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Unit information: Literature and Politics, 1800-1871 in 2015/16

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Unit name Literature and Politics, 1800-1871
Unit code GERM22039
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Davies
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


1800-1871 were eventful and formative years in the history of Germany. Beginning with invasion by Napoleon in the century's first decade and the ejection of the French in 1813-1815, this was the period in which several efforts were made to define the German nation and to unite it, in both its politics and its culture. Cultural nationalism, expressed and discussed in literary works, went alongside the political nationalism that saw its goals achieved with the unification of Germany in 1871.

In this unit we will investigate political developments in this crucial historical period alongside representative examples of its literature, asking how literary texts both formed and responded to historical events at different times and in different parts of Germany and Austria. Close attention to individual literary texts will accompany a thorough study of the historical episodes that led up to the creation of the first German nation state.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  • be knowledgeable about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying;
  • be skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  • be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at a high level;
  • be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an high level of complexity;
  • be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including study at a foreign university and on work placements during the year abroad.

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details

One 2000-word essay plus 2-hour exam (50% / 50%)

Reading and References

Introductory reading:

Germany 1800-1870, ed. by Jonathan Sperber (Oxford, 2004)

Stefan Berger, Germany: Inventing the Nation (London, 2004)

H-J. Hahn, German Thought and Culture: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Present Day (Manchester, 1995), esp. chapters 3, 4 and 6

A New History of German Literature, ed. by David E. Wellbery and others (Cambridge, MA, 2004), esp. pp. 505-11, 516-21, 526-31, 556-72 and 577-81: bite-sized introductory essays.

Literary set texts:

Franz Grillparzer, König Ottokars Glück und Ende

Heinrich Heine, Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen