Germanic Studies


The Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago brings together a wide range of literary and cultural studies. Faculty in the department boast expertise in literary history, intellectual history, literary and cultural theory, the German philosophical tradition, opera, theater and performance studies, cinema studies, psychoanalysis, visual studies, Scandinavian studies, and Yiddish language and literature. MAPH students interested in Germanic Studies may focus all of their coursework in the department. Students may also find relevant coursework in Cinema and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, English Langauge and Literature, Language Studies, Philosophy, Theater and Performance Studies, and Visual Arts.

Selected Faculty

David Levin

David Levin

German Cinema (Weimar and New German Cinema); Theories of Spectacle; Melodrama; Performance Theory; Intersections of Cinema, Theater, and Opera
Eric Santner

Eric Santner

Literature, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Political Theory, Religious Thought

Sample Courses

GRMN 36117- Contemporary German Literature (Ingrid Christian)
In this course, we will get acquainted with prominent figures of contemporary German literature. The following questions, among others, will guide our readings: How do recent literary texts reflect on their historical status in view of the end of “Nachkriegsliteratur”? How do they engage with the present as a thematic and narrative category? How can we explain the propensity of so many texts to depict the present time by mythologizing it? How do they represent crises and events as they unfold in the now? How do they relate to new media? We will read texts by Alexander Kluge, Jonas Lüscher, Thomas Kling, Kathrin Röggla, Peter Handke, Herta Müller, etc. in conjunction with films of the “Berliner Schule.”

GRMN 39113 - Lohengrin Laboratory: Opera, Dramaturgy, and Stage Practice (Majel Connery and David Levin)
In 2014, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will stage a production of Salvatore Sciarrino's Lohengrin directed by Majel Connery, Executive Director of Opera Cabal, an experimental opera company based in New York City and Chicago. This team-taught, interdisciplinary seminar will serve as a laboratory for the production. The first half of the class explores in depth the work’s genesis (Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin) and subsequent adaptation (a short story by Symbolist poet Jules Laforgue which, in turn, is re-adapted for opera by Sciarrino). 

GRMN 32305 - Creaturely Modernism: Freud, Kafka, Benjamin, Beckett (Mladen Dolar, Eric Santner)
The course will be dedicated to close readings of texts by all four writers in the hopes that the encounter between them will generate new interpretations of each. We will focus on texts that attend to the “creaturely” aspect of human life: Kafka’s animal stories along with The Castle; Freud’s “animal” case studies (Wolfman, Ratman, Little Hans); Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood along with selected essays; Beckett’s novel, The Unnameable.

GRMN 36213 - Materialism Old And New (Mladen Dolar)
The course will take a close look at the historic emergence of materialism with ancient atomism in Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius. We will then follow the re-emergence of atomism in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the advent of what is commonly labeled as mechanical materialism.

GRMN 37813 - Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (Eric Santner)
This seminar will engage in close readings of Rilke’s famous volume of poems. Supplementary readings will address some of the fundamental issues raised by the poems: the sonorous universe of poetry and the nature of the voice; the “Orphic” dimension of poetry; the religious and profane meanings of praise in relation to mourning. We will furthermore compare the treatment of the voice by Rilke with its treatment by another Prague writer: Franz Kafka. 

 For an extended listing of classes and descriptions, visit the Germanic Studies course page.  

Recent Germanic Studies Thesis Projects

Heidi Hoh 2: Heidi Hoh Doesn’t Work Here Anymore. A Translation of Rene Pollesch’s Heidi Hoh arbeitet hier nicht mehr (2000), with a Critical Introduction”
Marty Schwartz, MAPH ’06
Advisor: Chenxi Tang

“Coming to Terms: Adaptation as Countermemorialization in Straub and Huillet’s Machorka-Muff and Nicht Versohnt
Janett Buell, MAPH ’08
Advisor: David Levin

“Lyricization of Narrative in Goethe’s Werther and Richardson’s Clarissa
Christopher Stoj, MAPH ’15
Advisor: David Wellbery