Germanic Languages | Historical Study of German literature IV
G577 | 5825 | Breger


TR 4-5:15 / T 7:15-10pm.
Topic: (Post-)Modern Stories and Beyond. Narrative in contemporary
literature, film, and theory

Meets with CMCL-C 594 & CULS-C701

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, Cultural
Studies 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 0156344076).

Ingo Schulze: Simple Storys. Ein Roman aus der ostdeutschen Provinz.
dtv 1999 (ISBN 3423127023). Simple Stories. Vintage 2002 (ISBN 037505120).

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