Germanic Languages | Introduction to German Lit - Themes
G306 | 5802 | Robinson

G306—Introduction to German Literature (Themes)—Spring 2005
Prof. Robinson

Required Texts:
1. Das Urteil und andere Erzählungen, Franz Kafka
2. Happy Birthday, Türke!, Jakob Arjouni
3. Was ist Gerechtigkeit?, Hans Kelsen

Course Description:
What is justice and why is justice any business of literature? We
start out by reading one of Germany’s most eminent legal thinkers on
the possibility of justice and from there take up literary
treatments of the question. We analyze short stories and poems about
crimes, justice and injustice by authors from Goethe to Kurt
Tucholsky and Nelly Sachs. Then we turn to our key texts: first,
several stories by Franz Kafka that present us with a paradoxical
view of wrong-doing, law, guilt and punishment; and then, a
detective novel by Jakob Arjouni that puts the problem of justice in
terms of not only judgment and the law, but also detection and
evidence. As we read these works of various genres and periods, we
pursue the question of how literature depicts or enacts justice.
Where do we believe that justice happens, if it happens at all? In
the courts, in the jails, in the streets, or  in books? Is there a
parallel between literary interpretation and legal interpretation?
Our goal is both to introduce ourselves to an important tradition in
German literature and to develop a sense for how the supposedly
fragile institutions of beauty are related to the supposedly august
majesty of the law.