Ger 502: Genre as a Category for Organizing Experience

Course materials: GER-502

Examination of individual texts in relation to theories of genre, with attention to shifting definitions of genre and resistance to generic categories.

Fall 2023: Room LSB 346

Mo and W 2:3:15 p.m.

Instructor: Professor Albrecht Classen
Office: 318 LSB (you can always stop by whenever you like), but please wear a mask and watch social distancing

Tel.: 621-1395



Office Hour: TT 9 a.m. – 10 a.m., and after appointment. I am regularly in my office 7/24

For an online meeting: you can also call or email me, then I’ll open a zoom meeting and let you in. Very flexible hours, always available for you. The link is below the signature line in my email. Or here:


    • The Disability Resource Center is available to explore face coverings and accessibility considerations if you believe that your disability or medical condition precludes you from utilizing any face covering or mask option. DRC will explore the range of potential options as well as remote course offerings. Should DRC determine an accommodation to this directive is reasonable, DRC will communicate this accommodation with your instructor.
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Course Objectives:
This course examines the meaning of genres in the history of German literature, considering the various modes of expression throughout time. We will look at fairy tales, ballads, sonnets, short stories, the drama, the novella, travelogues, chronicles, and the Kalendergeschichte. It would be important also to study the prose novel, but we would not have enough time for this huge task. The intention of this course is to examines many different short texts and to understand how the generic conditions contributed critically to the poet’s message. For M.A. students, this will be also an ideal opportunity to gain a better comprehension of the history of German literature from the Middle Ages to the present. For Ph.D. student, the focused reading of research material can lead to in-depth investigations, a critical preparation for the actual doctoral dissertation.

Student Learning Outcomes; By the end of the semester, students will be able to engage critically with the issue of how genre aspects have a huge impact on individual texts from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. You will know a solid selection of critical texts from the various periods, and will have understood how to produce well-researched papers on the graduate level.

You can consult, in general for background and context, and for many of the texts we will study:

1. A. Classen, Das deutsche Mittelalter in seinen Dichtungen. 4th ed. (Tucson: Fast Copy, 2009); online at: PDF (free)

2. Die deutsche Geschichte im Mittelalter – online at:

3. Literaturgeschichte – knapper Ueberblick

4. Das Mittelalter, Kultur und Geschichte

5. Literatur von Frauen im Mittelalter

Please make sure that you do not print out any of these class materials on departmental printers. We do not have the money for that and must strictly appeal to the honor system to abide by this rule.

Secondary Reading: Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft , PT 41. R4, in the reference area, 3rd floor, non-circulating


Attendance is a must, there will be only 15 weeks during the semester. I expect you to have read the assigned texts before we meet in class. More than three unexcused absences lead to an automatic E in the course, but simply communicate with me if you have some problems, and I will try to help. See also below.

1.One oral report and subsequently written version in German: Consult the Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft in the Library, non-circulating, PT 41.R4, focus on a specific genre and summarize the key points (such as: the ballad, the novella, the fairy tale, etc.). For Ph.D. students: critical summaries of at least two recent scholarly articles on one or two of our texts discussed in class, with some comments on the genre: oral report (ca. 10-15 minutes) and written summary, ca. 4 pp.. In total: 15% – present orally, i.e., in rough brush strokes, giving us the main thesis, when we discuss that text (7.5%), the written version, expanded, please (with full reflections and a more extensive discussion), needs to be submitted latest two weeks after the oral delivery (7.5 %). Articles can be in English or German (must have been published after 1980, in print or online, must be by a serious scholar, including studies by myself, of course. One of the articles and your summary must be in German. Purpose: we need to learn what various scholars have discovered about our texts. Write always in German.

2. Weekly report of our class discussion in writing (in German), like in a journal, always due every second Fri at 2 p.m., online, starting the 3rd week, ca. 400 words, 5 times, in German. 25%

3. Two exams, with essay questions, 15% each = 30%

4. Final exam, also with essay questions = 30%

All holidays or special events observed by organized religions will be honored for those students who show affiliation with that particular religion. Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee) will be honored.

Student Behavior:
The policy against plagiarism, etc., is in conformity with the Student Code of Academic Integrity. For policies against threatening behavior by students, see:

Special Needs:
Students with special needs who are registered with the S.A.L.T. Center ( or the Disability Resource Center ( must submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting special accommodations.

