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Semester 1

Deutscher Buchpreis: Trends in Contemporary German Literature (ELCG09015)


European Languages and Cultures - German





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Visiting Students should have the equivalent of at least two years of study at University level of the appropriate language(s) and culture(s).

Course Summary

This option introduces students to trends in contemporary German literature by reading selected novels which have won the German Book Prize. The German Book Prize, established in 2005 by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels Stiftung (the Foundation of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association), is awarded to the 'best' German-language novel just prior to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. Students will closely study four selected novels over two weeks respectively. Each primary text will be accompanied by some critical reading, which will enable the group both to engage with wider, transnational issues that have influenced recent German-language literary production and to discuss the judging of literary prizes and the selection criteria underlying such evaluation of literature.

Course Description

Academic description: First awarded in 2005, the German Book Prize is very much a literary prize of the twenty-first century: it is part of a range of international prizes such as the Man Booker Prize that not only acknowledge the quality of a book but have a great impact on its transnational marketing. Thus, according to the German Book Prize website, 'the Prize is intended to draw attention beyond national borders to authors writing in German, to reading and to the keynote medium of the book'. Bearing in mind the transnational context of the prize, this course introduces students to trends in contemporary German literature by examining four prize-winning novels, which have been selected in order to introduce students to as wide a range of novels and themes as possible in 10 seminars, alongside relevant criticism. The selection of novels will change from year to year as new winners shape the German literary landscape. This approach will enable students not only to discuss wider issues that have influenced recent German-language literary production such as the occurrence of literary themes and forms in recent writing and their connection with (German) literary history more widely but also to develop an understanding of the mechanics of the German and international book markets and, vice versa, its significance for the popularity of certain genres and forms among writers and readers alike. Thus the notion of the canon in the context of literary prizes such as the German Book Prize will be a crucial issue to be discussed in the final session. This option will encourage students to engage with contemporary issues in Germany and beyond via the medium of literature; to compare contemporary German texts with other European literature and thus to acknowledge their transnational links; and to develop an understanding of the marketing of literary texts as well as for their positioning in the context of literary history and literary canons as they are emerging. Outline of content: We will look at the history and development of the German Book Prize and contemporary German-language Literature from the year 2005 and the wider context of other German as well as international literary prizes. In particular we will be examining in the selected texts how the present is experienced in relation to memory and history; how the self, specifically the female self, is constructed in connection with gender, the body and language/communication; how migration, history and politics have shaped today's transnational Europe; and how literary engagements with flight and disappearance have had an impact on perceptions of contemporary 'Germanness'. Finally, we will consider notions of the canon. The course is taught in 10 two-hour seminars over one semester. As one of the key teaching methods is student-led learning, which encourages learners to exercise initiative, responsibility and independence, and manage their learning activities and work with others, students are encouraged to form Autonomous Learning Groups to discuss the primary and secondary texts before each class and present to the whole group the topics and issues/questions that were raised in their pre-class meetings. Handouts are provided in advance of each seminar with points for discussion and other important information that will be helpful for the class discussion. Students will listen to brief presentations on the texts and their contexts when appropriate, but most of the class will centre on workshop-based discussion. The language of instruction and delivery of this course is a combination of German and English. We will discuss students' preferences in the first seminar.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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