SoSe 13: What Happened to the Real in the Twentieth Century?
Laura Bieger, Florian Sedlmeier
What happened to the real? Has it vanished in modern culture? Has it ever been graspable? If there is a difference or gap between 'the real' and what is commonly referred to as 'reality' how can this ... read more
What happened to the real? Has it vanished in modern culture? Has it ever been graspable? If there is a difference or gap between 'the real' and what is commonly referred to as 'reality' how can this gap be bridged or closed? What are literature and culture's stakes in this matter? Guided by these questions, this seminar identifies and traces both a central concern and a productive fascination with the real in twentieth century American artistic productions. Since the real connotes a semantic field of immediacy - the actual, the authentic, the existential, the primal, the present, etc. - it poses a peculiar problem for literature and the arts, which are inevitably mediations and representations. Looking at realness both as a form and as content of expression, we want to engage with a broad spectrum of its manifestations from modernism to postmodernism and beyond. Under the sign of the real, the course reconsiders historical avant-gardes and their promises to merge art and life as well as the documentary novel; it turns to the history of photography and abstract expressionism, to bebop jazz and beat literature, to modernist theater and performance art; and it looks at the black vernacular, from the Harlem Renaissance to Rap and Post-Rap, as a way of 'keepin' it real.' We will thus familiarize ourselves with some of the crucial artistic movements and major political discourses of the twentieth century.
Assessing the real in the broad fashion delineated, we concern ourselves with questions such as: How does the proliferation of mediations of our everyday lives correspond with the various configurations and modes of the real in artistic representations? To what extent does the real indicate a crisis of representation? Is the real desideratum or threat? To what degree does the real serve as a marker of distinction in artistic competitions? Or does the real even express the idea of an artistic anthropology?
To get credit for this course you need to: (1) thoroughly prepare the assigned readings and attend class on a regular basis; (2) participate in an expert group; and (3) and write a final paper (15 pages, due at the end of the semester break). A reserve shelf with our course pack and further readings will be provided at the library of the John F. Kennedy Institute. Please sign up on blackboard by the start of the semester since we will be using the platform frequently to communicate and distribute documents.