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In the interest of student privacy, The Contemporary is the only site that is accessible to the public at this time. Access to the other sites is password-protected.

Ongoing Blogs

The Contemporary (DLCL 229)

The Contemporary is a focal group dedicated to the study of recent innovative works in literature and the arts as they touch on social, political, and philosophical concerns of our era. Building on and expanding the theoretical framework offered by thinkers as Hannah Arendt, Paul Rabinow, or Giorgio Agamben, we seek to trace the capacity of the artistic imagination to broaden the vocabulary with which we address contemporary challenges to freedom and to meaningful action. To earn the unit, undergraduate and graduate students should attend the workshops held by the focal group and contribute one substantive response during the year. This can come in the form of an individual discussion with one of the two lead faculty, 1,500 words of contribution to the focal group’s online platforms, or a presentation to the group itself. May be repeat for credit.

Spring 2020

Myth and Modernity (COMPLIT 222A, GERMAN 322, JEWISHST 242G, JEWISHST 342)

Masters of German 20th- and 21st-Century literature and philosophy as they present aesthetic innovation and confront the challenges of modern technology, social alienation, manmade catastrophes, and imagine the future. Readings include Nietzsche, Freud, Rilke, Musil, Brecht, Kafka, Doeblin, Benjamin, Juenger, Arendt, Musil, Mann, Adorno, Celan, Grass, Bachmann, Bernhardt, Wolf, and Kluge. Taught in English. Note for German Studies grad students: GERMAN 322 will fulfill the grad core requirement since GERMAN 332 is not being offered this year. NOTE: Enrollment requires Professor Eshel’s consent. Please contact him directly at eshel@stanford.edu and answer these 2 questions: “Why do you want to take this course?” and “What do you think you can add to the discussion?” Applications will be considered in the order in which they were received. Enrollment is limited to 20 students.

Winter 2020

Modern Notions of ‘The Holy’: Hölderlin, Heidegger, Celan (COMPLIT 383A, GERMAN 283A, GERMAN 383A, RELIGST 283A, RELIGST 383A)

This course explores the question, “What may we call ‘holy’ in the modern era?” by focusing mostly on three key writers and thinkers, who “in various ways, and in different times” raised this question: Friedrich Hölderlin, Martin Heidegger, and Paul Celan. Given the scope of this question and its various reverberations and implications, we will also read “continental philosophy of religion” (Marion, Courtine, Caputo, and Vattimo, among others), as well as some of the work of Jacques Derrida.

Franz Kafka: Literature and the Modern Human Condition (GERMAN 68N)

This class will address major works by Franz Kafka and consider Kafka as a modernist writer whose work reflects on modernity. We will also examine the role of Kafka’s themes and poetics in the work of contemporary writers.

Spring 2019

Myth and Modernity (COMPLIT 222A, GERMAN 222, GERMAN 322, JEWISHST 242G, JEWISHST 342)

Masters of German 20th- and 21st-Century literature and philosophy as they present aesthetic innovation and confront the challenges of modern technology, social alienation, manmade catastrophes, and imagine the future. Readings include Nietzsche, Freud, Rilke, Musil, Brecht, Kafka, Doeblin, Benjamin, Juenger, Arendt, Musil, Mann, Adorno, Celan, Grass, Bachmann, Bernhardt, Wolf, and Kluge. Taught in English. Note for German Studies grad students: GERMAN 322 will fulfill the grad core requirement since GERMAN 332 is not being offered this year. NOTE: Enrollment requires Professor Eshel’s consent. Please contact him directly at eshel@stanford.edu and answer these 2 questions: “Why do you want to take this course?” and “What do you think you can add to the discussion?” Applications will be considered in the order in which they were received. Enrollment is limited to 20 students.

Hannah Arendt: Facing Totalitarianism (COMPLIT 253, GERMAN 253, JEWISHST 243A)

Like hardly any other thinker of the modern age, Hannah Arendtss thought offers us timeless insights into the fabric of the modern age, especially regarding the perennial danger of totalitarianism. This course offers an in-depth introduction to Arendt’s most important works in their various contexts, as well as a consideration of their reverberations in contemporary philosophy and literature. Readings include Arendt’s The Origin of TotalitarianismThe Human Condition, Between Past and FutureMen in Dark TimesOn RevolutionEichmann in Jerusalem, and The Life of the Mind, as well as considerations of Hannah Arendt’s work by Max Frisch, Jürgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, and others. Special attention will be given to Arendt’s writings on literature with emphasis on Kafka, Brecht, Auden, Sartre, and Camus.