Stefanie Susanne Leuenberger: Catalogue data in Spring Semester 2021

Name PD Dr. Stefanie Susanne Leuenberger
FieldNeuere Deutsche Literaturwissenschaft sowie Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
Haldeneggsteig 4
8092 Zürich
DepartmentHumanities, Social and Political Sciences

851-0297-00LManipulation in Literature and Cultural History3 credits2VS. S. Leuenberger
AbstractThis lecture focuses on the manipulation and control of individuals and the masses. The power of manipulation is based on subtle use of persuasive linguistic elements and knowledge of the desires and fears of the intended audience. In addition to a theoretical overview, the lecture concentrates on the literary and discursive texts that dispute the control of protagonists.
ObjectiveStudents will learn about manipulation as a linguistic and narrative phenomenon steeped in myth and classical rhetoric. Against the backdrop of cultural-historical developments, particularly with regard to major changes in media technology, we will examine how the reach of manipulation was extended from the individual to the masses. Students will be able to refine their critical discourse analysis skills and interdisciplinary abilities by studying texts from literature, politics, sociology, philosophy and psychoanalysis which reflect this shift in emphasis.
ContentSince the dawn of time mankind has tried to exert influence over others through the utilisation of certain techniques: initially for self-preservation – for example the interpretation of Sigmund Freud in Totem und Tabu. Later, desire became the driving force – centre stage: the desire for pleasure, power and control. Manipulation manifests itself in the form of characters and words, it is an authentically linguistic occurrence: classical antiquity, with the rhetoric, develops a system of verbal power of persuasion and, already then, questions were being raised in literary and discursive texts about how people could, or even should, manipulate. The exertion of influence and its impact will be clearly described, propagated, commented upon, criticised and ironised.
In contrast to oppressive overpowering, the power of manipulation (in Latin, manus hand, plere fill) is on the one hand, based on the subtle use of persuasive linguistic elements – it is always a (literary) discourse, too – and on the other, on knowing precisely what the fantasies, desires and fears of the manipulated are. The discourse of manipulation has its beginnings in the age of sophists and their belief in an omnipotence of language and rhetoric. It underwent further transformation under political and psychological signs in the early modern period through Giordano Bruno and Niccolò Machiavelli and culminated in the 20th century in a critique of the deception strategies of the “culture industry” (T.W Adorno) and “psychotechnology” (B. Stiegler) in global capitalism. Nowadays social media is the “radicalisation machine” (J. Ebner) that present new challenges for society. Written in the 19th century, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion already gave indications of how present-day conspiracy theorists would manipulate their audience, and its impact can still be felt today. Since manipulation is a linguistic, narrative and also literary phenomenon, the central theme of the lecture is how in literature itself this often politically controversial and manipulative behaviour is picked up and reflected through poetry: such as in Tristan from Gottfried von Strassburg, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, Friedrich Schiller’s Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua or Heinrich von Kleist’s Der zerbrochne Krug, the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Mann (Mario und der Zauberer) and, most recently in Eckhart Nickel’s novel, Hysteria.