Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), 232 pp. und Lee Konstantinou, Cool Characters (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2016), 384 pp.
Apr11

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), 232 pp. und Lee Konstantinou, Cool Characters (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2016), 384 pp.

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), 232 pp. Lee Konstantinou, Cool Characters (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2016), 384 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   What can the dandy tell us about criticism? He makes appearances in two recent works, Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique and Lee Konstantinou’s Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction, both of which diagnose the exhaustion, in our times, of stances of critical suspicion associated with the academic humanities. For Felski, the dandy is the ego-ideal for the ethos of detachment and comprehensive skepticism prized in the academy: “[T]he dandy’s immaculate self-consciousness and disdain for sentimental effusions is perfectly attuned to the scholarly zeitgeist, allowing the critic to carve out a skeptical distance from the mainstream without lapsing back into an earnest language of reason and truth or old-school worship of art” (49). For Konstantinou, likewise, “the history of dandyism” is invoked as the historical origin for the ironist’s oppositional savvy, “which he uses to affirm his status as part of an elect minority, a master of the cultural or symbolic field” (30, 31). As font of irony and criticism, the dandy appears in both of these studies because they are less concerned with critique or irony as formal, logical, or argumentative problems than as subjective attitudes, ways of being. As Felski says, “[I]t is now the posture of the critic that carries disproportionate weight: ironic, reflexive, fastidious, prescient, an implacable foe of false dualism and foundational truths” (24, emphasis mine). Or, as Konstantinou puts it, “Irony is not a method…It is an ethos that consumes the whole person, a whole life” (16-17). “Irony” and “critique” are not of course identical, but, as these passages suggest, there is substantial overlap between them. Both are, in Konstantinou’s words, “characterological”—they reflect not a set of precepts but, rather, a certain kind of person. While for Felski the dandy has pride of place, for Konstantinou the more important figure is the mid-century “hipster,” who, in seminal accounts offered by such figures as Norman Mailer and Anatole Broyard, “seems like nothing less than an intellectual…someone whose ultimate weapon is his ability to manipulate meaning and confront the symbolic logic of social life” (57). But the most symptomatic instances of what Felski calls “suspicious reading” (she adapts the phrase form Paul Ricoeur’s well-known “hermeneutic of suspicion”) have neither the dandy’s grace nor the hipster’s rebellious panache. The characterological correlative of interpretation at its most suspicious is, rather, “the clinically paranoid individual” (35). The tendency Felski refers to might be summed up in David Bromwich’s[1] rueful observation, in 1996, of “the current orthodoxy in literary theory,...

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Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), viii + 228 pp.
Apr11

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), viii + 228 pp.

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), viii + 228 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   The Limits of Critique is a persuasive and passionate quarrel with the current state of literary studies. And who would be better equipped to pick this quarrel than Rita Felski, editor of New Literary History with a seismographic feel for the cutting edge of theory. At the core of her new book stands a way of reading—“against the grain and between the lines … to draw out what a text fails—or willfully refuses—to see”—that Felski (with Paul Ricoeur) calls a “hermeneutics of suspicion” (1, emphasis in the original). Better known as “critique,” this eminent scholarly practice has assumed a stifling dominance in our field. Felski, who concedes not being immune to its intellectual charisma and, indeed, made a name for herself as a practitioner of feminist critique, finds this situation not only unfortunate but in dire need for change. For despite its undeniable merits, which are nowhere as palpable as in the recent success stories of the academic institutionalization of feminism, postcolonial and queer studies, critique “has sidelined other intellectual, aesthetic and political possibilities—ones that are just as vital to the flourishing of new fields of knowledge than older ones” (190). Careful to not fall into the trap of performing a mere “critique of critique” that “only draws us further into [the] suspicious mind-set, … [the] endless regress of skeptical questioning” (9) which Felski seeks to overcome, the declared aim of her new book is to describe her subject in ways that expose the limits of critique and, ultimately, make room for other—restorative, resonant, trusting (151; 160; 9)—modes of reading. Limits thus stays in tune with Felski’s investment in giving thought to what does not belong to our usual scholarly repertoire. Is it not time, she asked in her previous book, to align our critical endeavors with literature’s affective affordances? To take seriously that readers are drawn to, moved by, enthralled, and at times even obsessed with literary texts because these texts harbor experiences of recognition, enchantment, shock, and knowledge?[1] In stark contrast to the “uses of literature” explored in her previous book, the mode of reading that Felski sees at work in the scholarly practice of critique thrives on critical distance and detachment from its object while being geared toward a singular end: disenchantment. And because critique defines itself by cool nay-saying rather than warm affirmation, the distinct pleasures that it provides—“the intellectual kick of detecting figures and designs underneath the text’s surface, the delight of crafting ingenious and counterintuitive explanations, the challenge of drawing together what...

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American Studies Today: New Research Agendas, eds. Winfried Fluck, Erik Redling, Sabine Sielke, and Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. American Studies Monograph Series, no. 230. 475 pp.
Apr11

American Studies Today: New Research Agendas, eds. Winfried Fluck, Erik Redling, Sabine Sielke, and Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. American Studies Monograph Series, no. 230. 475 pp.

American Studies Today: New Research Agendas, eds. Winfried Fluck, Erik Redling, Sabine Sielke, and Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. American Studies Monograph Series, no. 230. 475 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In his famous foundational essay of 1957, “Can American Studies Develop a Method,” Henry Nash Smith proposed “the study of American culture, past and present, as a whole.” Though he did not use the word “interdisciplinary” here, he suggested the context of cultural history for the study of his chosen example, the writer Mark Twain, and proposed a research agenda that held more general significance for the whole field: “What is needed is a method of analysis that is at once literary (for one must begin with an analytical reading of the texts that takes into account structure, imagery, diction, and so on) and sociological (for many of the forces at work in the fiction are clearly of social origin).” Sixty years later, it would appear to be somewhat more difficult to advocate such a clear-cut single research agenda for American Studies, a field that has been, as the editors of the volume at hand put it, “for many years . . . dominated and decisively shaped by revisionist approaches that emerged in the critique of the myth and symbol school and the liberal tradition” (ix), of which Smith was a prime representative. This critique led to a stronger focus on race, ethnicity, class, and gender and to a better understanding of American culture in international contexts. It is telling that Smith’s essay is quoted in American Studies Today as a version of American “exceptionalism” (47), a term that occasionally reappears here and that, as George Blaustein has reminded us, was brought into circulation by Stalin in 1929 when he dismissed as the “heresy of American exceptionalism” the notion that “communism might succeed in the United States without a violent revolution.” American Studies Today is envisioned as an attempt to go beyond the revisionists and “open up the field to a wider spectrum of questions that can (and should) be asked about America” (x). In this manner, the volume takes stock of new work that extends familiar current trends in American studies (transnationalism, transculturalism, globalization, postcolonialism, ecology, race, media, and visual culture). It also proposes less commonly practiced areas as new research agendas (relational sociology, the concept of recognition, ethics and aesthetics, “science | culture | aesthetics”) and advocates the expansion of studies in class and poverty. Any scholar interested in one or more of these twelve topics will find helpful guidance in the discussions of various broad fields through their representative scholarship and encounter thought-provoking presentations...

