From haunted houses to speaking statues, animated minerals to human automata, nineteenth century German literature resembles a funhouse of the psyche. This course explores the tradition of fantastic literature in Germany in order to understand the role of the imagination in the literary arts. We will explore the historical, political, and cultural dimensions of the Märchen (“fairy tale”) collected by the Brothers Grimm and then turn to the Kunstmärchen (“literary fairy tale”) as it developed in the period known as German Romanticism. We will read these tales in the historical context of the early 19th century, while also looking at how they have anticipated, and been taken up by, later literary and cultural movements. Some leading questions to be in explored in the course include: Why do we read folklore? Does it matter if the folk traditions are authentic? How does the imagination serve as a force for social transformation? To what extent does this literature anticipate the emergence of psychology and psychoanalysis? We will pursue these and other topics in readings including the Grimms, Novalis, Tieck, Eichendorff, and E.T.A. Hoffmann.
The course has three major goals: Students can expect to expand their knowledge of 19th century German literature; to sharpen their critical reading and writing skills; and to develop creative and analytical course-related projects. The texts are in German, while class discussion will be conducted in German and English. Recommended level of preparation: German 301, 302, 303.
The texts are in German, while class discussion will be conducted in German and English. Recommended level of preparation: German 301, 302, 303.
Key words: fairy tales, imagination, Romanticism, children’s literature