What does it mean to be German today? Contemporary German society abounds with Grenzüberschreiter of varying kinds: generations who were raised in a divided Germany but came of age in a reunified, globalized Bundesrepublik; communities of multi-generational German nationals whose identities nevertheless inherit the problematic international labor-politics of both the East and the West; voices demanding greater visibility of Germany’s postcolonial legacy and sparking viral debates around #meinNazihintergrund; a youth culture that takes for granted a social-democratic welfare state, fixates on American media, and prioritizes environmental justice as much as sexual liberation. Today’s Germany exists as a product of multiple in-betweens, and German identity emerges against critical examinations of gender, race, class, geography, and history.
This course explores contemporary Germany through a study of prose fiction. Concentrating on four novels from the past decade, we will map the complexities of national identity, inherited traditions, intersectional communities, and political responsibility within the German social fabric. With a focus on works by Jenny Erpenbeck, Khuê Pham, Saša Stanišić, and Leif Randt, we will see just how wide and diverse the notion of “Germanness” is, as we study the social, cultural, and aesthetic forces that drive German life in the 21st century. In a place where ethnic belonging, linguistic expression, domestic lifestyle, and digital personhood are growing ever more fluid, it’s anyone’s Germany.
Faculty: William Stewart
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 - 1:15 pm