Conducted in German
Taught by Chadwick Smith
Conventional concepts of justice normally involve conformity to an established order, be it religious, juridical, or scientific. A measuring stick against which an action or event in the world may be judged, the correspondence between experience and the law provides a framework for understanding the world and making sense of it. At times crucial for our understanding of Modernity, both Heinrich von Kleist and Franz Kafka disabuse us of the notion of a world that makes sense while doggedly pursuing some idea of justice. This course asks fundamental questions about these authors’ writings when seen through this lens: how can literature participate in critical discourses of law, politics, justice, and philosophy in a unique way? What role does the presentation of historical events (or, conversely, the absence of any history) play in critiquing the present? What is the relationship between the margins of society and the centers of power? Can a social order be founded upon moments of crisis or an exceptional occurrence? What role does humor play in all of these questions? We will read short stories and novellas by Kafka and Kleist, as well as short works by Bertolt Brecht, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Goethe, and H.P. Lovecraft among others. Critical essays and philosophical reflections by a range of relevant thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Vilém Flusser, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Kittler will accompany our readings and discussions of the fictional texts.