Germanic Languages | Theories & Methodologies
G503 | 26333 | J. Turk


Topic: Thinking Literature: An Introduction to Theory

This course will begin by examining the traditions of rhetoric,
poetics, and aesthetics in exemplary texts by Plato, Aristotle,
Horace, and Kant. These traditions were the first philosophic
attempts to think art. After Plato had banned literature from an
ideal polis, what reasons were given for its reintroduction and how
can its role in the world be defined? An acquaintance with these
texts is indispensable for the understanding of our field. Although
they each emerged at a specific historic moment, they have come to
be regarded as powerful models. The second part of the course will
discuss major theoretical innovations of the twentieth century from
psychoanalysis to structuralism, deconstruction, performance and
gender theory that reshape the stakes of artistic production. The
twentieth century, it seems, thinks art in terms of the production
of meaning: How can language signify and what specific meaning does
literature produce? How is this knowledge relevant for the world we
inhabit? Is it gendered? What subject produces this meaning and how
can repression and trauma find their place beneath the textual
surface? Does literature have political implications that turn it
into a dangerous truth? Can its language be contained in an
intentional act or does it necessarily escape human control? The
last part of the course is dedicated to recent claims – anticipated
by Heidegger – that try to reintroduce the question of truth into
the reflection on art.

A literary text, an image or a film that allow us to relate each
approach to an empiric object will accompany the theoretical texts
if possible. Literature is understood to be a paradigm that stands
in for all forms of art. The course will be taught in English in
order to focus on the content. The majority of the works discussed
will be from the German tradition. Students from other departments
may read the German texts in English translation. Three papers and
occasional brief presentations are required.

Recommended readings:

Aristotle, Poetics
Aristotle, Rhetoric
Erich Auerbach, Mimesis
J.L. Austin, How to do Things With Words
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Jacques Derrida, Grammatologie
Ferdinand De Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale
Sigmund Freud und Josef Breuer, Studien über Hysterie
Martin Heidegger, Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks
Horace, Ars poetica
Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft
Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics

Even if we will not read all of these books in their entirety, they
should be included in everyone’s library.

Texts provided on oncourse (not finalized):

Short texts and excerpts by Theodor Adorno, Alain Badiou, Roland
Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Gérard Genette, Julia
Kristeva, Paul de Man, Hegel, Plato.
Literary texts from Kleist to Rilke, Musil and Sebald as well as
films and pictures.


Auerbach, Mimesis. Dargestellte …., Francke; Auflage: 10. A. (1.
Juni 2001)
ISBN-10: 3772012752

Aristotle, The Rhetoric and the Poetics by Aristotle, McGraw-Hill
Companies (February 1984
ISBN-10: 0075546027


J.L. Austin, How to do Things With Words, Harvard University Press
(January 1976)
ISBN-10: 0674411501

Horace, Ars poetica, Reclam, Ditzingen (Januar 1972)
Sprache: Latein, Deutsch
ISBN-10: 3150094216

Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, Meiner (2001)
ISBN-10: 3787314423

Sigmund Freud und Josef Breuer, Studien über Hysterie, Fischer
(Tb.), Frankfurt; Auflage: 6., Aufl. (Mai 1991)
ISBN-10: 3596104467

Martin Heidegger, Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks
Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag GmbH
ISBN-10: 3150084466

Ferdinand De Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, Open Court
(December 30, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0812690230

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, The Johns Hopkins University
Press; Corrected edition (January 8, 1998).
ISBN-10: 0801858305

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, Routledge; 1 edition (May 12, 2006),
ISBN-10: 0415389550
Jacques Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics, Continuum 2006,
ISBN-10: 0826489540