BerlinWeek-Long Study Tour | Literature Program

On this week-long Study Tour, we explore one of the most complex, lively, and literary cities in Europe. We read and discuss selected texts on site and explore how the city influences our reading and vice versa.

Berlin is a city of grand modernist experiments as well as a recent past of horrific atrocities and suppression. Throughout the 20th century, Berlin has undergone tremendous transformations and abrupt changes. The aftermaths of The Third Reich, WWII, and The Cold War are still very visible in Berlin’s urban landscape and the historical wounds and cultural voids are present in the minds of the Berliners. From our theoretical perspectives of place, text, and memory, we study how artists and writers have responded to the changing political situations. We see how authors of Berlin have helped shape the city’s imaginaries and how the city has been a driving force for the creation of literary text throughout changing times.

After the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany, the controversies of how to remember such a recent and troubled past have thrived in the capital. We study how Berlin tries to come to terms with its past and how place is still contested and negotiated in relation to the reunited city’s memorial culture. We examine how these controversies are reflected in the urban landscape, political debates, and literature.

Tour Objectives

  • Explore Berlin as a place both real and imaginary
  • Experience and analyze the double movement between text and place when reading on site: What influence does the literary text have on your sense of place and how does the place where you are reading affect your perception of the text?
  • Gain an inside perspective on the complexities of contemporary and historical Berlin through the theoretical perspectives of place, text, and memory

Possible Activities

  • Eisenmann’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe reading Paul Celan’s Todesfuge or Alexander Platz reading Alfred Döblin’s East of Alexanderplatz
  • The Stasi Headquarter and Treptower Soviet memorial reading Anna Funder’s Stasiland
  • A stroll in Tiergarten reading Walter Benjamin’s Childhood in Berlin