COMP 347
Silence, Loss and (Non)Memory in Twentieth-Century Austria
Last Offered Fall 2015
Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed GERM 331 / COMP 347
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

Think of Austria and glittering Klimt paintings come to mind, or the majestic Alps of The Sound of Music, or perhaps a melody from Mozart or Strauss plays in the ear. And no wonder: tourism is one of the largest industries in Austria; the nation lives on being seen and heard. But a great deal is invisible and inaudible to the tourist in Austria. In this course we will explore the hidden core of Austrian culture from 1900 to the present. We’ll begin with the tremendous intellectual ferment surrounding Sigmund Freud’s elaboration of the unconscious at the turn of the century, from Hofmannsthal’s paralysis of language through Schnitzler’s streams of consciousness to Kafka’s carefully crafted renderings of inner worlds. Then we will turn to an examination of the phenomenon of loss at the end of World War I: loss of empire, loss of relevance, loss of hierarchical certainty. Stefan Zweig documents this phenomenon timelessly. The second half of the course will focus on the driver of Austrian identity from 1938 on, the so-called Anschluss (annexation) by the Nazis, and the (non)memory of the horrors that ensued. We will probe the idiosyncratic mixture of trauma and guilt that characterizes Austria today through the work of contemporary authors and filmmakers, focusing on three: Elisabeth Reichart, whose fiction sensitively but relentlessly uncovers secrets that have become part of the fabric of forgetting in the Austrian psyche; Marcus Carney, born to an Austrian mother and an American father, who unblinkingly documents his mother’s and grandmother’s attempts (or non-attempts) to come to terms with their family’s Nazi past, not looking away from his own complex relationship to all involved; and finally, Gerhard Roth, the author of the seven-text series The Archives of Silence, a monumental collection of photos, essays and novels demonstrating the fact, as Roth conveyed to me in an interview, that “we all are just as blind and deaf to the whole picture as the blind and deaf are to the usual communications of our society.” Psychoanalytic theory from Freud to recent discussions of the transgenerational transmission of trauma and perpetrator guilt will provide a conceptual framework for the literary works. The tutorial may be taken in German or English. For those who do it in German, all literary readings and at least 3 of the papers will be in German. This tutorial will fulfill the Exploring Diversity Initiative, because it involves a close and critical examination of the exercise and denial of power, namely complicity in the Holocaust and resistance to acknowledging that complicity. The investigation of Austria’s curious combination of guilt and trauma can be extended to our own context; in fact, the Allies in 1944 published a declaration that Austria was the “first victim of Hitler,” clearly demonstrating the continuing principle that not looking at the transgressions of oneself and one’s own kind is a feature of those in power.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1504
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: five 5-page papers, one revision, discussion
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: for those taking it in German: GERM 202 or the equivalent, for those taking it in English: one college-level literature course
Enrollment Preferences: German students, Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GERM 331 Division I COMP 347 Division I

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  • COMP 347 - TUT Silence in Austria
    COMP 347 TUT Silence in Austria
    Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
    Not offered

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