Germanic Languages | Introduction to Theories and Methodologies in the Study of German Literature and Culture
G503 | 25459 | C. Breger

This is it, the revamped introductory course, aka your roadmap to
critical theory and methodology. Goal: to find a way into what we
are sometimes inclined to metaphorically describe as a jungle of
overlapping vocabularies and hidden intertextualities. Put more
simply, this is about making the discourses of theory accessible and
their use fun, without sacrificing sophistication.
Scope – twofold:
1. ‘Literature and Culture,’ as the official course title puts it,
which translates approx. as follows: The field of cultural objects
we investigate has been broadened to include different media, even
while the focus on literature which traditionally dominates our
discipline has never been entirely displaced. For us and more
concretely, this means that the theoretical roadmap will reflect the
discipline’s historical literary bias, but it will be extended to
include reflections on particularly two other media: film and
material culture.
2. Transnational flows of theory, in the discussion of things German
(in ‘globalizing’ contexts), including some thoughts on the
historical development and globalized futures of nationally defined
2. Method – twofold again:
1. Inspired by, although not strictly following, Jonathan Culler’s
Literary Theory: A very short introduction, we will try a thematic
approach rather than a survey of theoretical schools from classical
hermeneutics and New Criticism to deconstruction and postcolonial
studies. Of course, contributions from these different schools (and
more) will be discussed and ‘mapped’ in relation to each other as we
talk about questions like: What is literature? or ‘How does ‘it’
relate to culture?’, and topics like intermediality, identification
and the subject, meaning and interpretation, narrative, rhetoric,
performativity and ethics.
2. ‘Abstract theory through concrete interpretation.’ While theory
is the focus of our investigations in this course, we will strive to
make it as concrete as possible by exploring its potentials and
limits in the discussion of a few selected texts, which will keep
surfacing throughout the semester. I am thinking of: a) three
literary texts (see below under readings); b) three films from
different contexts and genres, tentatively some combination like:
Nosferatu – Liebe 47 – Das Fahrrad; c) three objects of material
culture, perhaps: the Berlin Wall, the ‘Berlin’ bust of Nefertiti in
the Egyptian Museum, the GDR ‘Palace of the Republic’ in the place
of a Prussian Baroque palace.
The course is jointlisted with Cultural Studies. Most secondary and
theoretical readings are in English; however, some reading knowledge
of German will be needed.

Readings: (sorry about the costly anthology, but it will save you
hours of printing out e-reserve materials!). Books will be available
through campus bookstores. To save some money, order your German
books through IBIS (; 1-800-277-4247), but be
advised that it may take them up to four weeks to deliver the
ordered items.
1. Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction.
Oxford University Press, USA; New Ed edition (June 15, 2000). ISBN:
019285383X (paperback).
2. Michael Ryan, Julie Rivkin (Eds.). Literary Theory, an Anthology.
Blackwell Publishing, Incorporated; 2 edition (2004) ISBN:
1405106964 (paperback).
3. Musil, Robert. Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. 1. und 2. Buch.
Rowohlt, 19. ed. 1994 (ISBN: 3499134624) [or any other edition you
happen to own].
4. Tawada, Yoko. Talisman. Konkursbuchverlag 1996. ISBN: 3887690966.
5. Kracht, Christian. 1979. Verlag: Dtv (2003). ISBN: 3423130784.
And more on e-reserve.