Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


21G.404 German IV / 21G.474 German IV or permission of instructor.

Course Description

This course examines stories of murder and madness in nineteenth and twentieth century literature as manifestations of the increasingly antagonistic relationship between individual and society. Various authors’ portrayals of good and evil will be discussed as well as moral and social implications. The course examines short stories, dramas, novels and a film from the early nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth. In this way, the course will acquaint students not only with some of the most sinister, riveting, and eerie texts ever written in the German language, but also with some of the most important periods of German literary history. Textual analyses, conversations, presentations, and writing assignments of various lengths will prepare students to discuss, orally and in writing, ethical and social issues on a stylistically sophisticated level.

Fulfills the HASS-H requirement. This course can be repeated for credit with permission of instructor.


Short Stories

  • Hoffmann, E. T. A. Das Fräulein von Scuderi. Jazzybee Verlag, 2015. ISBN: 9783849692889.
  • Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von. Die Judenbuche. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. ISBN: 9781484071137.
  • Hauptmann, Gerhart. Bahnwärter Thiel. Reclam Philipp Jun, 2014. ISBN: 9783150191545.


  • Brecht, Bertolt, and Kurt Weill. Die Dreigroschenoper. Universal Edition, 1928.
  • Dürrenmatt, Friedrich. Die Physiker. Archer House, 1962.


  • Arjouni, Jakob. Happy Birthday, Türke! Diogenes Verlag AG, 2008. ISBN: 9783257237023.


  • Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780521540711.


This course seeks to:

  • Refine students’ perception of literary style;
  • enable students to discuss, orally and in writing, ethical and social issues on a stylistically sophisticated level;
  • furnish students with a principal vocabulary and style of literary analysis.

The three levels on which stylistic refinement will take place are:

  • Textual: Close readings of selected passages / scenes, analyses of plot / character, scene construction, characterization, linguistic aspects.
  • Contextual / Geschichtlich: Discussion, analysis and comparison of issues of crime and punishment, the relationship of individual and society and the way it has changed from the early nineteenth century to the present.
  • Contextual / Literaturgeschichtlich: How and why these relationships have been expressed and expressed differently in different eras of literary history, from the Romantics to contemporary German authors.

Writing Assignments: Students will be required to produce two papers of approximately 3 pages each in process writing (outline, paper, re-write); each incorporating vocabulary and stylistic tools presented and practiced in class. Each paper sets a different task: One is an analysis of a scene or character; the second a short literary analysis of one text read in the context of important aesthetic, historical, or philosophical issues debated during the relevant literary period.

Oral Reports / Discussion Leader: Each student will be required to lead a class discussion. S / he will begin the class by discussing the importance of the author / text for the genre or literary epoch in question in an oral report (with references to the author’s biography, central works, surrounding literary and political history). The oral reports will be based on outline notes only (free speech) and be approximately 8–10 minutes long. Guidelines for the reports will be provided in class.

Homework / Joint Work: Regular written homework will be assigned (ungraded) to give students an opportunity to develop confident use of the sophisticated style they will be expected to use in graded papers. As part of your homework you will also participate in online discussions. In addition, “homework” can mean slightly more unusual tasks, including short performances of scenes from the plays we are reading. The goal of these performances is to use German not only in the theoretical / academic, but also in the organizational context, to acquire a natural feeling for the diction and intonation of spoken German, and to perform the language in the linguistic as well as the theatrical sense.

While some assignments are individual (papers, most written homework), others (Referate, dramatic scenes) must be planned in groups. Tasks assigned to groups must be executed in groups; it is unacceptable to circumvent this process by dividing the work up into smaller tasks and doing it individually. When meeting outside of class for such assignments, all work (organizational or otherwise) must be done in German.

Abschlussprojekt: Our final project requires you to creatively ‘discuss,’ orally and in writing, central aspects of this course. These aspects can relate to topical issues (crime and punishment, individual and society, myth and reality, etc.) as well as formal issues (literary genres, features of literary epochs or different media, literary language, narrative structure, etc.). You are free to choose a text / topic / event discussed in class or find your own. The goal is to create a ‘product’ that demonstrates your own thought on the issues discussed in class. The final project will have two components: A written and a performative component. The written component (about 3 pages in length) can be a script, blog, work journal, interview, prose text, or photo essay, and the other component is a ‘staging’ of this text (Pre-recorded or live), such as a dramatic reading, a theatrical performance, a presentation, a short film, or a debate. You will be working in small groups or with a partner.


Referat 15%
Hausaufgaben und Online-diskussionen 20%
Mitarbeit 30%
2 Aufsätze 20%
Abschlussprojekt 15%

Administrative Matters

Class Attendance

While MITs regulations already emphasize that regular class attendance is critical for academic success and the awarding of credit for a course, that fact is particularly important in the case of language learning. Therefore, you should inform me ahead of Time–e-mail or a phone call are good means of communication–if unforeseen events prevent you from being in class. Otherwise you are expected to be well-prepared and fully engaged participants in all regularly scheduled classes.

Information on Plagiarism

Cooperation between students is absolutely essential to learning a language. While I encourage cooperation in class or occasionally in homework assignments, I would like to make sure that the work you submit adheres to MITs policies on plagiarism.

The FL&L Department has formulated this policy for all plagiarism cases:
Plagiarism—use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work.

For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution consult the handbook of Academic Integrity.


Please type written assignments double-spaced, leave 1" margins. Homework should be handed in on time. If you are–for whatever reason–unable to complete your assignment or are unprepared for class, please let me know as soon as possible.