Communication and Culture | Media History
C594 | 23810 | Claudia Breger

CMCL C594: Media History
(Topic: (Post-)Modern Stories and Beyond - Narrative in contemporary
literature, film, and theory)
Class Number: 23810

TuTh 4:00P-5:15P, Room TBA

Required film screenings Tuesdays 7:15P-10:00P

Professor: Claudia Breger
E-Mail: cbreger
Office: BH 669
Office Hours: by appointment
Phone: 5-1894

Narrative has been completely out of fashion for quite some time
now. Or has it? On the one hand, a “crisis of narrative” already
marked modernist literature in the early 20th century, and
postmodernism went further, critically analyzing the ”grand”
narratives of European culture which shape our presumably objective
perceptions of the world. Whereas narrative constructs seemingly
coherent, continuous identities in time, recent approaches to
culture usually privilege spatial paradigms which emphasize the
momentary, always necessarily precarious character of
identifications (mapping, performance etc.). On the other hand, some
postmodernist literature and film began to tell stories again
already in the 1980’s, and at the turn of the 21st century,
narrative seems to be back on a large scale. Is this development
simply based on reactionary longings for identity? From a different
perspective, narrative also seems to have some critical potential.
Thus, the “narrative turn” in the sciences signifies a move towards
epistemological reflexivity. So, what is the significance of
narrative in contemporary culture?

Starting from these questions, the course will look more closely at
the ways narrative(s) work(s) in the later 20th and early 21st
centuries. We will distribute our time, more or less equally, to the
study of three genres: literature, film, and theory. In reading key
texts from contemporary narrative theory, we will familiarize
ourselves with important methodological approaches to the analysis
of culture (e.g. structuralism, poststructuralism, cultural studies
including gender and postcolonial perspectives, media theory and a
little bit of cognitive theory). Depending on participants’ needs
and interests, this can include more general introductions to some
of these approaches, or not. In looking at narrative strategies in
literature and film, both of the experimental and the “classically
narrative” kind, we will develop our close reading skills, without
becoming obsessed with form for form’s sake. What is at stake is the
question how contemporary culture works: In which ways are
identities, worldviews, fantasies “concocted” today, in the age of
late modernity, digitalization and globalization?

The course is offered for students in Germanic Studies (GER-G 577),
Cultural Studies (CULS-C 701) and Communication and Culture. It
focuses on German literature and film, but embeds these in larger
configurations of European modernity, postmodernism and
globalization. All readings will be available in English and the
films subtitled; however, students of Germanic Studies
are “encouraged” (= expected) to read the literary texts in the
German original.

Required reading materials: A course reader on e-reserve and the
following books (all of them paperback):

Gerard Genette: Narrative Discourse. An essay in method. Cornell UP
1983 (ISBN 0801492599).
Seymour Chatman: Story and Discourse. Narrative Structure in Fiction
and Film. Cornell UP 1980, ISBN 080149186X.

Irmtraud Morgner: Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz nach
Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura. Dtv 2002 (ISBN 3423118725). [We’ll
probably only read parts of this monumental, highly experimental
masterpiece of GDR literature. The English translation is available
as a very expensive hard copy only; thus, the relevant parts will be
on e-reserve.]

Max Frisch: Mein Name sei Gantenbein. Suhrkamp 1975 (ISBN
3518367862). Gantenbein: A novel. Harvest Books 1982 (ISBN

Ingo Schulze: Simple Storys. Ein Roman aus der ostdeutschen Provinz.
dtv 1999 (ISBN 3423127023). Simple Stories. Vintage 2002 (ISBN

Juli Zeh: Adler und Engel. Roman. Goldmann 2003 (ISBN 3442729262).
Eagles and Angels. Granta Books 2003 (ISBN 1862075662).