Continental Literature

Full year course, offered every other year (not offered in 2011-2012)
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-3

1. Rationale

The history of Western society and literature has been shaped by the European experience. We feel that it is important for American students to read literature from that tradition. Many literary and philosophical movements that continue to influence our lives came out of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, and this course attempts to make students aware of some of these ideas in a cultural context.

2. Topics and Themes Emphasized

Students are asked to consider works of literature and to raise questions about them in relation to their experience and their world. Works are chosen to provoke such inter-cultural questioning and to illuminate, on an introductory level, some of the literary and philosophical movements of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Romanticism, Realism, Symbolism, Naturalism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Existentialism. There are also developments in psychoanalysis that have affected literature and culture that may be discussed.

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

Most classes are centered on discussion and rely on students’ participation and interpretive ability. There is an occasional background or enrichment lecture. Students sometimes make presentations based on individual or group work. Some examples of questions that are discussed are as follows: What is Goethe’s world view? How is Zola’s Naturalist theory relfected in Germinal? Is Nora’s view of the law more sophisticated than Torvald’s? Writing assignments include a wide variety of topics from creative (Try your hand at writing some poems in imitation of Symbolist style.) to formal (Analyze Faust as a Romantic work.)

4. Expectations for Students

Students should expect to read roughly twenty pages per night, although this will vary depending on the form of the work we are reading. Students will write a minimum of three papers per semester. Some of these papers will be in-class essay tests. There are frequent reading quizzes. Students will be assigned a longterm research project, due at the end of the year.

5. Reading List and Other Materials

Works will be chosen from the following:

Faust, Part I, Goethe
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
Eugenie Grandet, Balzac
Doll’s House, Ibsen
Miss Julie, Strindberg
stories, Balzac
Marianne, Sand
Notes from Underground, Dostoievsky
Germinal, Zola
A Confession, Tolstoy
poems–Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine
poems — Garcia Lorca, Machado
poems–Rilke
The Trial, Kafka
Nausea, Sartre
The Plague, Camus
When Things of the Spirit Come First, DeBeauvoir
Blood of Others, DeBeauvoir
Waiting for Godot, Beckett
Zorba the Greek, Kazanzakis
Four Novels, Duras

Films: Impromptu, Mephisto, The Trial, Danton, Vengo

6. Bibliography

This is only a representative bibliography. See the L.S. library collection of European history and fiction.

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Schama
The Social History of Art, Hauser
Realism and Tradition in Art 1848-1900, Nochlin
Zola: A Life, Brown
The Nightmare of Reason, Pawel
God and the State, Bakunin

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