Germanic Languages | Medieval German Literature
G403 | 28945 | Keller


Topic: Meerjungfrauen und Undinen / Mermaids in Medieval, early-modern
and romantic texts.

Have you ever paid attention to the logo of Starbucks? It harbors a
tiny mermaid – not unlike the ones that populate German literature and
culture, the insides and outsides of private houses and even churches
throughout the Middle Ages. The motive of a marriage with a
pre-Christian water-fairy enjoyed great popularity, not only in the
Middle Ages, but also in the literature and music of the modern
period. Examples range from such popularizations as Hans Christian
Andersen’s The Little Mermaid to the Walt Disney production of the
same tale.

What might, however, seem like a pre-modern or, later, a romantic
fairy tale, harbors a complex narrative that engages with not only
such burning political and social issues as genealogy and social
status in the late Middle Ages, but also demonological issues. They
became the focus of new debates in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century
medicine as well as in the discourse of witchcraft. The course will be
taught in German and examines not only texts but also films and an opera.

• Theophrast von Hohenheim: Das Buch von den Nymphen, Sylphen,
Pygmaeen, Salamandern und den übrigen Geistern. 1566.

• Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué: Undine. 1811.

• E.T.A. Hoffmann: Undine. Zauberoper (Libretto nach de la Motte
Fouqué). UA 1816.

• Hans Christian Andersen: Die kleine Seejungfrau. 1837.

Requested book:
Shorter print materials will be available on course, but please buy a
copy of the following novel and bring it to the first class: Friedrich
de la Motte Fouqué: Undine. Eine Erzählung. Mit einer Nachbemerkung.
Reclam, Stuttgart 2001 ISBN 3-15-000491-8