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Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

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Building 260, Room 112
sepp@stanford.edu

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renaissance
medieval literature
French literature
Spanish literature
History of Scholarship
History of Ideas
Aesthetics
latin america
German literature

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

Albert Guérard Professor in Literature
Professor of Comparative Literature and of French and Italian
Chair of Graduate Studies, Comparative Literature

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature and of French & Italian (and by courtesy, he is affiliated with the Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures/ILAC, the Department of German Studies, and the Program in Modern Thought & Literature). As a scholar, Gumbrecht focuses on the histories of the national literatures in Romance language (especially French, Spanish, and Brazilian), but also on German literature, while, at the same time, he teaches and writes about the western philosophical tradition (almost exclusively on non-analytic philosophy) with an emphasis on French and German nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts. In addition, Gumbrecht tries to analyze and to understand forms of aesthetic experience 21st-century everyday culture. Over the past forty years, he has published more than eighteen hundred texts, including books, translated into more than twenty languages. In Europe and in South America, Gumbrecht has a presence as a public intellectual; whereas, in the academic world, he has been acknowledged by nine honorary doctorates in six different countries: Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, and Russia . He has also held a number of visiting professorships, at the Collège de France, Zeppelin Universität (Friedrichshafen), University of Manchester, and the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, among others.

A book project tentatively entitled “Prose of the World: Diderot, Goya, Lichtenberg, and Mozart and an End of Enlightenment” is in preparation, for publication in 2015.

Education

(including assistant professorships)

1974: Venia Legendi (Habilitation) Allgemeine und Romanische Literaturwissenschaft Universität Konstanz
1972: Universita degli studi di Pavia
1971-1974: Universität Konstanz

1971: Ph.D. Universität Konstanz

1970-1971: Universität München
1969-1970: Universidad de Salamanca
1969: Universität Regensburg 

1967-1969: Universität München
1967: Abitur, Siebold Gymnasium Würzburg

1966: Lyceé Henri IV, Paris
1958-1967: Siebold Gymnasium Würzburg

COURSES

FRENCH 211 Emile Zola (COMPLIT 211A)

A comprehensive introduction to and historical analysis of Emile Zola's literary work as foundational for the late-nineteenth century literary movement that we call "Naturalism." The analysis of Zola's novels will be embedded in the historical situation of France in the transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic, with special emphasis on the epistemological situation of that time. Knowledge of French desirable but participation through English translations will be possible.

COMPLIT 211A Emile Zola (FRENCH 211)

A comprehensive introduction to and historical analysis of Emile Zola's literary work as foundational for the late-nineteenth century literary movement that we call "Naturalism." The analysis of Zola's novels will be embedded in the historical situation of France in the transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic, with special emphasis on the epistemological situation of that time. Knowledge of French desirable but participation through English translations will be possible.

GERMAN 262A Explosions of Enlightenment (COMPLIT 262A)

Eighteenth-century culture seen as permeated by intellectual and artistic practices and plays pushing principles of reason and rationality to an extreme that becomes self-undercutting. Such obsessions and practices are becoming more visible and prominent now, as the traditional concept of "Enlightenment" (synonymous with the 18th century) is undergoing a profound transformation. Among the protagonists of this seminar will be: Diderot as a philosopher and novelist; Lichtenberg as a scientist and writer of everyday notes; Goya, accusing violence and obsessed with nightmarish visions; Mozart as the excessive master of repetition and variation.

COMPLIT 262A Explosions of Enlightenment (GERMAN 262A)

Eighteenth-century culture seen as permeated by intellectual and artistic practices and plays pushing principles of reason and rationality to an extreme that becomes self-undercutting. Such obsessions and practices are becoming more visible and prominent now, as the traditional concept of "Enlightenment" (synonymous with the 18th century) is undergoing a profound transformation. Among the protagonists of this seminar will be: Diderot as a philosopher and novelist; Lichtenberg as a scientist and writer of everyday notes; Goya, accusing violence and obsessed with nightmarish visions; Mozart as the excessive master of repetition and variation.

FRENCH 253 Honoré de Balzac (COMPLIT 253)

Working through a selection of novels by the author widely considered as a founder of western (19th-century) "Literary Realism." Balzac's will be contextualized within his life and the French culture and literature of his time. We will also approach, from a philosophical point of view, the emergence and functions of "Literary Realism." Another focus will be Balzac's work as exemplary of certain traditions within Literary Criticism (particularly Marxist Literary Criticism). Taught in English.

COMPLIT 253 Honoré de Balzac (FRENCH 253)

Working through a selection of novels by the author widely considered as a founder of western (19th-century) "Literary Realism." Balzac's will be contextualized within his life and the French culture and literature of his time. We will also approach, from a philosophical point of view, the emergence and functions of "Literary Realism." Another focus will be Balzac's work as exemplary of certain traditions within Literary Criticism (particularly Marxist Literary Criticism). Taught in English.

