Germanic Languages | Seminar in German Literature
G825 | 15120 | C. Breger
“Beyond Modernism? Narrative Worldmaking in Contemporary Literature
20th-century modernist avant-gardes virtually defined themselves
through the critique of narrative as the quintessential form of modern
identity construction, from the Bildungsroman to Hegel’s world
histories. Since then, however, narrative has had a comeback in both
aesthetic theory and practice. Narratological approaches have
experienced a major revival since 1990, in the course of which the
legacy of ‘classical,’ literary narratology has been transformed into
an interdisciplinary, intermedial study of narrative practice. These
new developments, however, have not yet received much attention in
either German studies (where narratology never had a strong base) or
film studies (as shaped by contextual approaches on the one hand,
cognitive film theory’s rather classical notions of narrative on the
other). In this seminar, we will probe a transmedial bridging by
exploring ‘postclassical’ narratologies in the study of two (at first
glance) diverging 21st-century trends: 1. Literary critics have
discussed the return of authoritative, if not ‘omniscient’ narration
in ‘big’ novels apparently moving beyond modernism and postmodernism
in a search for renewed stabilities. 2. At the same time, independent
films (associated for example with the ‘Berlin School’) have developed
new realisms explicitly re-connecting with the anti-narrative legacy
of 20th century modernisms. Our investigations, however, may
complicate this confrontation. Exploring intersecting forms of
contemporary narrative worldmaking across media, we will aim to better
understand the complex and often instable relations between form and
reception in its multiple dimensions (sensemaking, affect, ethics, and
The seminar is jointlisted for students from Germanic Studies and
CMCL. The course will be accessible without prior exposure to
narratology (and include reviews of basic analytical categories as
needed), but the focus will be on exploring 21st-century approaches
against the background of ‘classical’ literary analysis and modernist
film theory. With respect to film and literature, the geographical
focus will be on Germany in transnational context (and from a
comparative angle). All materials will be available in
translation/subtitled (and some originally in English). According to
departmental policy, students in Germanic Studies or fulfilling
graduate language requirements should read originally German materials
in German. Most readings will be available online (and there will be a
weekly filmshowing), but please buy a copy of the following three
novels (available at Boxcar Books or through Campus bookstores):
1. Juli Zeh: Adler und Engel: Roman. Btb 2003 ISBN-10: 3442729262.
ISBN-13: 978-3442729265. 10 Euro through amazon.de. OR: Eagles and
Angels. Granta Books 2004. ISBN-10: 186207674X. ISBN-13:
978-1862076747. Starting at $ 6.07 through amazon marketplace.
2. Schulze, Ingo. Neue Leben: Roman. Dtv 2007. ISBN-10: 0618711651.
ISBN-13: 978-0618711659. 24 Euro through amazon.de. OR: New Lives.
Paperback Vintage 2009, ISBN-10: 0307277984. ISBN-13: 978-0307277985;
$ 14.04 through amazon.
3. Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Paperback Mariner Books 2006. ISBN-10: 0618711651. ISBN-13:
978-0618711659. $ 10.17 through amazon.