31350 - German Literature 3

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the students should know the literature of the 20th Century and the contemporary literature. Moreover, they should be able to understand and contextualize a text in German language.

Course contents

»shy cosmopolitanism«? Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus in Context

Adrian Leverkühn is a brilliant young composer from Germany. He is cultivated and linguistically intriguing. Afflicted by a mysterious migraine and endowed with an icy temperament, he is ready to do anything to boost his creativity. What are the linkages between his puzzling story and the tragic fate of the nation? Can fiction really single out their specific traits and tell their catastrophe? And what is an art that defines itself as cosmopolitan?

These are but a few questions that Thomas Mann addressed in Doktor Faustus, a novel published in 1947 and bound to become one of his most famous works. Starting from in fonte readings, the broader aim of the course is to bring together some materials that may help us to historically contextualise its making in the literary landscape of its own time. We will also try to discern the ways in which ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘fictive’ moulded the writing style (with some references to screen adaptations).

We will focus on structural aspects, zeroing in on the characteristics of the genre, the innovations introduced by Thomas Mann, the musical elaboration of the Faustian myth, the erosion of privacy, the outcomes of a literary anthropology applied to an extreme case.

We will also openly discuss the making of the identity of the protagonists, their peculiar friendship, the projections of desire, the cultural background of their upbringing, the density of unsaid thoughts, the places of the setting, the quality of a narrative prose enhanced by forays into the art of musical and visual description. What strategies have been deployed to tell the life of Adrian Leverkühn? How to interpret the ambiguous errors and repentances of its narrator? And what about the controversial reception of the novel in the context of the debates on ‘guilt’ up to the present day?


  • Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus. Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde. In der Fassung der großen, kommentierten Frankfurter Ausgabe. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2012. ISBN 978-3-596-90403-7
  • Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus. La vita del compositore tedesco Adrian Leverkühn narrata da un amico. Introduzione, traduzione e note di Luca Crescenzi. Milano: Mondadori, 2017. ISBN 978-88-04-67684-3
  • Thomas Mann, La Germania e i tedeschi. Nota di David Bidussa. Traduzione di Lavinia Mazzucchetti. Bologna: Ogni uomo è tutti gli uomini Edizioni, 2016. ISBN 978-88-99480-17-2
  • Elena Agazzi und Erhard Schütz (Hg.), Handbuch Nachkriegskultur: Literatur, Sachbuch und Film in Deutschland 1945-1962. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016, pp. 281-290, 300-304 e 349-353. ISBN 978-3-11-046200-5
  • Klaus Schröter, Thomas Mann. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2005. ISBN 978-3-499-50677-2


Further recommended readings:

  • Michael Dallapiazza e Claudio Santi, Storia della letteratura tedesca. 3. Il Novecento. Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza, 2001. ISBN 978-88-420-6320-9
  • Raul Calzoni, La letteratura tedesca del secondo dopoguerra: l’età delle macerie e della ricostruzione (1945-1961). Seconda edizione. Roma: Carocci Editore, 2018. ISBN 978-88-430-9317-5

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars in Italian and German.

The course includes debates and collective discussions in class. Students will be encouraged to actively engage in the activities.

Students who wish to deliver an oral presentation (Referat) are kindly requested to contact the instructor. 

The course programme and the final exam are the same for attending and non-attending students.

For tutoring service (specifically designed for non-attending, partially attending and Erasmus programme students) please send an e-mail to guglielmo.gabbiadini@unibo.it

Assessment methods

Oral exam – at least three questions aimed at assessing

  • the knowledge of the novel (to be read and prepared in full length);
  • the acquisition of further contents as presented in class;
  • the development of critical thinking skills).

Final grading on a 30-point scale (0-17=fail).

Teaching tools


Office hours

See the website of Guglielmo Gabbiadini