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GERMAN 503 A: Contemporary German Literature

Under the Glass Ceiling: Women and Gender in German Literature after 1989

Meeting Time: 
W 1:30pm - 4:20pm
LOW 118
Gertrud Rösch

Additional Details:

This course serves as an introduction to the topic of gender and its (de)construction, focusing on German literature after 1989. We will read books by the following authors and discuss them in detail: Zsuzsa Bank, Judith Herrmann, Elfriede Jelinek, Judith Schalansky and Juli Zeh. Our goal is to examine and compare the narrative (de)construction of gender identities.

Elfriede Jelinek (*1946), the arguably reluctant ‘grande dame‘ of feminist literature, depicts the mother-daughter-relationship as a form of battle in her novel Die Klavierspielerin (first published in 1986) in a disillusioning manner that is unsurpassed until this day.

In her first novel Der Schwimmer (2003) Zsuzsa Bank (*1965) takes the reader back to the year of the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and shows a family breaking apart, as gender roles and generational patterns disintegrate.

In her first collection of stories, Sommerhaus, später (1998), Judith Hermann (*1970) came to represent the literary 'Fräuleinwunders' after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In a hedonistic world, her protagonists look for identity and stability.

Known for addressing provocative topics, writer and lawyer Juli Zeh's (*1974) novel Nullzeit (2012). focuses on unfulfilled desires and rivalries between women and men; she combines gender roleplays with thrilling action that almost reminds one of ‘Mr Ripley’.

By assigning the label 'Bildungsroman' to her novel Der Hals der Giraffe (2011), Judith Schalansky chooses a title full of traditional allusions. The protagonist, biology teacher Inge Lohmark, however, observes exactly the opposite in today’s East Germany and describes the miseries of daily life in ironic and provocative metaphors from the animal world.

The following texts will be read and discussed:

Bank, Zsuzsa: Der Schwimmer. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch 2003

Hermann, Judith: Sommerhaus, später. Frankfurt: Fischer 2001 (gebundene Ausgabe 1998)

Jelinek, Elfriede: Die Klavierspielerin. Reinbek b. Hamburg: rororo Taschenbuch 1986

Schalansky, Judith: Der Hals der Giraffe. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch 2012 (gebundene Ausgabe 2011)

Zeh, Juli: Nullzeit. Frankfurt: Schöffling 2012 (gebundene Ausgabe)

Research literature will be made available via moodle (resp. via e-learning).

Catalog Description: 
Seminar analyzing the esthetic movements and thought of contemporary German literature, the social and political problems dealt with in the works of representative authors, and major experimental concepts. Some previous exposure to German literature and civilization after 1945 is expected.
GE Requirements: 
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 3:21pm