Undergraduate Course: Reading Antisemitism in Modern German Literature (ELCG08012)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course explores the debate around antisemitism in German literature since 1800, asking how antisemitic stereotypes and attitudes are encoded in texts, and how readers are able to identify them. Controversies about identifying, defining and combatting antisemitism have taken on a new intensity in recent years, but public debate often lacks historical awareness of how prejudice against Jews functions, and how it is perpetuated in narratives and images. There is often a clash between perceived intention and actual effect, an unwillingness to think oneself into another person's perspective and understand their self-definition, and an inability to deal constructively with complication, uncertainty and ambiguity. Literature can help us with all of these problems.
Students will engage with texts from a specific historical and cultural juncture (the period in which debate about Jewish emancipation develops into conceptions of racial antisemitism) and will explore how persistent images and stereotypes are developed and varied in these texts. We will also explore the specifically literary nature of 'literary antisemitism', asking whether questions of form, narrative perspective and irony complicate judgments about how prejudice is encoded in texts.
Students will read a number of short German literary texts that have been subject to disagreement about their antisemitic content, comparing critical approaches to them. Students will then formulate their own view, based on a reading of the texts at the level of character representation, narrative perspective, and structure. We will ask to what extent literary texts perpetuate damaging representations of Jews, or whether they use specific techniques in order to draw attention to them and question them. We will discuss theories of literary antisemitism as a form of cultural code, allowing authors to demonstrate attitudes towards belonging and nationhood, and liberal and economic modernisation.
The course offers no simple scheme for identifying antisemitic features of texts, but instead will give students the opportunity to engage with the sometimes controversial critical and political debates on the subject and to explore and understand ambiguity. We will not deal directly with the more flagrant examples of Nazi racial antisemitism, but instead with texts that are trickier to deal with, and present problems for the contemporary reader.
The texts we will read are by non-Jewish writers, and date from periods of intense debate about emancipation, assimilation, acculturation, modernity, liberalism, nationhood and the position of Jews within German society. Reading these texts, and considering the critical responses to them, will show that there is no neutral, objective position available for writers or critics to adopt, but that considering these issues through the lens of literary narrative can help us to identify how prejudices function, how they draw on their own history, and how they may return at times when they appear to have been overcome.
The course will begin with in-class analysis of a small number of short texts and extracts, in which the antisemitic content is clear and uncontroversial, alongside critical readings that present interpretations of literary antisemitism. Students will identify common images and tropes to do with the Jew's body, behaviour and manner of speaking, as well as the way that associations with usury, deception and conspiracy are encoded in texts. Having gained a sensitivity to the representation of Jewish figures in texts, students will move on to explore texts that are more complex, considering how formal and narrative structures and techniques may amplify discriminatory language by engaging the reader in different ways, or may adopt distancing techniques in order to analyse or question the representations of Jews in the text.
NB: Some of these texts contain representations of Jews that are racially charged and that readers will find offensive.
In the first two weeks, students will be introduced to the issues and to some of the methods of analysis that critics have developed to identify and debate representations of Jews in literary texts. They will practise applying these methods to texts whose antisemitic nature is not in doubt. Following the introductory sessions, students will read the course texts alongside contrasting critical interpretations; they will read two short critical essays for each text, will explore how the arguments about antisemitism are presented, and will practise arguing for and against the positions set out in them in order to establish their own position. Students will work autonomous learning groups, which will each report twice in the semester; the groups will present a particular critical approach to the text in question, raising questions for group discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Co-requisites|| Students MUST also take:
German 2 Language (ELCG08008)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||Visiting students should have German language skills at CEFR level B1 or above; entry to this course may be subject to a language test on arrival and is at the discretion of the course organiser. Visiting Students should also take as a co-requisite German 2 Language (ELCG08008).
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||The assessment will be 100% coursework, consisting of two elements:
1. (20%) Assessment based on the group presentation of the ALG.
2. (80%) 2000 word essay in which the students will demonstrate their ability to deal critically with the ideas discussed on the course and to contribute to ongoing critical debate.
||Students will receive feedback from course tutor after each ALG presentation, and the class will be encouraged to provide feedback on the presentations. The tutor's feedback will be structured as feed forward advice for their essay project.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Construct clear and coherent arguments about literary representations of Jews;
- Assess the usefulness of theoretical approaches to understanding literary antisemitism, and critique approaches that students disagree with clearly and in an appropriate style;
- Analyse literary texts using the theoretical models discussed in class, and read with a sensitivity to literary techniques;
- Orally present the results of research undertaken individually and as part of a small group, respond judiciously to such research undertaken by others, and critically evaluate the importance of such material for an understanding of the chief themes of the course;
- Work effectively as part of a group, managing group interactions and division of tasks in pursuit of a common aim
|Key theoretical texts:|
Gelber, Mark, What is literary antisemitism?', Jewish Social Studies, 47 (1985), no. 1, 1-20.
Gilman, Sander, The Jew's Body (New York: Routledge, 1991).
Gubser, Martin, Literarischer Antisemitismus (Göttingen: Wallstein, 1998).
Nochlin, Linda / Garb, Tamar, The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995).
Primary texts to be chosen from:
- Wilhelm Hauff, Jud Süß (1827)
- Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Die Judenbuche (1842)
- Thomas Mann, Wälsungenblut (1905)
- Oskar Panizza, Der opirirte Jud (1914)
- Luise Rinser, David (1947)
- Bernhard Schlink: Die Beschneidung (2000)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Critical reading; application of theory to text; testing theory against text.
Evaluating contrasting arguments.
Making connections between close reading and broader social context.
Understanding the history of representations of minoritised social groups.
Autonomous project work; identifying problems, setting tasks; organising material.
Participating in group work; setting and organising joint tasks.
High level oral and written presentation.
|Course organiser||Prof Peter Davies
Tel: (0131 6)50 3632
|Course secretary||Miss Gillian Paterson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3646