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GERMAN 580 A: Seminar in German Literature

Meeting Time: 
M 1:30pm - 4:20pm
SWS 036
ellwood wiggins
Ellwood Wiggins

Syllabus Description:


A Reading Course for, by, and of UW German Graduate Students


The Crucians bronze figure of the Julius-Otto monument in Dresden  (Robert Michael/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

You’re stuck at home to shelter in place.

What better way to fill your solitary hours than with reading and writing?

Alexander Pushkin’s quarantine routine

Cholera outbreak, Boldino, Russia, Sept-Dec, 1830:

“I have grown a beard […] I wake up at seven o’clock, drink coffee and lie till three o’clock. I have been writing a lot recently and have already written a heap of things. At three o’clock I go riding, at five I take a bath and then dine on potatoes and buckwheat porridge. Then I read till nine o'clock.”

Amid yellowing leaves': Pushkin's fall masterpieces - Russia Beyond

Pushkin’s prolific quarantine months are called his “Boldino Autumn,” an expression that has entered the Russian language to denote a productive period spent in isolation.

Let’s make this your Boldino Spring!

This course is intended to provide a forum for students to expand their reading in and around German literary studies. The precise syllabus has been determined together based on student interests and needs. We will also practice writing with regular peer reviews and workshops throughout the session.


1) Active participation in seminar-style discussions of the texts under consideration. 

2) One exercise of two separate, substantial paragraphs (under no circumstances more than 2 pages double-spaced, 12 point type)

  • The first paragraph should be the introduction to a full-length essay on the text in question: the exercise is in formulating, problematizing, and organizing a topic.
  • The second paragraph is separate, and should follow one of two models as you prefer:
    • do a close reading of a short passage (sugg.: the first paragraph) of one of the assigned texts.
    • develop some thought about the material assigned for the particular class—it may be a thematic problem, image, scene, or action.

The two paragraphs offer structured practice in the essential writing skills for any genre: large-scale essay drafting; small-scale paragraph construction. Conceive of the assignment not as a complete paper in itself, but as paragraphs developing a piece of a larger argument or laying out problems and their possible solutions for a text. Although you might want to inform yourself about the author and/or the context, these paragraphs, whether introductory or body paragraphs, are not to present background information.

Share the document with me and your classmates by the Friday after “your” seminar. Be sure to let us know which of the options you chose for the second paragraph. Your classmates will send  written feedback on the paragraphs by Sunday night. You will be asked to read your paragraphs aloud to begin the workshop.

3) One 2-3 page prospectus of your final writing project to be presented orally for discussion at the last class of the quarter (max. 7 minutes reading time). You may also share an outline of your essay if you wish to discuss the organization and development of your ideas.

4) A final writing project in a genre to be determined in consultation with the instructor. This may be a traditional seminar paper, but may take other forms depending on your interests and needs. You are welcome develop the paragraph from your writing workshop session, but you are not required to do so.  Discuss your choice of genre and form with me before the Memorial Day break.


Week 1

March 30:         Collective planning of the syllabus


Week 2             Writing Workshop: The Art of the Paragraph

April 6:             Sophocles, Antigone; Hölderlin, Antigonä


Week 3             Writing Workshop: Brad

April 13:           Deleuze, Repetition and Difference


Week 4             Writing Workshop: Aaron

April 20:           Heine, Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen; Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale


Week 5             Writing Workshop: Detlev

April 27:           Agamben, Homo Sacer & recent debate on bare life and the pandemic


Week 6             Writing Workshop: Derek

May 4:              Herder, Ursprung der Sprache


Week 7             Writing Workshop: Anna

May 11:            Hesse, Siddhartha


Week 8             Writing Workshop: Matthew

May 18:            Mann, Tod in Venedig


Week 9

May 25:            Memorial Day! 


Week 10           Writing Workshop: Vanessa

June 1:             Final Discussions & Presentations

Catalog Description: 
Open topics seminar with varying content.
Last updated: 
March 20, 2020 - 9:13pm