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Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp.
Apr11

Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp.

Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   Since the 1940s, television series have gradually become an experimental site to cross boundaries and break taboos in American culture. Contemporary American television series such as House of Cards, Veep, The Wire, Cashing In, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Hannibal have started a new trend which no longer follows the cultural traditions and social expectations, and have constructed a new beginning in visualizing and depicting transgression on cultural, political, ethnical, and technological levels. Nowadays, American transgressive television series can be considered as important sources for the research on American television and popular culture. Current research on transgressive television not only negotiates its relations with American quality television serials and its cross-field connections with the big screen as well as the Internet, but also draws attention to the changes and developments that transgressive television series have made in presenting politics and crime in the changing cultural and technological contexts. Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series is an up-to-date collection of sixteen essays presented at the conference “Transgressive Television: Politics, Crime, and Citizenship in Twenty-First-Century American TV Series” in Vienna (Däwes, Ganser, and Poppenhagen 9). The first section, “Paving Pathways,” lays out the foundation for the analysis of contemporary American transgressive television series. Birgit Däwes’s article “Transgressive Television: Preliminary Thoughts” addresses the transformations that American transgressive television series have made in recent years, not only in terms of plot and character complexity, but also in the transgression of the boundaries of “Self and Other,” “genre” and “form,” “reality and fiction” (24-26). By breaking cultural taboos with direct presentations of “violence, sex, and death,” and putting the “position of politics” at the core, transgressive television serials have become “an ideal laboratory” of American culture and “an operational principle of border-crossing and intersection” to reflect socio-cultural realities and to provide more possibilities for interpreting “cultural codes, norms,” “values,” and “transgressive identities” (24-28). In “The Countdown to Y2KTV and the Arrival of the New Serialists,” Gary R. Edgerton gives an overview of the evolution of American television series from the Network Era and the Cable Era to the Digital Era, and discusses the “technological, commercial, and social” changes in the development of the American television industry, focusing on the “show-runner model” of David Chase’s The Sopranos known for its transgression to cinematic presentations and its innovative market/customer-oriented model (36-40). As Edgerton points out, the development of a television series like The Sopranos has made television more “personalized, interactive, mobile, and...

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Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp.
Apr11

Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp.

Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In Innocent Nation, Jens Kabisch examines how President Barack Obama’s quest for “authenticity” has influenced American politics, while also shedding light on the country’s cultural history of what he regards as the longstanding virtue of authenticity in U.S. society. Regarding authenticity as a “dispositive” that revolves around such characteristics as honesty, truthfulness, and uniqueness, Kabisch argues that it was especially President Obama who rekindled the old topos of authenticity and made it the center piece of his political program as a candidate and as President. According to Kabisch, the struggle against the “inauthentic” and the evocation of “true” authenticity is as old as the American nation itself and entered the country’s political discourse in the Early Republic. During the presidential election of 1824, for instance, Andrew Jackson accused his opponent John Quincy Adams of being an aristocratic elitist, who did not care for the welfare of the common man. This denunciation of what many Americans deemed a form of artificiality that smacked of corrupt European noblemen echoed the political rhetoric of the American Revolution and has been part of U.S. political discourse throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evocations of the authentic, however, were highly ambiguous and were claimed by many different groups, including socialists, conservatives, and neoliberal capitalists. But it was especially at the turn of the twenty-first century, Kabisch argues, that the discourse of the authentic became particularly powerful. Due to a combination of a number of developments, including changes in America’s consumer society, where “authenticity” began to trump quality, and the impact of 9/11, whose political aftermath called into question the sincerity and integrity of President George W. Bush, a new “politics of truthfulness” emerged after 2001. First focusing on the election of 2008, Kabisch examines which political and ideological premises undergirded Barack Obama’s uses of this new popularity of authenticity. In subsequent chapters, Kabisch analyzes the ways in which President Obama used the topos of authenticity to legitimize his administration, while also shedding light on its uses in America’s “war on terror” between 2000 and 2010. Kabisch’s phenomenological descriptions of America’s political culture of authenticity and its intellectual origins make for a fascinating read, and the focus on President Obama—in particular on his autobiographies and political statements as well as his body as text—is well chosen. However, even though Kabisch explains early on that it was not his aim to write a general history of authenticity in U.S. politics, one would have wished to learn more about the ways in which this...

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Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp.
Apr11

Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp.

Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In the epilogue to Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul’s edited volume Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ Winfried Fluck writes: “Reeducation and Americanization cannot be viewed separately” (291; my translation). Fluck’s statement fittingly reflects the content, agenda, and structure of the volume. At the same time, it phrases a task and challenge for a book that aims at an interdisciplinary exploration of US reeducation politics. On the one hand, the volume needs to tackle the tension between focusing and zooming in while, on the other hand, catering to the awareness that reeducation and/or reorientation opens up a broad and complex range of multi-layered and multi-disciplinary trajectories. The volume approaches this task by collecting contributions from different disciplines such as history, cultural studies, film and media studies, literary studies, and didactics as well as from a likewise broad array of concepts, theories, and methods. These voices highlight different modes of cultural transfer and processes of political, social, and cultural entanglement and thereby focus on different agents and different time frames after 1945. The articles engage in an investigation of cultural (and ideological) transfer, contextualize and explain both the institutions and agents of transfer themselves as well as perspectives on them with larger political, social, and cultural desires of these times—a desideratum also phrased by Fluck in the epilogue. Phenomena and especially their conceptualizations (be they political, cultural, or scholarly) depend on, and are shaped by, the respective time of production—an awareness that, within American Studies, became widely circulated at the latest with the advent of memory studies to the discipline. In the introduction to their volume, Gerund and Paul state that reeducation has “in political and scholarly discourse unfolded lasting impact and received manifold attention” (7). The editors not only justify the publication of a volume tackling a field that continues to have relevance in contemporary political, social, and cultural German and American realities. They also—and refreshingly so—point to the fact that the volume does not claim to fill a full-fledged research gap but locates itself in a field that has already produced substantial research. Gerund and Paul’s introduction provides a precise and comprehensive research report, which despite its adequate brevity, succeeds in embedding the volume within scholarly debates about prominent concepts ranging from Americanization vs. Westernization and Americanization from above and below to, among others, Stunde Null as radical break vs. focal point within longer developments, cultural diplomacy, and agency. The editors thus locate the volume within the well-established field...

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Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp.
Apr11

Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp.

Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In February of 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forced relocation and incarceration of about 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the Pacific Coast of the United States. The internees lost most of their property and many spent more than four years in the camps, even though the majority of them (62%) were American citizens. This so-called Japanese-American Internment during World War II is generally viewed today as one of the greatest injustices committed by the U.S. government in the twentieth century. Yet it took the government more than four decades to formally apologize for this action. President Ronald Reagan finally signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 admitting that the internment had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and granted a small monetary compensation to individual internment camp survivors. With his book Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Konrad Linke furnishes us with a new contribution to the rich body of scholarship on the Japanese-American Internment that has been developing since the 1950s. In his historiographical review, the author elucidates the many topics previous studies have addressed, including the measure’s constitutionality, the role of Congress and the courts, the executive branch, and the military, as well as the significance of race and ethnicity, forms of accommodation and resistance, and the part anthropologists played in documenting it (2-7). What makes Linke’s study new and different is both its focus on Tulare, a previously rather unexplored internment camp in California,[1] and his methodology. His approach consists of a combination of Alltagsgeschichte (Lüdtke) and microhistory (Ginzburg), along with “thick description” (Geertz) and a decentralized analysis of power structures (Foucault) and social force fields (Thompson) (9-18). His declared goal is “to examine the complex interrelation of normative structures and objective circumstances, on the one hand, with subjective perception and action, on the other”[2] (1). The author does not want to downplay the power of the military in controlling the internees’ life and also takes a close look at the role of the so-called civilian property manager, Nils Aanonsen—a Norwegian American who was appointed to manage the camp on behalf of the Western Defense Command (WDC). Nonetheless, his main focus is on the agency of the confined Japanese Americans themselves. According to the evidence he found, the internees were not passive victims but constantly tried and to some...

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Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp.
Apr11

Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp.

Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4     Michael Cullinane and David Ryan’s U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other is a welcome contribution to a growing body of literature on the importance of views of the other in American history. In U.S. diplomatic history, this approach constitutes an important facet of an ideological and cultural turn, which has been in the ascendancy at least since Michael Hunt’s Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy and which effectively tries to assess in how far cultural attitudes and views—in contrast to more quantifiable national security interests—influence foreign policy making.[1] The contributions to this volume cover the entire span of American history, from the colonial period to the war on terror. Within that timeframe, the articles single out seminal events and periods in U.S. domestic history, but more consistently in its foreign policy, including the American Revolution, the nineteenth century focus on the Western Hemisphere, the Spanish-American War and its aftermath, both World Wars, and the Cold War. As often with such collections, the quality of the articles varies slightly. Several pieces are broad, sweeping, and conceptual, whereas others focus on more closely delimited historical examples. On the whole, however, the editors have managed to recruit an impressive array of specialists, many of them established specialists in their respective fields. While readers who know their works will undoubtedly be familiar with their arguments, it is still worth re-encountering these contributions in the context of this collection because it is so focused on the issue of hetero-stereotypes, i.e. images of the other, and therefore allows for interesting comparisons. It is also obvious that the editors have taken care to select contributions on some of the key topics and themes that one might expect in such a volume. Thus, Walter Hixson returns to the origins of the American experience, explaining how “the formation of American national identity depended in part on [the] identification of Indians as a unitary and savage foe. Indian removal and indiscriminate warfare thus became synonymous with the formation and achievement of U.S. nationalist aspirations.” (28) Hixson also acknowledges that “opposition to British authority” was the second source of early American national identity, a theme that is further explored in Jack P. Greene’s contribution. Greene argues that British settlers in North America were pushed to enact their own national identity because the citizens of the metropole were “othering” them as uncultured and uncouth. This reading complements the work of T. H. Breen and others who have argued that the development of...

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Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp.
Apr11

Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp.

Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   Ruins are traditionally seen as the sublime remains of empires such as ancient Greece, Rome, or the Maya. This collection takes a slightly different look at ruins. Rather than emphasizing the romantic nostalgia evoked by sublimely framed edifices, the authors of this volume are interested in ruins as “petrified life,” as “traces that mark the fragility of power and the force of destruction.” They want to analyze ruins “as sites that condense alternative senses of history,” and they add to this the term “ruination” to describe the “ongoing corrosive process” of imperial formations “that weighs on the future” (9). The term is inspired by Michelle Cliff’s use of it as referring to the process by which vegetation reconquers former human habitations in the (post)colonial climate of the Caribbean (19-20). Stoler’s most recent edition, which follows upon collections that similarly subject the postcolonial world to critical ethnographic scrutiny (Haunted by Empire; Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power), settles squarely between various vibrant critical fields such as the postcolonial study of the colonial past, critical heritage studies, and ecocriticism, to name the three most important ones. Written under the impact of the recent military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the scandalous violations of human rights at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the essays in this volume are dedicated to showing, as Stoler writes in her introduction, both “the enduring quality of imperial remains” and the status of these imperial leftovers as cultural heritage, but even more so to showing “what people are left with”: the “aftershocks of imperial assault” (9). How, she asks, “do imperial formations persist in their material debris, in ruined landscapes and through the social ruination of people’s lives?” (10). The nine essays which cover a geographical range from the Americas to India, the Congo, South Africa, and Palestine are headed by Stoler’s theoretically and politically incisive introduction in which she spells out the concerns of the volume: “to broach the protracted quality of decimation in people’s lives” and to document “the grossly uneven distribution of pollution, waste disposal, and biowaste among impoverished populations in the United States and worldwide” (11). The perhaps most original critical work of this timely scholarly intervention consists in its disentanglement of the complicity of world heritage practices with what the authors call the “ruination” of human beings. While “colonialisms have been predicated on guarding natural and cultural patrimonies for populations assumed to need guidance in how to value and preserve them,” this book suggests nothing less than that the deep-felt...

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Hubert Zapf, Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts (London and Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2016), 312 pp.
Apr11

Hubert Zapf, Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts (London and Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2016), 312 pp.

Hubert Zapf, Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts (London and Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2016), 312 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts, Hubert Zapf aims at a new approach of literary analysis in the field of environmental studies. Although ecocriticism as part of the humanities is an emerging field, literature studies in general find themselves left out of the discussion about how to lead sustainable lives and make an impact on environmental issues such as climate change. Zapf, therefore, critically approaches the concepts of literary theory, ecology and cultural studies, offering a new and innovative perspective on how to read literature and see the sustainability of texts through the concept of cultural ecology. Cultural ecology in this sense “looks at the interaction and living interrelationship between culture and nature, without reducing one to the other” (3), rejecting both purely anthropocentric as well as ecocentric theories of cultural and social studies. By boldly applying this concept to literary texts, Zapf enhances the understanding of literature as a transcultural medium, acknowledging cultural differences of authors and works while highlighting the similarities that make these texts sustainable and ecological. With this approach, Zapf establishes literature as a leading medium for the deconstruction and reconstruction of cultural knowledge and ecological thought. The first part focuses on theories regarding ecology, cultural ecology and sustainability. While explaining the interconnectedness of literature and the environment, Zapf also emphasizes literature’s responsibility towards societies’ understanding of ecology and culture as well as dualisms, such as the nature-culture dichotomy, created by society. In order to provide literary pieces to support these ideas, Zapf draws from a wide range of texts, including works that seemingly do not fit within an environmental realm at first, showing the true potential of literature as a cultural medium, and defining it as an “imaginative space in which dominant developments, beliefs, truth-claims and models of human life are being critically reflected and symbolically transgressed in counter-discourses to prevailing economic-technoscientific forms of modernization and globalization” (27-8). With an emphasis on poetry in this first part, Zapf analyzes the connection between literary works, sustainability and ecological culture. Emily Dickinson’s “A narrow Fellow in the Grass,” Linda Hogan’s “To Light,” and A.R. Ammons’s “Reflective” all share the idea of the interconnectedness of the human and the non-human world or the natural and the cultural realm. These examples show a written art form of cultural behavior and human interaction with nature, providing a vehicle for creative ambiguity in the nature-culture divide. The second part of Hubert Zapf’s book, “Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology,” focuses on the development of ecocriticism and its relation to both critical...

