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Spring 2013 Courses


GER 540: Intellectual Life & Moral Responsibility: Philosophers & Writers in the Nazi Era

Instructor: Dennis Schmidt


This course will address the role, writings, and subsequent reflections of some of Germany's leading thinkers during the Nazi era. More precisely, the intention is to look closely at the very difficult cases of those whose work has been widely recognized as highly significant, but whose involvement with the Nazi regime is undeniably significant as well. How are we to understand the work of those whose work cannot be dismissed, but whose efforts to enlist that work in the service of Nazi agendas cannot be dismissed either? Sadly, the choices the number of figures who might well serve as case studies is large; however, for a number of reasons, we will restrict our discussions to the following: Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, and Ernst Jünger.[1] In order to carry out this project, two other sets of readings and topics to discuss will need to be considered. First, we will consider the work of those whose fates were bound up with the Nazi rule, but who, rather than find themselves complicit with that regime, went into exile. Here works by Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Karl Jaspers, and Karl Löwith will be discussed. Second, we will need to be familiar with some larger cultural contexts within which these questions are to be addressed. To this end, we will look at some art exhibitions such as the celebrated Entartete Kunst exhibit (as well as Schultze-Naumburg's Kunst und Rasse), Leni Reifenstahl's films, and we will discuss the relation of the university system to the Nazi regime as well as the frequently invoked notion of an “inner migration”. Reference will also be made to Fichte's Address to the German Nation, to the role of Wagner's music, as well as the fate of Nietzsche's work in the Nazi era.

[1] Doctors, businesspeople, inventors, and scientists committed their skills to the Holocaust and the war as well and need special investigations of their own. However, our interest in this course will be restricted to those whose work is primarily theoretical and aimed at a more academic audience.




GER 581: Romantic Spaces

Instructor: Daniel Purdy


Once upon a time, it was common to subordinate spatial relations to temporality. Time was considered the more fundamental quality of modern consciousness, both in literature and philosophy. Modernist literature was seen as concerned foremostly with the passage of time, memory and the unstable cohesion of subjectivity; only post-modernist writing was considered spatially oriented with its interest in commodity relations, globalizing capitalism, simultaneity and description.

This course will take a step or two back to investigate how Romanticism (broadly defined) constructs space in order to 1) organize interior feelings, along the axes of knowledge, sexuality, and power ; 2) establish a domestic terrain and boundaries for the nation state; 3) define differences between home and foreign spaces. Along these lines we will read Romanticism in light of theories of subjectivity, nationalism and Orientalism.

These three areas will overlap so that we will readily interpret the Orient as a space allowing for alternate modes of identity or the nation as an arena that incorporates ethnic, sexual and cultural differences. This course will also examine how literary texts represent the subjective experience of space. Literary depictions of space have long served as external reflections of interior states of mind. Thus our readings will lead us through ancient Italian labyrinths, psychic caverns, neo-gothic ruins, cartographic landscapes, broad boulevards, dark alleys, and bureaucratic compartments. We will also ponder the difference between the beautiful and the sublime.

Romanticism stressed the unique qualities of place. The poetic descriptions of natural sites such as the Rhine, the Danube or the Alps will receive our particular attention. We will study how literary texts construct the borders between Europe and the Orient while simultaneously arranging sexualities into heteronormative and queer spaces. All along the way, we will be reading some of the most important canonical texts in the Romantic tradition, in order to provide you with an overview of cultural history. We will also take a peek at key post-Romantic texts in order to understand better the contours of Romanticism.




GER 593/LING 597: Learnability and Linguistic Theory

Instructor: Michael Putnam

A central guiding principle of modern linguistic theorizing has been the pursuit of formalisms that are both descriptively adequate (i.e., able to describe structural patterns attested in languages) and explanatorily adequate (i.e., able to describe how human beings acquire language). Despite fundamental differences across contemporary formalisms, all pay close attention to these core axioms. This course examines the notion of "learnability" from a variety of different perspectives to see how these findings align with and challenge models of language competence (and performance). Special attention will be directed to "non-ideal speaker-hearers" (contra Chomsky 1965) such as L2 learners, code-switching speakers, and heritage speakers to investigate how longstanding assumptions in generative traditions can be integrated with current research in psychology and cognitive science.

Topics include:

- The notion of Universal Grammar (UG): What is it? Is it an essential component of (all) linguistic theories? Defenses and criticisms

- Input, cues, and grammar: Are they the same thing?

- Input frequency vs. activation

- Grammar and Parser: Are they similar or different entities?

- How does linguistic competence emerge differently across different populations?

- Parallel vs. modular approaches to grammar production, comprehension, and production

- Overview of generative and cognitive models of linguistic theory and their relation to learnability

- The (dis)connection between competence and performance

Through these discussions, we will explore proposals, criticisms, and solutions on how to improve and revise theories of linguistic competence in order to enhance their accuracy and usefulness across disciplines.