The River Rhine
The river Rhine counts among Europe’s most famous rivers - it has been called „Nile of the Occident“ and „Heart of Germany“. Carl Zuckmeyer, German writer and emigrant who escaped from National Socialism to Vermont, referred to the river even as „große Völkermühle“ (a “blender of nations”) and „Kelter Europas“ (“Europe’s wine press”). But what is this river’s enigma, which seems to nourish so many myths? And: can a river actually „write“ history?
This course will explore exactly this question. We will try to unlock the river’s biography since the 19th century against its transnational and multifaceted historical background. On the one hand we will investigate the river’s problematic history in the realm of politics, environment, traffic/infrastructure and economy. On the other hand we will look at its cultural history and what the river means and has meant on a more abstract level. There are numerous relicts (i.e. Loreley, the Rhine as a romantic icon) which are associated with the dreams and longings of people who came in contact with the river. What role has the Rhine played over the past two centuries in the formation of a peoples’ soul and place of memory („Erinnerungsort“), and in that sense how important has the river been in the self-definition of a people, especially Germans? And finally, what is the Rhine’s current role within Europe?