HUMS 643
Art After Auschwitz? Literature, Painting, and Film in Postwar Germany

Lisa Gates

Course Overview

In 1947, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno famously declared that writing poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric.  But in the decades since the defeat of the Nazis, German artists and writers have continued to produce art, literature and even poetry that engages its struggle as a society to come to terms with its Nazi past and move forward into democratic future.  This course examines the works of controversial writers and visual artists in the post-war period as well as works by Holocaust survivors, with particular attention to artistic strategies, contentious aesthetics, and the ways in which artists and their works advance or frustrate Germany’s coming to terms with its Nazi past.  Artists discussed include novelists Günter Grass and Christa Wolf, painter Anselm Kiefer, filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, memoirist Ruth Kluger and cartoonist Art Spiegelman. Students will read and interpret novels, film, photography, poems and paintings in this course, with supplemental critical texts drawn from film, photography, cultural studies, and history.  Readings are in English.

Required Readings

Günter Grass, Cat and Mouse
Christa Wolf, Quest for Christa T
Michael Auping,  Anselm Kiefer. Heaven and Earth
Ruth Kluger, Still Alive
Art Spiegelman, Maus I

Films (available through e-reserves and blackboard)

Erwin Lesser, dir. Mein Kampf (1960)
Ray Muller, dir. The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1999)
Leni Riefenstahl, dir. Triumph of the Will (1936), Olympia (1936)
Volker Schlondorff, dir. The Tin Drum (1979)
Michael Verhoeven, dir., The Nasty Girl (1990)

Images (available through e-reserves and blackboard)

Anselm Kiefer, selected images (e.g. Germany’s Spiritual Heroes (1973), Occupations (1975), Magarethe (1981), Nuremberg (1981-82), Stairs 1982-83, Sulamite (1983))
Oskar Luz, “Proud Primitives: The Nuba People,” National Geographic (1966)
Leni Riefenstahl, The Last of the Nuba

Stories and Poems (available through e-reserves and blackboard)

Paul Celan, “Death Fugue”
Nelly Sachs, “Oh You Chimneys”
Christa Wolf, “What Remains,” “Self Experiment,” What Remains and Other Stories

Critical Articles (available through e-reserves and blackboard)

Andreas Huyssen, “Anselm Kiefer: The Terror of History, the Temptation of Myth”
Gail Finney, ed, Visual Culture in Twentieth Century Germany,  selected articles
Ian Buruma. "War and Remembrance," The New Yorker (Sept 18, 2006)
Saul Friedländer, The Limits of Representation (selections)
Kaplan, Brett Ashley, Unwanted Beauty: aesthetic pleasure in Holocaust representation, selections
Alan and Margarete Mitscherlich, The Inability to Mourn (1975), pp.xxiii-xxviii; 56-68
Susan Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism,” Under the Sign of Saturn
Lisa Saltzman, Anselm Kiefer and Art After Auschwitz , selections

Assignments and Grading
Reading journal: 20%
Classroom participation: 20%
In-class presentation: 20%
Paper outline, bibliography: 10%
Final paper (10-15 pgs): 30%

Additional Requirements: Regular attendance and active participation is mandatory. Extended or additional sessions for film screenings may be scheduled.  More than one unexcused absences will reduce the final grade.

Course Schedule
Week 1: Introduction
June 26 Introduction. Historical overview; Riefenstahl, selections from Triumph of the Will, Olympia
June 28 Riefenstahl, Mitscherlich, Mein Kampf
Week 2: Breaking the Silence
July 3 Grass, Cat and Mouse, information resources
July 5 Cat and Mouse; Grass, Nobel speech; Buruma
Week 3: Fascist Aesthetics?
July 10 Riefenstahl, The Last of the Nuba; Sontag; Luz; Lutz and Collins
July 12 The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1999)
Week 4: East German Preoccupations
July 17 Wolf, Quest for Christa T.; annotated bibliography due
July 19 Wolf, Quest for Christa T.; "What Remains," "Self-Experiment"
Week 5: Representing Memory
July 24 Kiefer, Celan, Huyssen, Saltman
July 26 Kiefer
Week 6: Survivor Stories
July 31 Kluger
August 2 Spiegelman; paper due