SoSe 15: Spies and Detectives across Eurasia: an Intermedial Survey
'The time-honoured sport of spot-the-spook will be with us once again! The spy is not dead: he sleepeth.' (Le Carré, John, The Honourable Schoolboy, Pan Books: London and Sydney, 1979, p. 35.)
This course will seek to locate Cold-War espionage and detective fiction-both novels and short stories- and films, through the selected exemplars, in a locus of proactive and developing literary-cultural involvement with the historiographical singularities of the second half of the twentieth century. Thus, if one may distil one of its primary goals into a methodological assumption, it will seek to pay an enhanced attention to the Cold-War human subject as an anomie-ridden, individuated Self, which is-but not necessarily so-reduced to an occasionally-dystopic state of abject objectification in the face of historical circumstances. This is, from the perspective of a post-Fukuyama historical continuum, in terms of the global search for civilisational paradigms, of crucial interest, especially with regard to the contingent evolution of the postmodern Self. The course will also seek to engage with this contested selfhood, using the theoretical frameworks of, among others, Walter Benjamin, Homi Bhabha, Stephen Greenblatt and Dipesh Chakrabarty, and a close critical reading of selected novels and short stories by Graham Greene, John Le Carré and Len Deighton, especially those written during the high noon of the Cold War, in comparison with those by Yulian Semyonov, Cold-War Russia's foremost writer of detective and espionage fiction and creator of the Soviet master-spy Isaev, better known as 'Stirlitz', and Sharadindu Bandopadhyay and Satyajit Ray, creators of India's two best-loved detectives, Byomkesh Bakshi and Feluda, respectively. While the two last-named authors had very little to do, in their writings, with the Cold War, the characters created by them do respond to and engage with the local fallout of the global conflicts of the Cold War. Thus, they may be seen as somewhat-mediated versions of their Euro-American prototypes and role-models and, consequently, used to understand India's societal response to her precarious role in the arena of global power-politics. This, in turn, could shed some light on the way in which spy- and detective-fiction shapes its readership.
We will study selected works by these writers-- cf. texts mentioned below-- and watch films based on their works; there will also be documentaries, presentations by and interviews of invitees, who are involved in Cold War Studies, and possible mutually-negotiable field-work. In the process, key concepts of Culture Studies will be discussed and debated, locating the course within the domain of interdisciplinary literary-cultural historiography.
Key Texts: Greene, Graham, The Quiet American (1955); Le Carré, John, The Honourable Schoolboy (1979); Deighton, Len, Funeral in Berlin (1964); Semyonov, Yulian, The Seventeen Instants of Spring, 1969, film-version); and excerpts from Sharadindu Bandopadhyay's Picture Imperfect and Other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries (trans. Sreejata Guha, 1999) and Ray's The Complete Adventures of Feluda, Vol. 1 (trans. Gopa Majumdar, 2000). Secondary reading material will be suggested and discussed in the course of the semester. Students are advised to buy, beg or borrow these texts from someone or somewhere; the entire Semyonov-series is available online. It is preferable that they read, at least, one of these before the commencement of the course in April.
Course Language/Unterrichtssprache: English & German
Evaluation: Regular and interactive participation in class-activities, quizzes with mutually-negotiable frequency, verbal presentations, also mutually-negotiable, and a mandatory end-semester essay/Hausarbeit (for the grade); regular and active attendance will factor as a positive incentive, in terms of grade-weightage for active regularity, and there is a minimum attendance-requirement.close
13 Class schedule