Efflorescent Chaos: The Literature and Culture of the Weimar Republic
Embedded between two major periods of crisis, the end of the First World War and the rise of the National Socialists, the Weimar Republic was a time of great social and cultural upheaval, marked by economic depression, war-time trauma and anxiety for the future. Despite this instability, it was also an era defined by rich and innovative artistic output.
This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to the literature and visual arts of the Weimar Republic and to give them insight into the social, historical and political context of this era as a framework for understanding and analyzing these literary and artistic works. Students will examine the cultural movements related to this time period, such as Expressionism, Dadaism and Neue Sachlichkeit and will learn to identify the characteristics of these movements and how they are then manifested in the primary material.
Through a comparative analysis of novels, poetry, drama, film and art, students will discern the prevalent themes of this period, which include issues of sexuality and gender, the rise of the metropolis and mass media, the destruction of war and technology and the threat of crime and chaos. Students will learn to approach the material in an interdisciplinary manner by analyzing a variety of literary genres, visual images and theoretical perspectives in conjunction with one another, thereby developing their critical thinking skills and their ability to identify and connect the common issues that emerge.
An examination of artists such as Georg Grosz, Otto Dix and Hannah Höch, texts such as Erich Kästner's Fabian, Bertolt Brecht's The Three Penny Opera, Irmgard Keun's The Artificial Silk Girl and films such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis highlights the social, sexual and economic tensions of this period, providing a comprehensive vision of the disintegration of society that paved the way for fascism and the rise of Hitler, a threat anticipated in Thomas Mann's novella Mario and the Magician. Readings in German, discussion in German and English.
Midterm, Final Exam, and reflective response papers