Germanic Languages | Tradition and Innovation in German Literature
E311 | 18660 | Turk

Topic: Accident, Catastrophe, and Trauma in Literature and Film

We live amidst dangers: Accidents and catastrophes are dramatic and
always possible events that challenge individual and collective life.
They break the protective shields that ward off the threats
surrounding us. Their traumatic impact calls upon psychological and
cultural coping mechanisms and forces us to reconfigure our lives that
will never be the same. How have cultures dealt with the unexpected
breakdown of order and normality? This course imparts a critical
knowledge about the models according to which narrations about these
events are formed and asks how literature and film can help to cope
with disasters.

Art has an immunological function: The stories we tell ourselves help
integrate and make sense of what has previously mutilated us. They
also anticipate possible future accidents and enable us to cope with
them. In Modernity, accident and catastrophe  both previously
interpreted as destiny  change their meaning. They stand for
contingency and represent a risk inherent in our way of life. Urban
spaces, modern working environments, and new means of transportation
such as trains and the automobile make accidents more probable and
ubiquitous. The course will examine how filmic and narrative
representations integrate the disintegration and violence inherent in
our world. Accidents are sources for artistic productivity. We will
read short texts from Grimmelshausen and Heinrich von Kleist to Franz
Kafka and Thomas Mann, and discuss films from Buster Keaton to Brian
de Palma.

All materials will be provided on Oncourse.