German literature: modern literature. Concepts and texts

lgerm2712  2019-2020  Louvain-la-Neuve

German literature: modern literature. Concepts and texts
Note from June 29, 2020
Although we do not yet know how long the social distancing related to the Covid-19 pandemic will last, and regardless of the changes that had to be made in the evaluation of the June 2020 session in relation to what is provided for in this learning unit description, new learnig unit evaluation methods may still be adopted by the teachers; details of these methods have been - or will be - communicated to the students by the teachers, as soon as possible.
5 credits
22.5 h
Introduction to German literature and good knowledge of German (advanced level B2+ as defined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
Main themes
In a first stage, the meaning of modern coming from neighboring disciplines (sociology, philosophy and art history) will be examined to come up with a notion of "modernity" which is not simply inspired by historiography. This discussion makes the link to the courses on the history of literature and thought included in the BAC program.
After this brief introduction the main part of the course covers the practice of literary interpretation. On the basis of selected texts of principal authors of the modernist period in German literature (Thomas Mann, Rilke, Kafka, Benn, Brecht, Döblin, Trakl, for example) we shall discover innovations in the choice of themes and esthetic expression related to this time. In particular, we shall examine how in the different texts and text types the authors conceive, imagine, and tell the relationship between the outer- and inner- worlds of the individual.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :


Participants who complete this course successfully will be able to

  • become familiar with the era of modernism with respect to both the concept of modernity in literary research (Modernethorie) and major authors and works of this period
  • distinguish modernist German literature of the beginning of the 20th century from more traditional forms of poetic expression (realism, naturalism) and to describe in a critical view the themes and problems treated by the literature of the first decades of the 20th century.

The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
This seminar focuses on a literary period of the first half of the twentieth century: the "Klassische Moderne". This period encompasses the literary productions of authors such as Franz Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke, Gottfried Benn, Bertolt Brecht and Alfred Döblin. Each one of them experimented with the literary forms of the classical and realist tradition in all literary genres: in prose as well as in poetry or theatre. Kafka created a literature sui generis, Rilke discovered - feeling confirmed by the observations of Auguste Rodin's and Paul Cézanne's artistic approaches in Paris - a style of poetry that he called "Sachliches Sagen", Brecht developed an entirely new form of drama called "Episches Theater" which inspired productions for decades, and Döblin perfected the technique of the "Montageroman" (literary montage) in his novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz". We will read a selection of exemplary texts written in this literary period with the aim to get global vision and a deeper understanding of the literary innovations. The main purpose of the readings and analyses consists in understanding what is unique and specific in an analysis of the human condition in modern times.
Teaching methods
Introduction by the lecturer at the beginning of the course; discussion of texts prepared individually. The oral presentations serve as a starting point for the analysis of literary texts and the discussion of topics related to them.
Evaluation methods
Continuous assessment in class (reading at home and active participation in discussions, oral presentations on the basis of a written "Thesenpapier": 30%); final evaluation in form of a written paper: 70 %. Regular attendance and active participation in are a prerequisite for the final evaluation.
Kiesel, Helmuth : Geschichte der literarischen Moderne. Sprache, Ästhetik, Dichtung im 20. Jahrhundert. München: Beck 2004.

Une bibliographie détaillée sera diffusée au séminaire.
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [60] in Modern Languages and Literatures : General

Master [120] in Modern Languages and Literatures : German, Dutch and English

Master [60] in Modern Languages and Literatures : German, Dutch and English

Certificat universitaire en littérature

Master [120] in Modern Languages and Literatures : General