COMPLIT 122 Literature as Performance: The Potentials of Theater

An introduction to the "theatrical" dimensions of literature in different cultures based on a view of the staging arts as a specific segment within phenomena of "performance". Documentation and discussions of the history of western drama as a central axis within the debate about the cultural status of other forms of performance art that are normally not culturally canonized within this genre (eg. sports).

COMPLIT 322 Literature as Performance: The Potentials of Theater (COMPLIT 122)

An introduction to the "theatrical" dimensions of literature in different cultures based on a view of the staging arts as a specific segment within phenomena of "performance". Documentation and discussions of the history of western drama as a central axis within the debate about the cultural status of other forms of performance art that are normally not culturally canonized within this genre (eg. sports).

ITALIAN 395 Philosophical Reading Group (COMPLIT 359A, FRENCH 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

ITALIAN 395 Philosophical Reading Group (COMPLIT 359A, FRENCH 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

FRENCH 395 Philosophical Reading Group (COMPLIT 359A, ITALIAN 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

FRENCH 395 Philosophical Reading Group (COMPLIT 359A, ITALIAN 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

COMPLIT 359A Philosophical Reading Group (FRENCH 395, ITALIAN 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

COMPLIT 359A Philosophical Reading Group (FRENCH 395, ITALIAN 395)

Discussion of one contemporary or historical text from the Western philosophical tradition per quarter in a group of faculty and graduate students. For admission of new participants, a conversation with H. U. Gumbrecht is required. May be repeated for credit. Taught in English.

GERMAN 217 The Poetry of Friedrich Holderlin (COMPLIT 217)

A working through of the complex prosodic forms, existential and political concerns, and poetological reflections of both the most past-oriented and most pathbreaking German poet of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. A comprehensive introduction that will attempt to develop an innovative view in which Holderlin will appear as one of the founding figures of literary Modernity. Knowledge of German desirable but participation through English translations will be possible.

COMPLIT 217 The Poetry of Friedrich Holderlin (GERMAN 217)

A working through of the complex prosodic forms, existential and political concerns, and poetological reflections of both the most past-oriented and most pathbreaking German poet of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. A comprehensive introduction that will attempt to develop an innovative view in which Holderlin will appear as one of the founding figures of literary Modernity. Knowledge of German desirable but participation through English translations will be possible.

FRENCH 124 The View from Paris: Key Moments in French Culture

An intellectually intense, document-based approach to the identity of French culture, made palpable through five moments in the history of Paris (which, more perhaps than any other capital in the western world, has been the center and focus of that nation's productivity. Readings and subsequent discussions will focus on the following contexts in Paris's past: 12th/13th century: the University of Paris as a center of Christian spirituality, intellect, and passion; 17th century: the performance of tragedy on the stages of the city; comedies at the Court of Versailles; 1794: the moment of Terror in the French Revolution and a turning point towards a new form of political life; 1889: Eiffel Tower and World Expo, Paris as the first City of Modernity; 1958: Général de Gaulle assumes power: de-colonization, Existentialism, and France's new identity within Europe. Offered as a part of the Gateways to the World program. Taught in English.

GERMAN 264A Walter Benjamin (COMPLIT 264)

Walter Benjamin's work as cultural historian, critic, literary author and philosopher, seen from the trajectory of a German-Jewish intellectual life in the context of the first half of the 20th century. Providing such a historical perspective will be the condition for an actively critical reading of Benjamin's works; a reading that -- counter to the predominant Benjamin-reception -- will try to distinguish between works of purely biographical and historical interest and those Benjamin texts that prove to be of great and lasting intellectual value. Taught in English.

COMPLIT 264 Walter Benjamin (GERMAN 264A)

Walter Benjamin's work as cultural historian, critic, literary author and philosopher, seen from the trajectory of a German-Jewish intellectual life in the context of the first half of the 20th century. Providing such a historical perspective will be the condition for an actively critical reading of Benjamin's works; a reading that -- counter to the predominant Benjamin-reception -- will try to distinguish between works of purely biographical and historical interest and those Benjamin texts that prove to be of great and lasting intellectual value. Taught in English.

FRENCH 254 Was Deconstruction an Illusion? (COMPLIT 254A)

A both systematic and historical presentation of "Deconstruction" as a philosophical and intellectual movement that dominated academic and general culture in many western societies during the final decades of the twentieth century, with special focus on the writings of Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man. Deconstruction's specific reception history obliges us to ask the question of whether the extremely high esteem that it enjoyed over two decades was intellectually justified – or the result of a misunderstanding. Participation through English translations is possible.

COMPLIT 254A Was Deconstruction an Illusion? (FRENCH 254)

A both systematic and historical presentation of "Deconstruction" as a philosophical and intellectual movement that dominated academic and general culture in many western societies during the final decades of the twentieth century, with special focus on the writings of Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man. Deconstruction's specific reception history obliges us to ask the question of whether the extremely high esteem that it enjoyed over two decades was intellectually justified – or the result of a misunderstanding. Participation through English translations is possible.