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Lifelong Learning: New York City

Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore: New York City

Spring 2019 Course: Scandale!  (LLS 188NY)

Meets Thursdays, 6:45–9:15 p.m.
Feb. 14–April 11, except March 14
1211 Sixth Avenue (at 48th St.), Floor 38, Ropes & Gray

Literary scandals can be viewed as a mirror of cultural changes that affect the religious, political, legal, and sexual values and norms of a society. A scandal is a public debate, often staged by the media, about those norms and values. Offensive behavior is made public, causes outrage, and is seen as an affront to decency. The scandalizer must then pay for the transgression by enduring public disapproval.

In this course we will chiefly study literary texts that created a public outcry expressed in theater scandals, censorship, legal trials, and publishing prohibitions. We will, however, include scandals in painting, sculpture, and music.

Discussions will focus on the historical context, as well as the texts’ literary and aesthetic novelty. Finally, we will debate what “outrages” are continuing to provoke theatrical and artistic scandals today and what our own limits are that art may not transgress. 


Most will be plays from the late 19th century to the present, though the final week may embody student preferences. Authors include Gerhard Hauptmann, Frank Wedekind, Arthur Schnitzler, Ödön von Horváth, Rolf Hochhuth, Thomas Bernhard, Thomas Mann, Heinrich von Kleist, and Sigmund Freud.    


Hansjakob Werlen, professor of German studies, teaches German language and literature at Swarthmore. He is currently researching literary responses to the crisis of immigration to German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, Switzerland) and the various political responses. He taught two previous LLS courses in NYC and found both opportunities intellectually stimulating and great fun.