GERM 331
Silence, Loss, and (Non)Memory in Austria 1900-the Present
Last Offered Fall 2018
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
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

One hundred years after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I, Austria is, on the one hand, a tiny fragment of its former self. Since that signal loss, Austria’s identity has been closely tied to its ghostly past, for better or for worse. 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 three of the papers will be in German.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1595
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: five 5-page papers, one revision, discussion
Prerequisites: for students taking the course in German, GERM 202 or the equivalent; for those taking it in English, one college-level literature course
Enrollment Preferences: German or Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GERM 331 Division I COMP 347 Division I
DPE Notes: The course includes 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; we will discuss the consequences of not acknowledging the wrongdoings of oneself and one's own group for the moral and political health of the society.

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