Germanic Languages | German Culture Studies I
G563 | 2704 | Weiner


Topic: Nostalgic Modernism

Three credit hour course; meets 2:30-3:45 p.m., TR in BH 332.

The course will examine the ironic and oxymoronic conflation of two opposing
concepts that emerges in the aftermath of German Romanticism and that
constitutes a hallmark of the modern period: the concomitant attempts at a
conceptualization of a new kind of art that serves as a critique of a
purportedly inferior contemporary aesthetic landscape, and its accompaniment
by a yearning for a hypostatized, lost environment in which art once had a
purportedly more "authentic" relationship to the social order. That is, while
we tend to think of the "modern" period as one defined by a break with the
past, upon examination it becomes clear that both in theoretical reflections
upon modernity and in diverse examples of the modern(ist) artwork, a tendency
emerges that can be characterized not simply as a longing for a different,
future world, but that also takes the form of a nostalgia for a lost past.

To examine this phenomenon we will analyze a series of extra-literary
(sometimes theoretical) texts from both the nineteenth and the twentieth
centuries (e.g. Adorno, "Moderne," "Über den Fetischcharakter in der
Musik," "George;" Benjamin, "Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire;" de Man,
"Literary History and Literary Modernity;" Heine, DIE ROMANTISCHE SCHULE [Book
I]; Wagner, "Modern," "Die Kunst und die Revolution;" Nietzsche, "Vom Nutzen
und Nachteil der Historie fr das Leben," DER FALL WAGNER, NIETZSCHE CONTRA
WAGNER; Hofmannsthal, "Ein Brief;" T. Mann, "Von der Tugend" [from
BETRACHTUNGEN EINES UNPOLITISCHEN]; and Pfitzner, "Die neue Ästhetik der
musikalischen Impotenz" [excerpts]).

Because, however, this concomitant programmatic call for a new artwork and an
attendant nostalgia defines not only the discussions about the new work of
art, but also defines the work itself, we will also read a number of literary
and musical-dramatic texts from:
1. the early- and mid-nineteenth century (Heine, Nordsee III, the Platen controversy from DIE BÄDER VON LUCCA; Platen [selected poems]) 2. the second half of the nineteenth century (Wagner, DIE MEISTERSIGNER VON NÜRNBERG; Baudelaire, LES FLEURS DU MAL [selections], George, ALGABAL), 3. the early twentieth century (Proust, "Overture" [from A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU]; Hofmannsthal, DER TOD DES TIZIAN [both versions]; T. Mann, DER TOD IN VENEDIG; and Pfitzner, PALESTRINA).
Throughout the semester our concern will be the diverse ways in which a desire for the articulation of a new art (and its social setting) often merges with a nostalgia that is sometimes acknowledged, and sometimes not, but that more often than not has recuperative or even retrograde political and social implications. Our task will be to recognize, identify, and to articulate the permutations versus the constants of this phenomenon over a period of intense social and aesthetic transformation and experimentation in German-speaking Europe. Given the extensive amount of material to be discussed, students will be asked, in lieu of a seminar paper, to present in the concluding weeks of the semester an extensive analysis of, and to lead a discussion on, either a theoretical issue or approach, or an object of inquiry heretofore under- represented in class discussions to be mutually agreed upon by the student and the instructor. Outlines, an abstract, and a complete bibliography will be due on the date of presentation, and preliminary versions thereof will be due at least one month beforehand. Grades will be based on class participation (50%) and on the final presentation (50%). A number of the aforementioned texts (especially the essays, but also much of the poetry, Hofmannsthal's lyric drama, and Pfitzner's music drama) will be placed on reserve in the Germanic Studies library (BH 643), and may be borrowed, photocopied, and returned to the reserve shelf, while others (such as DER TOD IN VENEDIG and Swann's WAY) are so widely represented in the library that no copies are being ordered. I should also note that no reading knowledge of French is required (though at times it does prove helpful, as in Benjamin's and de Man's references to Baudelaire); the selections from Baudelaire and Proust will be available in German (for the former) and in English (for the latter). Texts: (+) Heine, REISEBILDER (+) Heine, DIE ROMANTISCHE SCHULE (+) Hofmannsthal, EIN BRIEF. REITERGESCHICHTE (+) George, HYMNEN, PILGERFAHRTEN, ALGABAL (+) Nietzsche, VOM NUTZEN UND NACHTEIL DER HISTORIE FÜR DAS LEBEN (+) Nietzsche, DER FALL WAGNER (+) Wagner, DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG