Of Blood and Beauty: The Thought, Literature, and Art of German-Speaking Cultures
Fall 2015, Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters
Our program will explore the productive paradoxes of Germanic sensibilities by working through foundational works in literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, music, and visual arts from German-speaking thinkers and makers. We will be especially concerned with the unmistakable coexistence of a drive toward order, structure, technology, and systems, with an equally persistent melancholy, deep inwardness, and mysticism. Goethe’s Faust is written in German; so, too, is the Dada Manifesto. The philosophical systems of Kant and Hegel, for example, feed Nietzsche’s critical tongue. Freud and the psychoanalytic tradition name and analyze the chaotic forces of human depths decades after German Romantics intimated and sang praises of that darkness, figuring its caves, jewels, and labyrinths in their poems and paintings. The operatic wave of Wagnerian ritual “Gesamtkunst” (total art) joins, in the German canon, the ethereal choirs of medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, and the perfect symmetry of a piece from Mozart. We will ask what in this dual mentality allowed the rise of fascism, and how the artists and thinkers who opposed it and came of age in its wake were radically changed in their understanding of their language, their work, themselves, and their notions of art and of humanism.
In fall and winter quarters, we will work across a long history, drawing from the Medieval and Renaissance eras with the aim of better understanding German Romantic literature, art, and philosophy of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and studying that period in turn so that we can approach works from 20th-century moderns, as well as works by outsider artists found in the fringe galleries and theaters in contemporary Berlin. Language study (beginning and intermediate) will be integral to our work for all students who plan on traveling to Germany in spring quarter.
Spring quarter will include further language, philosophical, and cultural study, as well as significant individual project work. Students may elect to travel to Germany for nine weeks of field study, first in Berlin for intensive language and cultural studies, and then on excursions into, for example, Austria, Switzerland, and southwestern Germany during students’ “Wanderzeit" (walking time). In Berlin, we will continue our historical trajectory with an emphasis on works of post-modernity and the situation of the contemporary European and world city, studying Berlin’s art, music, drama, and architecture. During the Wanderzeit, students will pursue their self-designed curriculum incorporating travel and cultural research; a portion of winter quarter will be devoted to developing those projects. Students on campus will engage a version of the all-program syllabus while developing their own individual projects with the support and help of faculty and one another. These students will have their own version of the Wanderzeit, when they can make field trips of their choosing. These might include touring independent poetry publishers, traveling to a nearby or distant museum or archive important to their research, or wandering the mountains or seashore reading and writing about the German Romantic poets and thinkers like Nietzsche, Novalis, or Hesse. All students will join together at year’s end to present their spring experiences and projects.
This program will offer advanced work in the humanities and excellent preparation for graduate work.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day