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GE9: German literature, thought and history from 1815 to 1914

This paper is available for the academic year 2020-21.

(Paper subject to revisions with effect from Michaelmas Term 2022. More details to follow.)

This paper offers a wide range of attractive options relating to Germany and the German-speaking world in the nineteenth century. You have considerable freedom to choose topics to study from the reading list, depending on your individual interests. Your supervisor, or the course co-ordinator, will be able to help you in making your choice.  Three questions must be attempted, at least one form each of the two sections.

Section A is made up of literature options covering the main areas of literary activity. Each topic describes a particular thematic context suggesting how the texts - or other texts chosen by you in consultation with your supervisor - might be approached.  The texts named are suggestions ONLY.

Section B consists of history and thought options. The history topics reflect major issues of the period such as the emergence of German nationalism, the 1848 revolution, the unification of Germany in 1871 and the history of the Second Empire.  The thought topics range from the apotheosis of Idealism in Hegel and its materialist appropriation in Marx to the cultural pessimism of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and the early work of Freud. The influence of these thinkers upon subsequent developments across a large number of areas can hardly be exaggerated.



For a full reading list, please see Full Reading List section below. 


Section A: Literature Topics

The Novelle and the Unconscious

Literature and Revolution

The Bourgeois Novel

Nineteenth-Century Lyric Poetry


Section B: Thought Topics

Hegel and Marx

Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

Gender and Sexuality


Section B: History Topics

Liberalism and Nationalism before 1848

Radicalism and the Revolutionary Tradition

The 1848 Revolution

The Transformation of German Politics 1850-1862

The Unification of Germany

Politics and Society in Germany under Bismarck

Politics and Society in Germany after Bismarck

Anti-Semitism and Jewish Emancipation 


Preparatory reading: 

Please see full reading list below. 


Full reading list

See here.


Teaching and learning: 

A normal course of supervisions consists of ten sessions at fortnightly intervals throughout the teaching year. Students who wish to answer two questions from Section A should expect to devote six supervisions to these topics. Three or four supervisions should be devoted to Section B. A student who wishes to answer two questions from Section B should expect to devote six supervisions to Section B and three or four to Section A. In either case, the final supervision might be reserved for general discussion and revision.

The course also includes lectures on various aspects of the literature, thought and history of the period. A list of these may be found in the lecture list published online. However, students who do not attend the lectures offered may find themselves at a disadvantage.

For the Ge.9 Moodle site, please see here. The password can be collected from the paper coordinator.


The paper is divided into two sections. In the examination (3 hours in length) three questions must be answered, at least one from each section. 

Course Contacts: 
Dr Charlotte Woodford