Germanic Languages | Perspectives on German Literature
G415 | 15117 | Robinson


Topic: Work and Artwork

Arguably labor gets little credit these days—unions are bated, wages
are depressed, unemployment is high, consumption rules the media
imagination. What about the working class? What about work? We will
examine some fates of laboring in twentieth century German literature.
Our questions focus on differing thematic representations of labor
from Weimar Germany up to the contemporary deindustrializing provinces
of the former East Germany. We will also consider different types of
labor—from manual to office labor, and of course, the intellectual and
artistic labor of writing books. Our concern with work does not remain
only thematic, as we also explore how working produces a work. In
particular, the texts we read are a special kind of work often called
an artwork. What is the relationship between labor and the artwork? Is
there an aesthetics of work? Our remarkable texts vary in tone from
grim sobriety to sardonic humor, to wry wonder.

Course goals include the eminently employable skills of 1) close
literary reading, 2) critical textual analysis, 3) German language
development, and 4) class-consciousness. We will read one play, two
short novels, a collection of anecdotes and aphorisms, poetry, and
several pieces of critical secondary literature. The grade will be
based on preparation and posting to Oncourse of a weekly reading blog
suitable for in-class discussion, two longer class presentations, and
a course final.

Readings:

Hannah Arendt, from The Human Condition (Oncourse resource)

Rilke, from Neue Gedichte (Oncourse resource)

Bertolt Brecht, Mann ist Mann (Suhrkamp, ISBN-10: 3518102591)

Max von der Grün, Irrlicht und Feuer (Klartext, ISBN-10: 3898618315)

Wilhlem Genazino, Abschaffel (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, ISBN-10:
3423130288)

Volker Braun, Flickwerk (Suhrkamp, ISBN-10: 3518421093)