GERM-585 Private Lives/Public Virtues
Spring for 2014-2015
Durpree, M. H.
Scholars have long focused on the ‘long eighteenth century’ in Europe as a time of radical social transformation and reconfiguration of both public and private life. In works that deal with issues such as love, marriage, friendship, domestic violence, adoption, friendship and sociability, eighteenth-century artists and writers tried to come to terms with these changes while setting out an Enlightenment agenda for the betterment of human life. In the German-speaking lands, models of domestic life and virtue from England and France quickly gained currency and helped to define the self-image of the culturally and socially ambitious German Bürgertum. The Europe-wide cult of sensibility and the religious strains of Pietism colluded to produce new ways of conceiving of the individual’s place in the family and society. In German literature, these cultural collisions produced a panoply of quizzical new figures, including the melancholic hypochondriac, the sensitive father, the sympathetic child murderess, the chaste man, the ‘beautiful soul,’ and the female tableau vivant artist.
The course will focus on the circulation of images of domestic and social life in eighteenth-century German and Austrian literature, theater, and the visual arts. The primary goals of the course will be to identify recent scholarly and theoretical perspectives in eighteenth-century studies and to formulate alternatives for interpreting history and culture in the eighteenth century. Through an examination of literary texts together with historiography, theory, and cultural documents, we will attempt to frame new ways of thinking about the public/private distinction and the relationship between cultural norms and individual experience in the eighteenth century and beyond.
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