Forms of Desire: Introduction To German Literary Studies

Forms of Desire: Introduction To German Literary Studies

Forms of Desire: Introduction to Literary Studies

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Professor Ellwood Wiggins (

Sprechstunde (Denny 338): M 3:30-4:30, F 10-11, od. nach Verabredung

Goals: This course is intended to introduce you to the basic techniques of literary discussion, to develop your ability to interpret by close reading, and to refine your writing skills. To do so, we will read and discuss a wide range of texts across three centuries (18th-20th) and genres (lyric, prose narrative, drama).

Theme: Despite this variety, each of our texts will focus in a different way on the nature of human desire. In each case, we will reflect on the ways that the form of the text at hand inflects and shapes its representation of desire.

Thus, we’ll use the lens of love to examine a variety of works of German literature. The works we will discuss approach the theme of desire from different directions and with different emphases. The course will explore the following questions, always taking the texts at hand as observational proving grounds for our ideas: What is desire? Is it different from love? (If so, then how, exactly?) Why does desire play such an important role in cultural artifacts like novels, poetry, plays, operas, music, film, etc.? Why do so many of the best and best-preserved love stories end badly? What are the social uses of cultural representations of desire over time? What historical, cultural and philosophical shifts have occurred in German culture’s use of love? How should we understand desire philosophically? Most fundamentally, what is the relation between desire and its (literary) representations?

Please see the syllabus below for more information on policies, expectations, and a detailed schedule of readings and assignments:

Course Description and Syllabus

Required books:

  • Course Reader ($9.99 at EZ Copy N’ Print, 4336 University Way NE)
  • Lessing, Emilia Galotti (Reclam ed. available at UW bookstore)
  • Büchner, Woyzeck (Reclam ed. available at UW bookstore)

Other readings and helpful links:

Course Summary:

Date Details