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Level 5

5AAGB303 History into Literature

Credit value: 15 credits
Module tutor: Dr Ben Schofield, Daniele Vecchiato
Assessment: One 4,000 word coursework essay (100%)
Teaching pattern: Two hours per week

Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt 

This module is taught in English, using English-language sources and translations; no prior knowledge of German is required.

Module description

History is often seen as something factual and subjective, while literature is seen as fictional and subjective. This module aims to break down the barriers between history and literature, and looks at the construction and function of history and memory in the literary production of Germany from the Middle Ages right through to the present day. We will examine the narrative strategies deployed by authors in representing history in literature, and question the function of literature as a carrier of historical memory and historical identity. To what extent does literature shape processes of history, and how are literary forms shaped by historical events? How does historical identity impact on national and personal identity, and how do memories of the past reflect past and contemporary concerns through literature? More broadly, how do we conceive of history and literature as separate categories, and how are these categories and conceptions historically defined?

We will explore these questions through the study of a range of dynamic texts, engaging directly with some of the most important works of German-language culture ever produced. To what extent is historical memory created through literature? Can literary texts be considered ‘memorials’ to the past, and if so, what function do they have for us today?

Primary Literature 

  • Chronicles (extracts provided in class)
  • The Nibelungenlied
  • Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks
  • Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
  • Friedrich Schiller, Wallenstein
  • W. G. Sebald, The Emigrants 

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.


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