Germanic Languages | Tradition and Innovation in German Literature
E311 | 14549 | Chaouli


Topic: Narratives of Madness

One of the defining features of the Enlightenment—perhaps the defining
feature—has been to ghettoize madness, both philosophically and
socially, to define madness as the absence of reason and reason as the
absence of madness. As the circularity of this definition might
suggest, the relationship of the two is never quite settled, and
reason (or, in most cases, Reason) lives with the perpetual anxiety of
harboring madness in its midst. We will see that this anxious tension
between the two is expressed most powerfully in literary texts, not so
much where madness becomes the explicit theme but rather in the nooks
and crannies of fictional language itself. Here are some of the
questions the course will address: if madness can be represented at
all, how and where does it happen? does literature serve to contain
folly in order to affirm reason? or does its appeal, its force, lie in
toying with madness, in being toyed with by madness? Texts by Kleist,
C.B. Brown, Sade, Hoffmann, Poe, Dostoyewski, Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka,
Foucault. All readings and discussion in English.

Required books:

Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (Hackett, ISBN: 0872208532).

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, The Grand Inquisitor
(Plume, ISBN: 0452285585).

E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Golden Pot, And Other Tales (Oxford, ISBN:
0199552479).

Franz Kafka, The Trial (Schocken, ISBN: 0805209999).

Heinrich von Kleist, Selected Writings (Hackett, ISBN: 0872207439).

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ
(Penguin, ISBN: 0140445145).

E.A. Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (Penguin,
ISBN: 0141439815).