggestions from all participants. It
is likley that we will consider texts by:

Goethe (Die Novelle, Mann von 50 Jahren)
Gotthelf (Die schwarze Spinne)
Stifter (Abdias)
Storm (Der Schimmelreiter)
Stefan Zweig (Angst)
Schnitzer (Fräulein Else)

Students will be expected to write a total of 20 pages, broken down
in as many papers as desired. Class language (reading and
discussion) will be decided by participants.

Books to be ordered:

Heinrich von Kleist, Sämtliche Erzählungen, Deutscher Klassiker
ISBN 3-618-68005-8
Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe, 3150076218
Jerimias Gotthelf, Die schwarze Spinne, Reclam, ISBN 3150064899
Adalbert Stifter, Abdias, Reclam, ISBN3-15-003913-4
Theodor Storm, Der Schimmelreiter, Reclam, ISBN 315006015X
Arthur Schnitzler, Fräulein Else, Reclam, ISBN 3150181550