Germanic Languages | New Literary Theory and the German Text
G505 | 2637 | Breithaupt

Topic:  The Quest for the Question

Three credit hour course meets; 4:00-5:15, MW in BH 245

Where are we? How did our current location come about? And how should we
transform this place? Our field has undergone through many significant
transitions in the last decades and in fact, it is not self-evident any longer
what our field(s), even less its methodologies, are. Therefore, an
introduction to literary theory cannot limit itself to a history of past
developments, but has to include the quest for the future of the field and an
examination of how a field comes about. This course will give you the
opportunity to situate yourself in a--yet to be defined--field. In order to
avoid a rather dry curiosity cabinet of dead theories pinned to the black
board, we will examine which questions have been vitalizing certain schools of
thought and are still vital. And beyond actual questions, we will also examine
the nature of a question. As we will see, the relationship between question
and academic field is rather complex, each can precede the other and many
questions only emerge from a field. We have to ask: How does scholarship
The course will address the "quest for the question" in three ways:
1) By examining different kinds of existing scholarship and theory. We
will consider hermeneutics, anthropologic research, discourse analysis,
feminism, psychoanalytic readings, cultural studies, systems theory,
deconstruction, economic criticism, and others if desired. Wherever feasible,
we will first read an entire literary text (Kleist's Erdbeben in Chili, E.T.A.
Hoffmann's Fräulein von Scuderi, and poems by Celan) and then judge how
differently certain scholars respond to that text.
2) By discussing the nature of a question. We will have to consider what
is already implied and said in a question and what a question does. The
literary texts will give us some direction in this since they all involve some
enigma, riddle or question.
3) By individually developing our own questions and positions. On the
basis of your questions, we will discuss the steps necessary to develop your
own methodology and to define your own field of scholarship whether you are a
first year graduate student or more advanced.

Each participant is expected to write a brief analysis of one piece of
scholarship (3-6 pages), to write a position paper (3-6 pages), and to give
one short class presentation. As an alternative, other paper topics such as a
reading of one of the discussed literary texts are possible. There will be an
extensive class reader with texts by: Berman, Celan, Derrida, Foucault,
Girard, Hamacher, Heidegger, Irigaray, Jolles, Kittler, Luhmann, de Man,
Marquard, Schleiermacher, Weiner, and others. I would like to meet
participants or possible participants individually before the semester starts
to discuss their interests and expectations.

Required Texts:
(+) E.T.A. Hoffmann, Das Fräulein von Scuderi, Reclam: UB 3-15-00-0025
(+) Heinrich v. Kleist, Das Erdbeben von Chili, Reclam: UB 3-15-00-8002

Suggested Text: (to save money order through
(+) David Wellbery, Positionen der Literaturwissenschaft. Acht Modellanalysen
am Beispiel von Kleists- Erdbeben in Chili ISBN: 3406 30522 9
(Includes the Kleist text)