Fall 2017 Courses

germ-ga 1116, origins of german critical thought ii:

martin heidegger's sein und zeit (being and time)

Conducted in English
Taught by Hent de Vries

This seminar will consist in an integral reading of the Introduction to and First Division of Heidegger's 1927 magnum opus. We will place the book within the context of the author's earlier and later development, discuss his predecessors and teachers, contemporaries and pupils, while also exposing this influential work to the spotlight of current critiques. In doing so, we will bring phenomenological, hermeneutic, and deconstructive as well as analytic, epistemological, and pragmatist viewpoints and methods to bear upon the historical significance and continuing relevance of this modern classic.

This seminar will be conducted in English but the original German text will be used as our basis, while continuously cross-referencing to the standard English translation. Students are urged to read the two alongside.

GERM-GA 1540, Modern German Novel:

Heimito von Doderer's "Strudlhofstiege"

Conducted in German
Taught by Daniel Kehlmann

Heimito von Doderer’s novel Die Strudlhofstiege, published in 1951, has always occupied a peculiar place in literary history. In Austria it received instant recognition as a contemporary classic and is still widely read, whereas in Germany it never quite entered the canon. This gives readers the satisfaction of encountering one of the most complex and also enjoyable masterpieces of the German language without any preconceived notions. In terms of complexity, beauty of language and charming craziness, very few books can compare to Die Strudlhofstiege, and it is not far-fetched to claim that it might be the best German novel of the twentieth century. In this seminar we will attempt a close reading of the book and discuss its extremely intricate composition and ironic attitude towards its own plot and the concept of plot in general. Die Strudlhofstiege is a novel like no other, and by analyzing its patterns, structure and language we might arrive a better understanding of the genre of the novel itself.

GERM-GA 1842

Nietzsche's impact on 20th/21st century thought

Conducted in English
Taught by Friedrich Ulfers

The objective of the seminar is to show how Nietzsche revolutionized Western philosophy by transforming its dualistic-metaphysical worldview into a holistic one that corresponds to the reality of the world as one interrelated, processual whole. It will also show how this transformation influenced significantly what is known as “Continental Philosophy,” which includes such figures as Heidegger, Derrida, and Deleuze.

Particular attention will be paid to the meaning of Nietzsche’s pronouncement that “God is dead”; his declaration that the world is “Will to Power ” and an “aesthetic phenomenon”; and his idea of “Eternal Recurrence.” Also discussed will be the role language plays in Nietzsche’s view on epistemology and ontology, his revaluation of morality, and his influence on the arts.

GERM-GA 1994, Realism: Problems in 19th century prose:

specters of realism

Conducted in German
Taught by Elisabeth Strowick

Categories such as the spectral, the uncanny, fleetingness, or seriality are not readily associated with German Realism. The course takes a fresh look at texts by Adalbert Stifter, Theodor Fontane, and Theodor Storm in order to explore the thesis of the modernity of Realism. We will analyze framing techniques and temporal structures as well as the interrelation between Realist poetics and other discourses and media by means of which Realist texts produce reality as perceived reality. The aesthetics and epistemology of Realism will furthermore be discussed against the backdrop of Goethe’s notion of “Augengespenst” (specter of the eye) as developed in his Theory of Colors as well as with respect to Erich Auerbach’s “mimesis,” Roger Caillois’s concept of mimicry, and Roland Barthes’s “reality effect.”

germ-ga 2222, early german cinema:

transatlantic weimar

Conducted in English
Taught by Elisabeth Bronfen

We will be looking at filmmakers like Lang and Sierck/Sirk on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to think more about politics, popular media, and resistance.

GERM-GA 2900, criticism, critique & crisis:

trauma zone: falling apart in literature & philosophy

Conducted in English
Taught by Avital Ronell

This class takes off from the circumscription of trauma zones and historical excess to consider how one shuts down or rises up against despotic regimes, institutions, friends, lovers and the rule of familial tropologies that continue to dictate our stealth moves or existential stalls. We shall explore the effects of trauma on language and narrative, including the mysterious figurations attached to pregnancy and violation in Kleist's Marquise von O and the hysterical fantasy of male pregnancy in Freud's famous "Rat Man" case.

In a supplementary fold we shall look at the traumatic ravishes of stupidity beginning with a close-up of Wordsworth's poetry, "The Idiot Boy" and Hölderlin's "Blödigkeit." The readings engage Cathy Caruth's important work, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma and the Possibility of History. Buckle your seat belts!

*lectures in Avital Ronell's graduate course, GERM-GA 2900

totality or assemblage?

November 8, 9, 15, 16
Taught by Slavoj Žižek

  1. Assemblage, structure, totality, organism
  2. Assemblage or overdetermined totality?
  3. No spirit without mechanism
  4. In defense of class essentialism

A new philosophical concept is emerging from the interaction of the new trends that grew out of and around Speculative Realism (object-oriented- ontology, action-network theory, New Materialism), the concept of assemblage. Does this concept work, does it do the work it is supposed to do? The stakes are high, ontological and political: assemblage also serves as an instrument to think how to build larger united fronts out of identity politics without falling into class essentialism.

The concept of assemblage will be analyzed in comparison with a series of other concepts it is supposed to replace: structure, organism, and especially totality. The aim of the analysis will not be just to establish which concept is more appropriate but also to discern the practical social experience that each of the concepts relies on. Concepts are not simply right or wrong, wrong concepts are rooted in “wrong” social practice.


Slavoj Žižek, Disparities (London: Bloomsbury 2016), Chapters 1, 2, 8 and 9.
Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage Theory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP 2016)
Graham Harman, Immaterialism (Cambridge: Polity 2016).