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Sylvia Mayer and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds., The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture. American Studies—A Monograph Series 247. (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 227 pp.
Apr11

Sylvia Mayer and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds., The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture. American Studies—A Monograph Series 247. (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 227 pp.

Sylvia Mayer and Alexa Weik von Mossner, eds., The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture. American Studies—A Monograph Series 247. (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 227 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   For years, scholars and activists, most prominently among them Bill McKibben and Robert Macfarlane, have expressed their astonishment at the global dearth of creative engagement with anthropogenic climate change. Now that the second decade of the twenty-first century has brought on a seemingly never-ending outpouring of cultural production imaging ‘life, the universe, and everything’ in times of advanced climate change, this surge of texts has also generated a plethora of productive concepts, theories, and approaches—from eco-materialism to multi-species studies—providing scholars with adequate tools to critically interrogate the dynamic interplays of politics, economics, ethics, affect, aesthetics, and materiality as well as the intricate entanglements of the human with the non-human—to name but a few of the research foci—in narratives of environmental crisis. While the majority of these academic conceptualizations have initially emerged in the institutional framework of the environmental humanities and related disciplines, American Studies has, slightly belatedly, begun to participate in this endeavor quite copiously. Sylvia Mayer and Alexa Weik von Mossner’s edited volume The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture is a convincing example of one such conceptual contribution to the study of environmental crisis.[1] Taking their cue from the work of risk scholars such as, e.g., historian Arwen Mohun, anthropologist Mary Douglas, political scientist Aaron Wildavsky, and, most prominently, sociologists Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck, The Anticipation of Catastrophe narrows down its conceptual and topical lens on the research of environmental crises in North America to the exploration of risk narratives. Following Beck’s conceptualization as laid out in his World at Risk (2007; 2009), risk is understood by the contributors as the “perceptual and cognitive schema in accordance with which a society mobilizes itself when it is confronted with the openness, uncertainties and obstructions of a self-created future” (4). This conceptual grasp presumes that future crises cannot be foreseen, gauged, or controlled in twenty-first-century Western risk societies, in which the systemic effects of modernization continuously and quasi-autonomously (re)generate a wide array of unprecedented hazards. Yet, the prevalent risks within a particular culture are not axiomatic scenarios that exist a priori but are selected out of a wide array of possible future disaster situations and come into being through their imaginative staging in cultural narratives, which—other than risk statistics—manage to involve the audience emotionally. The Anticipation of Catastrophe does not stop short at the mere application of previous risk scholarship to environmental risk in North American literature and...

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Karen L. Kilcup, Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781-1924 (Athens and London: U of Georgia P, 2013), 512 pp.
Apr11

Karen L. Kilcup, Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781-1924 (Athens and London: U of Georgia P, 2013), 512 pp.

Karen L. Kilcup, Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781-1924 (Athens and London: U of Georgia P, 2013), 512 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4     Karen Kilcup’s astute investigation into the environmental dimensions of the works of a heterogeneous set of nineteenth-century American women writers contributes to scholarship in American women’s writing, ecocriticism, and feminist rhetoric while also expanding the scope of each of these fields. In the American tradition of nature writing that runs from Henry David Thoreau and John Muir to Barry Lopez and Annie Dillard, the primary objective has been to develop self-awareness through close observation of nature and to reflect critically on the terms of that self-awareness so as to extend empathy to the nonhuman world. Kilcup identifies a lesser known tradition of American environmental writing authored by women who “often perceived ‘nature’ and ‘the environment’ within a complex framework of embodied and social experience” (2). The women she portrays were all acutely aware of their own physical and mental enmeshment in the world that surrounded them, whether they lived a rugged life on the Western frontier or earned their living in urban environments. Importantly, Kilcup’s selection of primary texts consciously moves “beyond white middle-class women’s writing,” including works by “women of color, working-class women, and non-Protestant women” (5), thus offering a kaleidoscope of culturally inflected understandings of nature and human-nature relationships that challenge and significantly enlarge the accepted canon of American environmental writing. Furthermore, the culturally rich and ethnically diverse archive of environmental writing that Kilcup has uncovered is not only comprehensive in terms of its authors; Fallen Forests also highlights the multiplicity of genres as well as the development of hybrid genres “ranging from Cherokee oratory to travel writing, the slave narrative, diaries, polemical texts, sketches, novels and exposés” (5). Kilcup’s deliberately wide and open definition of environmental writing allows her to include the voices of women who might otherwise not have been noticed. She explores the intersections and inevitable mixing of these different forms of storytelling, and she goes far beyond reading them as chronicles of a bygone time in American environmental history or even as forgotten treasures of nature writing. Highlighting their political and activist dimensions, she understands American women’s environmental writings as the result of a deliberate foregrounding of individual subjective experience, and she constantly reminds us that individual experiences of the natural world are circumscribed not only by gender and sexuality, but also by ethnicity, race, class, age, health, and geographical location. The multifaceted tradition of environmental writing that Kilcup uncovers begins in 1781 when the Cherokee Beloved Woman and political activist Nancy...

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Michael Ziser, Environmental Practice and Early American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 224 pp.
Apr11

Michael Ziser, Environmental Practice and Early American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 224 pp.

Michael Ziser, Environmental Practice and Early American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 224 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   Arriving on the heels of editors Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’s A New Literary History of America (2009), Michael Ziser’s Environmental Practice and Early American Literature provides a fascinating new perspective on the influence of nonhuman agency on literary history. Ziser’s analysis marks a groundbreaking contribution to the recent “material turn” in ecocriticism, as he reinterprets early American literary history by examining the significance of nonhuman actors. Rooted in New Historicism, this study draws on current methods in science studies and sociology, most importantly Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory, as well as the work of environmental historians such as William Cronon and Richard White. Rethinking and combining these theoretical approaches, Ziser elaborates the ways in which nonhuman objects can be represented in literary productions and in how far their appearance in these productions can legitimately be understood as agency. He succeeds in this attempt to varying degrees. The monograph was composed to a great extent from essays and articles originally written and published elsewhere between 2004 and 2008, a fact that accounts for the, at times, rather vague connections between separate chapters. Nonetheless, the individual analyses bring forth intriguing arguments. Each of the first four chapters centers on the literary representation of one specific environmental practice, including the cultivation of tobacco and staples, orcharding, and bee-lining. The fifth and final chapter of the book illustrates the significance of the georgic mode for early American literature, concluding in a brief examination of nineteenth-century agricultural magazine culture as its final articulation. Laden with theory, Ziser’s introduction, aptly titled “More-than-Human Literary History,” a reference to David Abram’s concept of the “more-than-human,” makes for a dense but no less illuminating read. His elucidation of the study’s overall goal and its theoretical foundations not only serves as a potent opening to the analysis, but also provides an effective introductory guideline for the field of material ecocriticism. The first environmental practice analyzed is the cultivation of tobacco and its representation in early English accounts of the New World. Ziser comprehensively demonstrates in how far the plant claims agency as “a source of disembodied counter-imperial rhetorical power” (25). He illustrates this in a close examination of King James I’s pamphlet Counterblaste to Tobacco, published in 1604. King James attacks the newly introduced commodity for its seemingly subversive potential. He fears that his own sovereignty might be at stake, as many of the ideological and symbolic powers usually monopolized by royal authority are now also ascribed to tobacco. Central to his argument are the shifting relations of power due to...

