German 450

GRMN 450: Survey of German Literature

Prerequisite: GRMN 300 or four years of high school German

Credit Hours: (4) Four hours lecture

This course surveys literature in the German language by means of analysis of selected representative works in their historical, cultural and literary background.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Students read a small sampling of representative literary works from the major periods and movements. Although a major emphasis is placed on reading comprehension, German is spoken and heard in class; likewise, students receive writing practice when preparing the written form of their oral report. An overview of the works read follows:

  • heroic lays: Das Hildebrandlied
  • the medieval period: Das Nibelungenlied, and some Minnesang
  • humanism and the baroque: Der Ackermann aus Böhmen and Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus, some Gryphius poems
  • classical period: some poems by Goethe and Schiller, Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
  • romantic period: selected poems and short prose by Hölderlin, Heine, Kleist, and some of Grimm's fairy tales
  • 19th century: novella by Storm, Keller or Droste-Hülshoff
  • 20th century: prose by Kafka; a play by Brecht or Dürrenmatt; and poems by Trakl, Rilke, Benn, Brecht, and Sachs.
  • Students choose oral reports on works not covered in class so as to broaden the sampling of works encountered.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Class is conducted in the target language. Students read the selected texts before the discussion in class and first receive assistance from the instructor in reading comprehension, e.g. in vocabulary, morphology, and syntax. Subsequently the instructor has the students recapitulate orally the main content and features of the text. The instructor finally lectures on the cultural, literary, and historical background of the work and also on the significant literary features of the text that facilitate an attempt at interpretation of the work. Students present orally a report on a work and include the following parts in their report: a. a brief plot summary; b. the important themes; c. the significance of the form; d. biographical and cultural background information; and e. the importance or representativeness of the work in the history of German literature. Subsequently, students prepare a written form of this oral report. The first submission of the paper is a penultimate draft that is corrected by the instructor and revised by the student.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students will develop an ability to read with consistent understanding prose of greater length dealing primarily with factual information and intended for the general reader. Moreover, in areas of special interest or knowledge, students will develop an increasing ability to understand parts of texts which are propositionally and linguistically complex. Students also will be able to identify and describe the major periods of German literature and analyze and interpret some leading works in their cultural background.

Assessment Measures

Students are quizzed regularly on their progress in reading. Reading comprehension and vocabulary tests evaluate students' comprehension of the basic content of the texts and their progress in vocabulary acquisition. Literature tests focus on students' comprehension of the literary, cultural, biographical, and historical issues elaborated on in class lectures. Students demonstrate their ability to study other works independently in the oral and written reports.


Other Course Information

Literary topics that cannot be treated in this course because of the severe time limitations can be focused upon in GRMN 460 Special Topics.


Approval and Subsequent Reviews
September 2005 Reviewed Philip Sweet