2010 MM 1 Literature and Human Rights, Mon 14-16

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  • Time: Monday 14-16

Course Description

The question of the universality or cultural relativity of human rights has been the subject of a growing debate since the turn of the new millennium, and critics and theorists from literary and cultural studies have taken their share in this debate. The course invites students to discuss outstanding contributions to this debate; it offers the opportunity to explore the history of the human rights discourse from around 1800 to the present, and to reflect its significance to literary studies. At the core of our seminar will be the close reading of two outstanding works of fiction, Mary Shelley’s _Frankenstein_ (1818) and J. M. Coetzee’s _Waiting for the Barbarians_ (1980). Against the background of the emergence and development of the human rights discourse, the particular focus of analysing these texts will be on the construction, the problematisation and the relevance of descriptive and normative conceptions of the human to these texts and to the cultural settings which produced them and to which they respond. Students should purchase and read in advance:

Shelley, Frankenstein (angaben folgen) Coetzee, waiting for the barbarians (angaben folgen) [Both texts may be had at a very competitive price at the CvO Bookshop]

Additional materials for preparation, as well as the detailed syllabus, will be made available on the course’s interactive wiki-website.

Requirements: for 9 KP (M.Ed. Gym and M.A.):

During the course: regular attendance, an oral contribution in the form of a presentation and participation in an ‘expert group’ that will prepare a certain aspect of the seminar’s topic for the final discussion.

After the course (deadline Aug 31, 2010): a term paper of ca. 20 pp. based on the topic of the presentation.

Requirements for 6 KP (M.Ed. WiPaed):

During the course: as above. After the course (deadline Aug 31, 2010): a term paper of ca. 10 pp. based on the topic of the presentation.



Introduction. Technicalities. literature, the human, and the normative


Textual Practice: Shelley, Frankenstein: Narration, Characterisation.


Textual Practice: Shelley, Frankenstein: Structure, Themes and Motifs


Textual Practice: Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians:Narration, Characterisation.


Textual Practice: Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians:Structure, Themes and Motifs


(Presenter: [Brückner])



Critical Discussion: Frankenstein and Human RightsDiana Reese, “A Troubled Legacy” (2006)

(Presenters: Bohlen, Hackmann)


Critical Discussion: Frankenstein, narration, gender and rights Barbara Johnson, Anne K. Mellor, in Frankenstein, Norton Crit. Ed.

(Presenters: Kramer, Kienast)


Critical Discussion: Justice, Injustice, Torture in Waiting for the BarbariansWenzel 1996, Urquhart 2006.

(Presenters: Bläsing, Langthaler)


Critical Discussion: Waiting for the Barbarians: Normativity, the Human, and present tense narration Phelan 1994 and other essays

(Presenters: Kitchingman, Rentmeister)


Course evaluation. – open topic (developments, comparisons, contrasts)

(Presenter: [Quesseleit])


Feedback on Course evaluation. – Final discussion and Presentation of Term Paper Projects

Further Reading