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Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford/New York: Oxford UP, 2012, 2014), 312 pp.
Mar15

Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford/New York: Oxford UP, 2012, 2014), 312 pp.

Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford/New York: Oxford UP, 2012, 2014), 312 pp. Amerikastudien / American Studies 61.2     Im Zentrum der anregenden Studie des an der Brown University lehrenden Historikers Linford Fisher stehen die unterschiedlichen und facettenreichen Modi, mit denen Native Americans im südöstlichen Neuengland zwischen 1700 und 1820 dem christlichen Glauben begegneten, ihn ablehnten oder annahmen und auf ihre ganz eigene Art modifizierten. Dabei stellt Fisher die Selbstbestimmung („agency“) der Native Americans ganz in den Mittelpunkt seiner Analyse, die auf einer beeindruckend breiten und vielfältigen Quellengrundlage basiert. Die ersten beiden Kapitel konturieren die historischen Hintergründe und Rahmenbedingungen, vor denen die Interaktionen zwischen Native Americans und den christlichen Kolonisten zu sehen sind. In Kapitel 1, Rainmaking, rekonstruiert Fisher die europäischen Bemühungen, das Christentum unter den Native Americans zu verbreiten, wobei er insbesondere John Eliot in den Blick nimmt. Es sei ihnen noch bis in die ersten Dekaden des 18. Jahrhunderts gelungen, ihre traditionelle Lebensweise beizubehalten, ehe dann in diesem Zeitraum die evangelistischen Bemühungen nochmals erheblich intensiviert worden seien. Eben diese Evangelisierungsbemühungen stehen im Zentrum des zweiten Kapitels. Es gelingt Fisher auf überzeugende Weise, die Komplexität dieses Prozesses der Auswahl, Aneignung und Ablehnung christlicher Glaubensinhalte darzustellen, die in hohem Maße durch den spezifischen soziokulturellen Kontext in Neuengland bedingt waren. In Übereinstimmung mit anderen Forschungsergebnissen der jüngeren Zeit – hier ist etwa an die Arbeiten von Felicity Jensz oder Rachel Wheeler zu denken – war es vor allem der Zugang zu Bildung, der den Übertritt zum Christentum attraktiv werden ließ. In diesem Zusammenhang ist auch das fünfte Kapitel von Bedeutung, in welchem Fisher das Bildungsbemühen nach der Erweckung analysiert. Der Bildungserwerb war stets mit dem Bestreben verbunden, hierüber eine gewisse Eigenständigkeit und Handlungsfähigkeit zu erhalten. Im dritten Kapitel steht dann die Erweckung („awakening“) im Mittelpunkt des Interesses. Das titelgebende Indian Great Awakening sieht Fisher als das Resultat eines Zusammenwirkens von einerseits über dreißig Jahren Missions- und Evangelisierungsbemühungen und andererseits der wachsenden Anstrengungen der indianischen Gemeinschaften, „education, literarcy, and acceptance“ (S. 67) innerhalb der kolonialen Gesellschaft zu erwerben. Die eigentlichen Aneignungsprozesse werden von Fisher nuanciert und gründlich dargestellt, wobei er zu höchst aufschlussreichen Beobachtungen gelangt. So zeigt er etwa, dass die Interaktionen zwischen den christlichen Geistlichen und den indianischen Stammesgemeinschaften zu durchaus innovativen Glaubenspraktiken führten, wie z.B. zu lebhaftem Gesang oder anderen individuelle Ausdrucksformen während des Gottesdienstes. Linford Fisher plädiert im vierten Kapitel für den Begriff „affiliation“, um die vielfältigen Erweckungserfahrungen von Native Americans, zu beschreiben. Im Gegensatz zur religiösen Bekehrung („religious conversion“) sei „affiliation“ nämlich besser geeignet, die ganze Handlungspalette der Reaktionen im Kontext des Indian Great...

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Steve Longenecker, Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (New York: Fordham UP, 2014), 246 pp.
Mar15

Steve Longenecker, Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (New York: Fordham UP, 2014), 246 pp.

Steve Longenecker, Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (New York: Fordham UP, 2014), 246 pp. Amerikastudien / American Studies 61.2 Steve Longenecker’s micro-historical study attempts to carve out the significance of Gettysburg beyond its role as the site of a three-day Civil War battle, or its place in the name of Lincoln’s address as he dedicated the Soldier’s National Cemetery. Longenecker seeks to uncover Gettysburg by shifting the focus away from the stifling legacy of the war and to the town as representing small-town America in the antebellum Border North (1). Longenecker’s project is to read Gettysburg through the lens of three key terms—refinement, diversity, and race—in order to demonstrate that this small town was indicative of antebellum trends and tendencies in the larger Border North as well as on the national level (1). In so doing, Gettysburg hovers between the special and the ordinary: while it was “typically American” in subscribing to a “pursuit of material gain and improvement” (i.e., refinement), Longenecker calls Gettysburg “unusually diverse and modern” (33) for its rural setting. Relating the key terms to their significance for and within religion and religious practices in this “intriguing” (33) town of Gettysburg is supposedly the core of Longenecker’s study. As the chapters progress, however, one might argue that what he calls once “race,” “diversity,” or “war” might actually be at the heart of the matter. Longenecker’s outline is straightforward. He first introduces Gettysburg and its inhabitants, its history and development, and, most importantly, its various religious congregations. He then moves on to highlight the different characteristics of refinement, diversity, and war “in theory” and “in practice” (chs. 2 and 3), as well as their interplay with lived religious practices in Gettysburg: refinement as “the quest for improvement” (1) among the middle-class touched, for example, the church buildings as well as “polished worship” (2); diversity in Gettysburg, for Longenecker, comprises not only denominational but also doctrinal, educational, and ethnic diversity (3). The war’s impact on religion in town, so Longenecker’s conclusion, was only “moderate” (5), in the sense that most congregations recovered rather quickly and resumed their “routine” after July, 1863 (5). Therefore, the actual battle only figures in the last chapter, and although there is a factual account of the lead-up and its course of action, the focus is put on its aftermath and direct impact on the inhabitants and religious communities. This is part of Longenecker’s strategy to de-nationalize the Battle of Gettysburg and to contradict the superlatives of historiography that have contributed to turning it into an American lieu de mémoire. The book chapters are interspersed...

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Lawrence I. Berkove and Joseph Csicsila, Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010), 271 pp.
Mar15

Lawrence I. Berkove and Joseph Csicsila, Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010), 271 pp.

