ECLA Header


Winter Term

Weeks 1-4:

RG130 Reading Group: Ernst Juenger, Storm of Steel
ECTS credits: 2,5
Catherine Toal (
Ernst Juenger's novel Storm of Steel (1920) is one of the classic accounts of the ordeal of warfare asa formative experience. Written by a survivor of the trenches of the First World War, it has been taken simply as a supremely realistic rendering of an historical trauma almost impossible to represent, but also as a actual defence of war and its role in training and testing individual valour. We read it in exploration of Bildung as sensory and physical trial, and in connection with Juenger's theory of the nature and lessons of "pain" considered in the core seminar.

RG132 Reading Group: Proust's Swann's Way
ECTS credits: 2,5
James Harker (
In this course we will read Swann's Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Starting with the famous "madeleine" scene which causes a flood of memories for the narrator, Swann's Way begins Proust's exploration of the experience of time and how it is affected by memory and anticipation. As we progress through the novel we will see how the Proustian concerns of memory and experience are intimately bound up with the central concerns of aesthetic and intellectual cultivation-as well as with a mounting anxiety about their decay.

Weeks 6-10:

RG134 Reading Group: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem
ECTS credits: 2,5
Catherine Toal (
Famous for its since much-disputed discovery of the "banality" of evil, Arendt's text is a journalistic account-originally published in The New Yorker magazinei n 1963-of the trial and conviction in Israel of Adolf Eichmannn, an SS colonel responsible for orchestrating the mass deportation and killing of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1940s. Arendt reflects on nature of Eichmann's character and the question of what kind of "formation"-cultural and institutional-could have produced the peculiar combination of extremec ulpability and unconsciousness of guilt that his utterances and behaviour suggested.

RG Reading Group: William James's Psychology
ECTS credits: 2,5
Cecelia Watson (
In 1880, William James, Harvard University's new professor of Philosophy, told his publisher that he would finish his textbook on the fledgling field of psychology (then still considered a branch of philosophy) within two years. In reality, it took him twelve years to produce the manuscript, but when his Principles of Psychology finally appeared in 1892, it solidified James's reputation as the founder of American psychology, and one of the country's foremost public intellectuals. James framed his psychology in direct opposition to Wundtian laboratory science and Kantian philosophy, and his theories of mental development, perception, and learning offer a critical counterpoint to the German tradition. In addition to offering an alternative to German thought, James's psychology contains scientific and philosophical insights that are still relevant to present day psychology and philosophy, and to everyday life. In this course, we will read James's abridged version of the Principles. Psychology: The Briefer Course, affectionately known to James's students as "the Jimmy," contains the chapters James viewed as most central to his theories; and it is written in the lively, clear writing style that makes James one of the finest English language prose stylists of any era or genre.


Autumn Term

Weeks 1-5:

RG131 Schiller's On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters
Martin Gak (
This reading group will be devoted to Schiller's On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. These letters, which pick some important Kantian concepts, were an attempt to reconcile the rational disposition and the sensuous disposition in man. However, the Letters were also an attempt by the author to cope with the failures of the French Revolution. Schiller's aim was to develop an account of the political and social importance of an aesthetic education. The letters revisit some of the elements that Plato treats in the Symposium but it's also a foundational text for important 19th and 20th century thinkers such as Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Rancier and Marcuse. In this way, this short work sits at the core of an important tradition in the treatment of aesthetics as a core mechanism in theorizing the historical and the political. In the context of the course on Bildung, we will use this text to discuss the importance of an aesthetic education as a critical part of our social, political and cultural constitution.

RG133 Friedrich Schlegel and Bildung
Ryan Plumley (

"The goal of a critic, people say, is to educate readers!!-Whoever wants to be educated, should educate himself.  This is impolite: but it can't be helped."  Critical Fragment #86

            In this course we will read important works by one of the most creative and controversial figures in modern European intellectual history: the writer, critic, and philosopher, Friedrich Schlegel.  Too often dismissed as a minor figure in any of the many fields that he influenced (literature, philosophy, history, art criticism, religious studies, linguistics, etc.), Schlegel nonetheless remains relevant for work across the humanities-not least because of his deep and lasting interest in Bildung, education and self-cultivation.  Defiantly unsystematic in the age of the Idealist system builders (Kant, Fichte, Hegel), petulantly obscure in the face of the Enlightenment, and insistently ironic about himself and his contemporaries, Schlegel contributed important critical counter-currents within thought about language, aesthetics, ethics, politics, and also Bildung.  Although less concerned with schooling or formal education, Schlegel was adamant about the importance of creating and maintaining critical consciousness in the literate public.

Weeks 6-10:

RG135 Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
Peter Hajnal (
Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain has long been regarded as one of the most important ideological novels of the 20thcentury. In reading it we will be primarily looking at its status as a Bildungsroman. The novel follows the personal-spiritual development of a young German engineer in a Swiss sanatorium for tuberculosis. Hans Castorp, "Sorgenkind des Lebens", is clearly subject to several layers of irony affecting him from several directions: from the narrator (and the narration itself), the author, as well as other characters in the novel. What is the meaning of this irony for the value of his development as "Bildung"? In what ways do the mechanisms of the novel educate us about this very problem?

RG137 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: A Modernist Bildungsroman
James Harker (
Literary modernism, a term for a new experimental forms of writing in the early decades of the twentieth century, is often thought to turn "inward" to the intricacies of mental life and the variability and fallibility of consciousness itself. Modernist novelists upended many of the standard expectations for what a proper story should be like-sentences became mere fragments, "plots" became far less important, irony and parody replaced more direct forms of presentation, and "truth" became far more elusive.

At the same time, many modernist works take the traditional form of the Bildungsroman, the story of the intellectual or aesthetic education of the protagonist. In this course, we will carefully examine James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), both a Bildungsroman and a modernist classic. We will ask ourselves, how do modernist interests in mental processes and the instability of knowledge alter our understanding of what it means to reach aesthetic and intellectual maturity? What are the varieties of education, experience, and insight that contribute to Joyce's sense of personal awakening? Finally, how are these both modernist and characteristic of the Bildungsroman?