Berlin life and Walser

Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories provides important vignettes, even snapshots, of the Berlin of one hundred years ago, and so I would like you to choose one particular area of Berlin life and explore it in more detail, using Walser as your key source while making use of other historical sources for support.

Essays should be around four to five pages (not including the title page or bibliography).  Your essay should have an introductory paragraph that closes with a proper and specific thesis statement (however, as I’ll outline below, this need not be argumentative as with our other essays), paragraphs organized around topics that reinforce your thesis, and a strong concluding paragraph.

For this essay I want you to use at least three critical, peer-reviewed sources, so check with the library and with me to find the most appropriate books and/or articles.  For books, the website Novanet provides a complete listing of all books and journals held by universities in Nova Scotia.  For articles, the website JSTOR (which is free to access as Dalhousie students) provides thousands of articles on numerous subjects.  Note:  Internet sources such as Wikipedia, Douban, SparkNotes, and CliffsNotes are not critical sources.

Please ask me if you have any questions about the validity of a source.  Be specific, focus in on key details or elements, and make sure that your argument is well supported with evidence and quotations from the works.  When it comes to quoting from the text, comment on the quotes you use and do not simply allow them to speak for themselves.  If you have any questions while writing your essays, or if you would like me to see rough drafts, please let me know.

When it comes to the subject or area of Berlin life that you choose, this will be determined by Walser’s work. Possible subjects include:  transportation, the theatre (there are several ways that this subject can be tackled), modern inventions, the nature of city life, gardens and parks, the fire department, the rental situation, the profession of writing, etc.  Basically, I would like you to first use Walser as a way into the topic, all the while quoting from him directly; following that, I would like you to bring in the secondary material (largely but not necessarily wholly historical) to deepen your exploration.

Does Walser’s presentation accord with the history?  What does it still suggest to us today?  I should note that some students have requested discussing Walser in terms of Berlin today rather than the Walser’s Berlin; while my general preference is for a discussion of Walser’s Berlin, connecting Walser with the Berlin of today is perfectly fine.

Bear in mind that this essay can be argumentative, in that it can tackle Walser’s adherence or lack of adherence to the historical record, etc.  However, it can also be kept strictly descriptive, meaning that you can merely use Walser and the secondary sources to describe whatever it is that you have chosen.  For example, you may choose gardens in Berlin.  If so, your introductory paragraph can discuss that this is the case and lay out how you want to discuss Berlin gardens.

Your second paragraph can then use selective passages from Walser to help set up your discussion (in this case, you would quote the appropriate passages from “Tiergarten”).  Your third and fourth paragraphs would then rely more heavily on the secondary material, using the history to better illustrate your point and the object of your focus.  Finally, your conclusion would tie things up and suggest possible implications.  As mentioned in class, this is more of a descriptive essay that makes use of history and other non-literary sources as opposed to an argumentative essay with a clear argument/thesis that you then go on to pursue.  You can, as mentioned above, opt for structuring your paper in terms of an argument, but it is not necessary.


Last Updated on February 10, 2019 by EssayPro