Friday, November 8, 2013

Planning for Lust, Betrayal, and Murder (spring semester 2014)

I've been asked to teach a 400-level special topics literature course next semester, and I had to turn in a textbook order. I'm already teaching the upper-level students who comprise the target audience, so I ran some of the possibilities by them. Romanticism? Tepid interest. Twentieth century? My colleagues are already teaching it. Medieval literature?

In both courses, students expressed the most interest in medieval literature, so I let them talk me into it.

I decided to focus on family relationships as a topic that my students could easily connect to their readings in modern German literature and work for other courses. The course didn't need a theme, though, so much as it needed a slogan, something that would catch students' attention and convince them we'll be doing interesting things next semester. "Parent-child relationships in medieval German literature" wouldn't do at all. It needed drama. It needed action.

Thus was born "Lust, Betrayal, Murder: Family Life in Medieval German Literature."

We'll have time for about five of the smaller Reclam editions. I would have liked to do König Röther, but the payoff was higher with the Nibelungenlied, which is also available in selections in modern German translation. In addition, we'll read Hartmann von Aue's Gregorius and Der arme Heinrich (two works that seem to be relevant to just about any topic), Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (in selections again), and Werner der Gärtner's Meier Helmbrecht. This will be my first time using Helmbrecht in class, which should be interesting.

One thing I like about the topic is that I can fit in some of the early medieval material fairly easily, including the Hildebrandslied, discussion of Waltharius, and the Heliand (probably looking at a section on Mary and Joseph). I've already started a list of topics for student presentations (such as Konrad von Würzburg's Engelhard), and I can think of scenes or chapters from several late medieval and early modern works to look at along the way, like Brant's Narrenschiff and Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus. I'll need to look through the usual sources to see what relevant specimens of medieval poetry I can find. By the time it's ready in January, the syllabus should contain a mix of new material and things I've taught several times before.

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