Germanic Languages | Kultur und Gesellschaft
G464 | 2693 | Rasch


Topic: Was ist Aufklärung?

Three credit hour course; meets 1:00-2:15 p.m. in SY 009.

Many of our modern political, economic, educational, legal, and even religious
institutions are products of the 17th and 18th-century European Enlightenment.
Central to these institutions are notions such as the belief in critical and
rational inquiry, the moral and political autonomy of individuals, their
equality before the law, and their fundamental educability. Yet, we all know
that these principles have not only been selectively applied, but also
disputed and contested. In this course, we will examine some of these hotly
contested debates during a particularly stimulating and exciting time in
German and European history -- the final decades of the 18th century. To begin
with, we will read some short philosophical texts (by Kant, Mendelssohn,
Herder, Hamann, and others) to acquaint ourselves with various positions
regarding the German understanding of Enlightenment (Aufklärung). We will
then examine three areas in which debates took place. In the political arena,
we will investigate responses, both pro and con, to the ideals and realities
of the French Revolution. Next, we will examine the question of Jewish
emancipation, reading Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives on the issue.
Finally, we will look at writings by men and women dealing with the issue of
gender and women's rights. Our purpose in all these endeavors will be to
discover and discuss the wide variety of opinions and their self-
justifications that found their way into the public sphere at this time. Our
hope will be that an understanding of late 18th-century debates will shed some
light on current ones as well.

In addition to philosophical, political, and critical texts by a variety of
well-known and not so well-known authors, we will read literary texts by
Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe. The course, therefore, is designed to introduce
students to topics in German intellectual history that are part of the general
European and North American heritage, as well as to expose students to some of
the highlights of German literature of the time.

We will spend time in class going through some of the texts in detail so that
we all understand the basic content of the essays, plays, etc. Therefore, one
aim of the course is to increase reading comprehension of German (as well as
intellectual comprehension of philosophical and political arguments). To that
aim, there will be weekly, short writing assignments (in German) of a summary
or historical/informational nature. Again, in addition to requiring some
intellectual understanding of the issues presented in the texts, these
assignments are aimed at improving written German. There will also be two in-
class tests and a final paper (ca. 10 pp., in English) on a topic of the
student's choice. Class discussions will be conducted 90% in German.

Texts: (please note that this list is tentative)
(+) WAS IST AUFKLÄRUNG (anthology of short texts)
(+) Lessing, NATHAN DER WEISE
(+) Schiller, WILHELM TELL
(+) Goethe, UNTERHALTUNGEN DEUTSCHER AUSGEWANDERTEN
(+) a course reader (including texts by Humboldt, Förster, Dohm, Herz,
others)