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Unit information: The German Sonnet in 2018/19

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Unit name The German Sonnet
Unit code GERM32063
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Vilain
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will introduce students to the sonnet in German, and to the history of a major European genre of poetic writing. Participants will analyse poems and related reflective or theoretical texts critically in a variety of ways (formally, within a historical context, as examples of a developing genre, as 'practical criticism', as examples of a 'national' literature, etc.). Through guided close reading of significant examples of the genre, from the 17th century to the present day, participants will acquire knowledge of the techniques and structures of verse, including prosody, and explore aspects of the social, cultural and political context of the poetry they are reading. Authors covered will include: Gryphius, Hoffmanswaldau, Opitz, A. W. Schlegel, Tieck, Novalis, Goethe, Rü, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Weinheber, Brecht, Grass and Gerhard Rühm. There will be an opportunity to study translations of Shakespeare into German.


  • To introduce students to this body of poetry at a level of a complexity and sophistication appropriate to final year.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with the poems themselves, and with secondary literature (historical, practical and theoretical as appropriate) as a basis for their own analysis and development. All material (critical as well as creative) which was originally written in German will be studied in German, which will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level I.
  • To equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  • be knowledgeable about this body of literature in its European context;
  • will have advanced skills in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  • be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials in English and German, at an advanced level;
  • be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an advanced level of complexity;
  • be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including postgraduate study.

Teaching details

Two weekly seminars.

Assessment Details

2 essays 3000 words each 50%/50%

Reading and References

All poems and related primary texts, and much of the relevant secondary material, will be provided either via Blackboard. Other secondary material can be consulted in the library. The following collections of primary texts are recommended:

  • Fünfzig Sonette, ed. Hartmut Kirchner (Stuttgart: Reclam, various editions).
  • Deutsche Sonette,ed. Hartmut Kirchner (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1979).

Background key texts:

  • Regan, The Sonnet (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006)
  • M. R. G. Spiller, The Development of the Sonnet: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 1992)
  • J.-U. Fechner, Das deutsche Sonett : Dichtungen, Gattungspoetik, Dokumente (Munich: Fink, 1969)
  • Friedhelm Kemp, Das europäische Sonett (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006).