Suggested additional Reading List (not necessarily in a chronological order but all within the period from the early Middle Ages to ca. 1600), which could also serve you to prepare for the Master Exam, if you want me to be on your committee (which would be my pleasure). But the reading list for this course is much more expansive and flexible. :

1. Hartmann von Aue: Erec and/or Iwein
2. Nibelungenlied and Kudrun
3. Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
4. Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival and Willehalm –
5. Wernher der Gartenære: Meier Helmbrecht
6. some texts from Der Stricker
7. Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim
8. Mechthild von Magdeburg: Das fließende Licht der Gottheit
9. Hildegard von Bingen
10. Argula von Grumbach
11. Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg
12. Johannes von Tepl, Ackermann
13. Sebastian Brant: Narrenschiff
14. Konrad von Würzburg, Engelhard
15. Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken (one of her four novels)
16. Thüring von Ringoltingen, Melusine
17. Fortunatus
18. Neidhart
19. Herzog Ernst
20. Oswald von Wolkenstein
21. Heinrich Kaufringer (Auswahl)
22. Minnesang (Walther von der Vogelweide, Johann von Botenlauben, Albrecht von Johannsdorf, Heinrich Morungen, etc.)
23. Heinrich Wittenwiler: Ring
24. Mai und Beaflor
25. Mauritius von Craun
26. Herzog Ernst
27. Georg Wickram
28. Hans Sachs
29. Martin Luther
30. Till Eulenspiegel

31. Sebastian Brant

32. Thomas Murner

33. Hans Wilhelm Kirchhof
34. Frau Ava

35. Hildegard von Bingen

36. Ulrich Bonerius

Syllabus (flexibel zu handhaben, wenn wir mehr Zeit brauchen, können wir einen Text/eine Gattung überspringen; es geht nicht um Vollständigkeit, sondern um ein gutes Verständnis und um Freude an der Lektüre).

This class will be conducted mostly in German (in spoken and written form).

Week 1: Aug. 21: Introduction. Critical study of Genres in literature.

Aug. 23: We’ll visit the library, meet in the lobby

Week 2: Märchen:

Wir lesen: Rapunzel und Der Fischer und seine Frau

Week 3: Mären: “Friedrich von Auchenfurt” (ca. 1350):

Sept. 4 und Sept. 6

First journal is due

Week 4: Ballade: Hildebrandslied (in meinem Lesebuch, unter PDF)
Sept. 11 und 13

Week 5: Ballade: Theodor Storm: Die Bruecke am Tay:

Sept. 18 und 20
Sept. 22: Exam 1, 6 p.m.

Week 6: Ein etwas laengerer Text, eine Novelle: Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach, „Krambambuli“:
Sept. 29 und 27
Second journal is due

Week 7: Sonett: Andreas Gryphius (in meinem Lesebuch, unter PDF)

Okt. 2 und 4

Week 8: Drama: Lessing, Nathan der Weise (bitte immer einen Akt pro Sitzung lesen):
Okt. 9 und 11

Third journal is due

Week 9: Fortsetzung: Nathan der Weise (bis zum Ende, also 5. Akt)
Okt. 16 und 18

Week 10: Reisebericht: Karl May, Der Ölprinz (zur Einführung:
Okt. 23 und 25

Exam 2: Okt. 27, 6 p.m.

Week 11: Kurzerzählung, Heinrich Böll, Die deutsche short-story, “Anekdote“:

Okt. 30 und Nov. 1
Fourth journal is due

Week 12: literarische Chronik: Theodor Storm, “Der Schimmelreiter“:

Nov. 6 und 8

Week 13: Schwänke: Till Eulenspiegel (in meinem Lesebuch, unter PDF), Histori 1 bis 30

Nov. 13 und 15

Week 14: Kalendergeschichten, Peter Hebel: Peter Hebel, „Kannitverstan,“ und Kalendergeschichten: Bertolt Brecht: “Der Augsburger Kreidekreis“
Nov. 20 und 22 (online ueber Zoom), und Nov. 27 (Montag, wieder in Person)

Fifth journal is due

Week 15: Autobiographie, Zafer Senocak, Interview; May Ayim:
Nov. 29 und Dez. 4 und 6

Final Exam: Dez. 9, 7 p.m.

Requirements: Reading of those texts in German, active participation in the meetings, keeping a journal in German, submit every 2-3 weeks (ca. 4-5 pp each., reflecting on the meeting and discussion), with the final journal a bit more comprehensive, in-class exams, and final.