GERM 301
From Red Riding Hood to Autobahn: German Forests in Literature, Culture, and Economy Fall 2022
Division I

Class Details

Over the centuries, German and other Western literary traditions projected widely diverse notions onto the forest. It served as a placeholder for romantic concepts of origination as well as threatening notions of wilderness. It is “the shadow of civilization” (R.P. Harrison), a liminal space, an imagined refuge for the marginalized — and home to countless fairy-tale characters. Consistently, both positive and negative idealizations stand in stark contrast to the woods’ predominantly economic and embattled role in German society: Wood fueled the early industrial revolution and today environmentalists occupy trees to protect them from lignite mining and highway construction. In this course, we will trace these histories and notions as well as their tensions and contradictions in German literary texts from the 19th to the 21st century. We will pay special attention to the central symbolic role the forest has played in German culture and nation-building, and reflect on its multiple poetic, political, and economic functions. The earliest texts we will read include Grimms’ fairy tales and Droste-Hülshoff’s Judenbuche. We will read well-known authors of the 20th century, such as Brecht and Grass, and discuss more recent poetry and novels, such as excerpts from Strubel’s In den Wäldern des menschlichen Herzens. The literary texts will be complemented by a limited number of key essays in Ecocriticism and the Environmental Humanities. We will also take advantage of our location in the Berkshires to explore de- and reforestation in the region during a field trip. Discussion and primary readings in German.
The Class: Format: seminar; One field trip planned to learn about the history of de- and reforestation in the region from an ecologist based in the area
Limit: 15
Expected: 10 - 12
Class#: 1232
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Careful reading and preparation of texts, written assignments, short oral presentations
Prerequisites: GERM 202 or equivalent
Enrollment Preferences: If course over-enrolls (beyond the cap), preference will be given to students in GERM
Distributions: Division I

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