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GERMAN 542 A: Twentieth-Century Prose

Meeting Time: 
T 1:30pm - 4:20pm
DEN 359
Moritz Bassler

Syllabus Description:

Popular Realism

(Instructor: Prof. M. Baßler)

Ever since the second half of the 20th century, an extremely successful ‘International Style’ of narrative literature has evolved around the world, from the authors of the Latin American Boom to Haruki Murakami, from Daniel Kehlmann to Karl-Ove Knausgård. Though being a marketable mass phenomenon, this fiction is nevertheless widely recognized also as serious literature. The seminar will look into the ways this literature is made and how it works in the broader field of contemporary media. From a structuralist point of view, we will explore its ‘realist’ techniques (as opposed to modernist writing), its anti-experimental poetics, the translatability of its language, its ways of plotting, of addressing the reader, its inclination toward seriality, and its production of ‘deeper meaning’. This will include looking at the so called Magic Realism as well as Cross-Over and competing genres like Fantasy and Pop Literature, with side glances to film and TV-shows. We will discuss the primary texts in the light of theories of the popular (Roland Barthes, Jochen Venus), midcult (Umberto Eco), and the semiotics of attraction (Dean MacCannell). The guiding question of our inquiry about the status of literature in today’s media compound could be: Was Adorno right in claiming that ‘literature as commodity’ is necessarily culturally inferior? Or is there, indeed, something like a new, contemporary poetic quality to this ‘International Style’, which then might call for “new standards of beauty and style and taste” (Susan Sontag)?

Focusing on internationally successful German novels (Bernhard Schlink: Der Vorleser, Daniel Kehlmann: Die Vermessung der Welt, Wolfgang Herrndorf: Tschick, Christian Kracht: Imperium – all also available in English translations) and film (Das Leben der Anderen), the seminar will as well discuss excerpts of international novels (Hemingway, Márquez, Knausgård, George R.R. Martin) and other media.

Catalog Description: 
Selected modern German novels, short novels, and short stories by representative authors dealing with the social and political problems of Germany as well as with individual problems of existence and identity.
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:09pm