Order and Madness: Classical German Literature - GE585

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5)


Completion of German Stage 1





This module examines a selection of essential texts drawn from the period from 1775 to the first years of the nineteenth century, in which German literature achieved European stature. It looks at innovation and newly emerging confidence in the treatment of the major literary forms (prose fiction, drama, lyric poetry). But it also studies the currents of violence, passion and madness which these forms were used to convey in an era defined by the iconoclasm of the Sturm und Drang movement and by revolutionary upheaval in France. We will look at the original angry young men of German literature (Werther, Die Räuber), dramas of love and betrayal (Faust), as well as prose fiction which retains its power to shock and puzzle even today (Kleist). The texts studied treat desire, problematic relationships of power and gender, and the crisis of individuals caught up in the painful birth of European modernity.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

One weekly two-hour seminar for ten weeks


Available under codes GE584 (Level 5) and GE585 (Level 6)

Method of assessment

60% Coursework, 40% Exam

Preliminary reading

Indicative Reading:

• Goethe, Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (Bristol Classical Texts)
• Schiller, Die Räuber (Bristol Classical Texts)
• J. M. R. Lenz, Die Soldaten and Der Hofmeister (Reclam)
• Goethe, Römische Elegien (Reclam)
• Goethe, Faust I (Deutscher Klassiker Verlag)
• Heinrich von Kleist, Sämtliche Erzählungen (Deutscher Klassiker Verlag)
• Friedrich Hölderlin, Poems and Fragments (Penguin bilingual edition)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

• (11.1) acquired critical knowledge and understanding of core topics in classical German literature, e.g. 'Sturm und Drang', the significance of the major literary forms (drama, prose fiction, poetry) at this time, and the different uses to which these forms were put
• (11.2) demonstrated competence in applying this understanding within new and differing contexts (e.g. to see formal innovation in relation to cultural-historical context)
• (11.3) the ability to analyse key texts (both primary and secondary) critically and to assess different genres of writing from the period 1775 to the first decade of the nineteenth century
• (11.4) developed close reading and analytical skills, including the application of critical thinking to the study of literature
• (11.5) developed advanced-level close reading and analytical skills, including the application of critical thinking to the study of literature
• (11.6) carried out and displayed understanding of additional research and critical thinking in both written assessments and seminar topics that shows an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge
• (11.7) thorough, detailed and systematic knowledge and understanding of core texts of the German canon
• (11.8) a systematic understanding of the relationship between major German authors and cultural-historical as well as social-historical conditions
• (11.9) a systematic understanding of key aspects of current critical approaches to classical German literature
• (11.10) the ability to analyse key texts and other materials critically at a high level, and to appreciate the limitations as well as the potentialities of these approaches to the literary text

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