Lawrence I. Berkove and Joseph Csicsila, Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010), 271 pp. Amerikastudien / American Studies 61.2   For many people, the name “Mark Twain” is synonymous with American humor. Therefore, it is worth noting that this book says very little about humor, in fact the term’s entry in the index is shorter than that on “hell.” Berkove and Csicsila regard Twain’s gift of narrative and humor as simply a surface feature that served to establish and maintain his popular appeal, but does not have enough weight to justify Twain’s status as “one of literature’s most accomplished writers” (xiv). Similarly, the authors pay virtually no attention to the regional and historical dimensions of Twain’s work that are a mainstay of traditional scholarship. Instead, it is their ambition to identify the fundamental values, convictions, and the literary strategies which establish the unifying bond that connects all of Twain’s writings and thus provides a consistency to his work that is the true hallmark of the literary artist. In this endeavor, entertaining episodes of life in the West, adventures along the Mississippi River, the pranks of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and imaginary excursions into the world of King Arthur are nothing more than means to an end. Twain’s main purpose, the authors contend, is to “expose life as a cruel hoax” (136) and to identify “an ingenious, deceptive, and malevolent” (11) God as its cause.   To substantiate their ideas, Berkove and Csicsila take on the task of explaining how religion, and more specifically Calvinism, served as a powerful, if painful, catalyst for Twain’s literary imagination. The authors’ approach is plausible and promising. In his noteworthy observation about the role of religion in the United States, Tocqueville stated that “there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”[1] The statement appeared in the American translation of Tocqueville’s book in 1838, three years after the birth of Mark Twain, or rather Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and may serve as a reminder that nineteenth-century American culture in general, and American literature in particular, unfolded under the influence of a powerful belief system.   In view of this situation it may be surprising to see that, as Berkove and Csicsila note in their introductory chapter, the topic of religion has been “mentioned in Twain studies” (3), but has rarely been pursued with sufficient intensity.[2] It is perhaps a telling sign that even A Companion to Mark Twain, a standard reference book from 2005, does not feature an essay on...

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Alfred Hornung, ed., American Lives (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), xvii + 563 pp.
Feb18

Alfred Hornung, ed., American Lives (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), xvii + 563 pp.

Alfred Hornung, ed., American Lives (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), xvii + 563 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   This volume edited by Alfred Hornung includes the five keynote lectures plus twenty-four workshop presentations from the 2012 DGfA annual conference on “American Lives” held at the University of Mainz. The collection delves into the myriad variations of American (auto-) biography with its complex, multi-layered modes of story-telling, its various forms and functions, its conceptual frames and narrative strategies to produce authenticity and credibility. And it does so with a vast historical reach, from indigenous and colonial texts to contemporary life writing across genres and media.  E-lives, blogs and other social media formats are considered as well as film, photography and graphic story-telling. The first part of the book presents the keynote lectures of the conference. Sidonie Smith offers a compelling account of how Hillary Clinton’s bestseller Living History (2003) shapes a convincing political persona of representative American-ness by drawing on variants of the Bildungsroman, the conventional First Lady Memoir, the buddy story, the celebrity confession and the war memoir. Thomas Bender examines recent biographies about public intellectuals Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Hofstadter and Christopher Lasch with a focus on intellectual creativity: the formations and transformations that ideas undergo before they appear in print. The contributions by Craig Howes and Birgit Däwes share an interest in Native American life writing. Howes explores nineteenth-century indigenous Hawaiian self-representations as responses to colonization and missionary endeavors while Däwes probes into the emancipatory potential of staged Native American biography. Finally, Siri Hustvedt ventures into the borderlands between life writing and life science where she discusses how the “hard” and “soft” truths of science and art are affected by the choice of first, second or third person narrative.   The following section has a focus on historical variants of (auto-) biographical writing. Patrick Erben traces how the anniversary poems of Francis Daniel Pastorius can be read as a form of immigrant autobiography which deliberately seeks to establish religious community and personal affiliation in a colonial setting. The uneasy relations between Christian ethics and slavery are discussed by Carsten Junker who reads Samuel West’s unpublished memoirs in dialog with letters from the author’s brother. Kirsten Twelbeck and Hannah Spahn both discuss how life writings help us understand race relations in the context of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period. The diary of Esther Hill Hawks, a white doctor, and the autobiography of Eliza Potter, an Afroamerican hairdresser, offer intriguing insights into the resonances of race and gender, the public and the private, as well as of national identity, social activism and the ambivalences of recognition. This section of...

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Alexandra Wagner, Wissen in der Autobiographie: Zur narrativen Konstruktion von Wissensordnungen in US-amerikanischen autobiographischen Texten (Trier: WVT, 2014), 232 pp.
Feb18

Alexandra Wagner, Wissen in der Autobiographie: Zur narrativen Konstruktion von Wissensordnungen in US-amerikanischen autobiographischen Texten (Trier: WVT, 2014), 232 pp.

Alexandra Wagner, Wissen in der Autobiographie: Zur narrativen Konstruktion von Wissensordnungen in US-amerikanischen autobiographischen Texten (Trier: WVT, 2014), 232 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   The field of autobiography studies, as Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson have proposed, has taken on “virtually intergalactic” proportions in the past few decades (ix), enlivened by the growing recognition of the interdependencies and fragmentations of writing subjects through fields such as postcolonial studies,[1] ecocriticism, and disability studies. Alexandra Wagner’s Wissen in der Autobiographie: Zur narrativen Konstruktion von Wissensordnungen in US-amerikanischen autobiographischen Texten adds to this ever expanding field by examining the interconnections between literature and knowledge through the genre of autobiography. In her elegant study, Wagner investigates the ways in which the genre shapes the production and representation of knowledge, considering autobiography as a specific knowledge system characterized by a poetics of knowledge (as developed by Jacques Rancière and Joseph Vogl) situated between fact and fiction (3). The book is organized into five main sections. Following an introduction and general overview of the role of narrative and knowledge in autobiography (section II), Wagner theorizes narrative points of view, motivations, the role of the addressee, and temporal and spatial dimensions of autobiographical writing (section III). In section IV, which takes up about half of the study, Wagner pursues close readings of (mostly) American autobiographical texts to exhibit the various orders of knowledge in the genre. She closes with an exemplary reading of Dave Eggers’s What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Deng. A Novel (2007)as a contemporary example of the fusion between fact and fiction in autobiographical writing that serves to recap some of her study’s major claims. Genre, according to Wagner, goes beyond mere classification of texts, providing frames and formulas for the organization and production of knowledge (22). An investigation of poetic knowledge construction in autobiography, as she asserts, not only offers insights into autobiographical narrative as a practice of self-assurance but may also shed light on the possibilities, limitations, and formations of knowledge systems in general (11). Wagner’s emphasis on the poetic dimensions of autobiography aims to serve as a corrective to the more common linkage of the genre in popular perception with facticity rather than fictional creation (23). This focus, as she seeks to demonstrate, opens up new avenues toward understanding autobiographical texts: setting aside dichotomies of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, she instead concentrates on genre specific modes of (re)presentations of autobiographical knowledge through an analysis of narrative structures (24). Narrative has a mediating function in the production, dissemination, and communication of meaning (20), and it is shaped by a tension between knowing and non-knowing and the...

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Mita Banerjee, Color Me White: Naturalism/Naturalization in American Literature (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 484 pp.
Feb18

Mita Banerjee, Color Me White: Naturalism/Naturalization in American Literature (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 484 pp.

Mita Banerjee, Color Me White: Naturalism/Naturalization in American Literature (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 484 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   A serious, comprehensive consideration of “race” in US American Naturalism is long overdue. Mita Banerjee’s study Color Me White addresses the issue squarely in a manner that is both original and insightful, contributing towards filling this lacuna in earlier research. Yet, the innovative character of her book is not limited to its subject matter; it resides at least as much in its fresh, transdisciplinary approach to the topic. Taking her cue from the court’s verdict in In re Ah Yup (1878) that resorted to “the literature of the country” for determining the meaning of the term “white person, ” Banerjee reads legal and literary discourses as mutually illuminating projects seeking to ascertain which racial and ethnic groups should be considered “white,” thus gaining the right to own property (including land) as well as the right to marry white persons. Around 1900, these considerations were triangulated by yet another discipline: medicine, in particular hygiene. Both legal and literary inquiries into matters of “race” thus inspect not only the petitioners’ hands and teeth, but also their food, their kitchens and living rooms, as well as their clothing. Curiously, from today’s perspective, the question of the claimants’ proficiency in English appeared much less important. But this is in fact one of the central points Color Me White makes: racialization is a historical, as well as a regional, specific practice. What might matter in one case—in addition to the instances already cited, “beauty” and religion, for example—might be dismissed in another. Neither is the “whiteness” or “non-whiteness” of specific ethnic or national groups a foregone conclusion.  Thus, Syrian, Indian, and Japanese individuals were granted whiteness at some times and in some places, but not in others. Such “de-racing” and “re-racing” processes are by no means historically unidirectional, as the re-racialization of Arab Americans after 9/11 attests. Color Me White discusses the canonical texts of literary Naturalism ranging from Stephen Crane’s Maggie to Frank Norris’s and Upton Sinclair’s works. In these novels, the whiteness of some ethnic communities, such as Lithuanian Americans in The Jungle, is established through their distinction from other, similarly situated social groups, here Irish Americans, who are portrayed as lacking in terms of hygiene as well as morality. Interestingly, the verdict of naturalist fiction does not always tally with that of contemporary courts. Where Irish Americans were well on their way to whiteness around 1900, partly as a result of their decision to distance themselves from African Americans, as Ignatiev and Jacobson among others have shown, they are re-raced in Sinclair’s...

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Ana Maria Manzanas and Jesús Benito, Occupying Space in American Literature and Culture: Static Heroes, Social Movements and Empowerment (New York/London: Routledge, 2014), 170 pp.
Feb18

Ana Maria Manzanas and Jesús Benito, Occupying Space in American Literature and Culture: Static Heroes, Social Movements and Empowerment (New York/London: Routledge, 2014), 170 pp.

Ana Maria Manzanas and Jesús Benito, Occupying Space in American Literature and Culture: Static Heroes, Social Movements and Empowerment (New York/London: Routledge, 2014), 170 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   This intellectually ambitious and intelligently provocative study puts into analytical practice what its authors call a “spatial turn in literary theory.”  They situate their book at the “intersection of geography, literary criticism, and cultural criticism” (2-3), and, in doing so, display not only considerable expertise in a wide spectrum of contemporary theory (from Giorgio Agamben to Slavoj Zizek), but are also able to make literary texts speak theoretically and politically. In addition, they show the aesthetic implications of much contemporary political thought and the practice of recent political movements. Re-thinking “space” and its function thus provides the link between the widely different spheres of their inquiry, creating a field of discourse in which political theory, literary text(s) and the actual experience of the historical moment interrelate and interact. Who owns or occupies what space in times like ours, marked by the dynamics of migration and the space-dissolving and border-defying (but also border-reinstating) processes of globalization? To what extent can space not only be the locus of repressive order, but also of radical refusal, even an agency for creative change in political thought, in the practice of literature, and of political protest? Can there be imagined or practiced alternatives to the way “space” is conceived in the narratives of contemporary neoliberal politics? What is curious about this study, then, is the fact that although it claims much for literature and the imagination, its concerns are not primarily literary. Rather it is driven by a consciousness of political and social crisis in the face of non-functioning political systems, the social impact of an economic policy of financial austerity, or the influx of “alien” immigrants that nations in Europe and elsewhere are either unwilling or unable to accommodate. And yet the book appears to place trust in the power of the aesthetic: It is based on the assumption that objects of the imagination (literature, film, or art) may anticipate, even shape, reality since they are driven by a desire for change beyond the realm of the aesthetic (yet inclusive of it).  Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” frames Manzanas’ and Benito’s study—they discuss it in their opening and then again in a concluding chapter called “From Bartleby to Occupy Wall Street: The Politics of Empty Spaces.” Melville’s story thus establishes the book’s focus, allowing its authors to advance and exemplify concepts concerning the aesthetic as much as the political relevance of space. Here, as elsewhere, they acknowledge their indebtedness to Doreen Massey who,...

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Arno Heller, Wo sich Amerika erfand: Große Erinnerungsorte in Neuengland (Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2015), 352 pp.
Feb18

Arno Heller, Wo sich Amerika erfand: Große Erinnerungsorte in Neuengland (Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2015), 352 pp.

Arno Heller, Wo sich Amerika erfand: Große Erinnerungsorte in Neuengland (Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2015), 352 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   Auf der Suche nach Gemeinsamkeiten jener vielfältigen Facetten, die nicht mehr kommentarlos unter dem allzu vereinheitlichenden Begriff einer US-amerikanischen Kultur zusammenzufassen sind, wird man neben anderen Aspekten unweigerlich auf eine gewisse Faszination, wenn nicht gar Obsession mit dem Konzept des Anfangs und des Anfangens stoßen, die den kulturellen Mainstream und sein Verständnis von Geschichte und Identität ebenso prägt wie subkulturelle und gegenkulturelle Positionen. Das Konzept des Gründungsortes spielt hierbei eine besondere Rolle, und Orte werden gerne zu Stätten gemacht, indem man sie mythisch überhöht, ganz gleich, ob es im Namen einer nationalen Identitätsbildung oder deren Gegenbewegung stattfindet, egal ob Plymouth Rock oder Woodstock. Die Konstruktion dieser Gründungsorte findet oftmals konkret über diskursive und materielle Praktiken statt, die Geschichtsschreibung mit musealer Aufarbeitung und Ausstellung verbinden und dabei immer eine gewisse Kontinuität zur Gegenwart und zu gegenwärtigen Identitäten herstellen (und sei es durch die Inszenierung eines Bruches mit der Vergangenheit). In seinem Buch Wo sich Amerika erfand spürt Arno Heller einigen dieser Erinnerungsorte dort nach, wo sie in den USA vermutlich in der größten Dichte zu finden sind, nämlich in Neuengland. Es ist ihm dabei elegant der keineswegs leichte Brückenschlag zwischen akademischer Kulturwissenschaft (mit literarischem Fokus) und landeskundlicher Aufarbeitung gelungen, die das Buch für mindestens zwei Zielgruppen gleichermaßen interessant macht, ohne diese gegeneinander auszuspielen. Wo sich Amerika erfand ist zunächst einmal ein Reiseführer im besten Wortsinn, der eine wertvolle erzählerische Ergänzung zu jenen immer bildlastigeren Büchern darstellt, die Touristen zwar Karten, Daten und eine Liste sehenswerter Orte bieten, zugleich aber kaum mehr als einen knappen Absatz Text pro Eintrag aufweisen und sich höchstens noch einige wenige einführende Seiten zur allgemeinen Geschichte leisten. Auch Hellers Buch enthält zahlreiche Farbbilder, teilweise vom Autor selbst fotografiert, die in sehr guter Qualität und an geeigneter Stelle sinnvoll den Text illustrieren, aber auch nicht mehr tun wollen als dies. Die konkreten Fragen, mit denen sich analoge und digitale Reiseführer gerne beschäftigen – das kommentierte Kartenmaterial, das Touristen zu Sehenswürdigkeiten, Hotels, Souvenirläden und gutem Kaffee bringt – überlässt ihnen Heller gerne; er kümmert sich stattdessen um die narrative kulturhistorische Aufarbeitung und Einbettung eines Ortes im größeren nationalen, nicht selten auch globalen Kontext, und somit um jene Geschichte und Geschichten, die ein Reiseziel vielleicht überhaupt erst wirklich als Ort erfahrbar machen. Hellers Buch ist jedoch nicht nur im Gepäck Neuenglandreisender gut aufgehoben, sondern erfüllt einen zweiten Zweck gleichermaßen überzeugend: Es bietet eine grundlegende Einführung in die Kulturgeschichte der USA, die Studierenden der Amerikanistik für einen ersten Überblick ebenso nützlich sein wird wie als Orientierungspunkt für...

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Kevin Pelletier, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature (Athens: U of Georgia P, 2015), 272 pp.
Feb18

Kevin Pelletier, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature (Athens: U of Georgia P, 2015), 272 pp.

Kevin Pelletier, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature (Athens: U of Georgia P, 2015), 272 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   The turn to religion in literary studies over the past decade has yielded many fruitful insights, especially in scholarly understandings of sentimental culture.  When Ann Douglas turned serious attention to sentimentalism in The Feminization of American Culture (1977), she established a narrative in which a “masculine” and serious-minded Calvinism gave way to a “feminine” and soft-hearted sentimentalism.[1]  Jane Tompkins challenged Douglas, but left the basic paradigm—from Calvinism to sentimentalism—in place.[2]  Both books depicted a vague evangelical Protestantism behind sentimentalism.  The lack of distinction or theological depth in these accounts was recognized as a problem, but was seldom, if ever, addressed.[3]  Only now are scholars beginning to reveal the religious complexities and nuances of sentimental culture.  In The Altar at Home (2014), Claudia Stokes reveals the powerful effect of Methodism and the Second Great Awakening on sentimentalism.[4]  Kevin Pelletier’s new book, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism, likewise turns to “the fiery evangelical context in which American sentimentalism developed” (38).  Demonstrating against Douglas and others that “there is no clean break between hard-line Calvinist theology and the more moderate forms of belief that sought to replace it,” Pelletier sets a fear of God’s vengeance at the center of abolitionist sentimentalism (12). Pelletier’s idea that fear might be a forceful presence and an enduring feature of sentimentalism radically departs from usual understandings of this culture and its literature.  Scholars most often see an “autotelic” view of love and sympathy at work: that is, depictions of love produce love; representations of sympathy spread sympathy.  Some scholars call this approach modeling.  By modeling scenes of love and compassion, sentimental writers hope to reproduce that response in readers.  And indeed, sentimental novels often seem filled with contagious scenes of weeping, where right feeling is not just demonstrated, but replicated.  Yet as Pelletier points out, focusing on such scenes actually prohibits scholars from seeing the many times when such responses fail.  What happens when the heart hardens despite being surrounded by proper sentimental scenes?  Sentimental novels, Pelletier demonstrates, worried constantly about how to move the unmoved, and they turned to a fear of God as their answer.  The “apocalypse,” as Pelletier defines it, counted as any “suspended threat” of divine judgment and wrath: “Apocalypse is a warning that God would scourge reprobates for their sinful ways but never an actual depiction of this scourging” (12).  Where sympathy would not suffice, God’s threats could move readers from fear to love in the cause of abolition. In making this claim, Pelletier does important work distinguishing among multiple...

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Michael Millner, Fever Reading: Affect and Reading Badly in the Early American Public Sphere (Durham, NH: U of New Hampshire P, 2012), xxii+188 pp.
Feb18

Michael Millner, Fever Reading: Affect and Reading Badly in the Early American Public Sphere (Durham, NH: U of New Hampshire P, 2012), xxii+188 pp.

Michael Millner, Fever Reading: Affect and Reading Badly in the Early American Public Sphere (Durham, NH: U of New Hampshire P, 2012), xxii+188 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   It is perhaps not surprising that the last two decades have seen a renaissance of public sphere criticism.  After all, in these unstable times, the idea of a realm dedicated to disinterested conversation and rational deliberation holds a kind of redemptive promise.  Here individuals can occupy a space beholden to neither state nor private interests, in which participatory democracy plays out principally through what Nancy Fraser calls “the medium of talk.” Even as recent studies celebrate the public sphere, however, they have also been sharply critical of its limitations.  Despite its claims to universality, participation in the public sphere has historically rested with white propertied men.  And while “talk” has been its acclaimed component, public sphere engagement has been enacted principally through the disembodied medium of print.  In this way, it has systematically excluded those individuals who lacked both access to print culture and the means for claiming an abstract universality—that is women and people of color.  In more recent years, scholars have complicated these notions of an exclusive unified realm of white men by pointing to the presence of subaltern or counterpublics and by examining the ways that performance, affect, and voice have all contributed to the creation of the public sphere. Michael Millner’s Fever Reading is a recent and welcome addition to this latter scholarship.  Lucidly argued and elegantly written, Fever Reading makes a case for a public sphere of embodiment and emotion, what Millner occasionally calls “a public sensorium.”  But rather than seeing this as an alternative to the realm of discursive communication and rational judgment, Millner sees embodiment as enabling precisely the kinds of critical practices—reflection, evaluation, judgment—that public sphere proponents embrace. To make this argument, Millner focuses on the phenomenon of “bad reading”—reading that is fevered, addictive, distracted, overly absorbing, and so forth.  This is precisely the kind of reading that cultural custodians (both in the early American period and today) posit as detrimental because it “dissolve[s] critical distance and undercut[s] the possibility of reflection—elements thought essential to a proper public sphere and good citizenship.”  But Millner argues that the opposite is true—that bad reading practices are, in fact, “critical, reflective, and essential to modern democracy…” (xiii). Millner’s counter-intuitive claims rest on the idea that the emotions generated in bad reading are important diagnostic tools, ways of evaluating the surrounding environment.  Borrowing from research in the experimental sciences and particularly the work of William Reddy, Millner posits that emotional reactions allow readers to navigate complex...

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Anita Wohlmann, Aged Young Adults: Age Readings of Contemporary American Novels and Films (Bielefeld: transcript, 2014), 280 pp.
Feb18

Anita Wohlmann, Aged Young Adults: Age Readings of Contemporary American Novels and Films (Bielefeld: transcript, 2014), 280 pp.

Anita Wohlmann, Aged Young Adults: Age Readings of Contemporary American Novels and Films (Bielefeld: transcript, 2014), 280 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   Anita Wohlmann’s insightful study on “aged young adults” brings together the concepts of age/aging and youth in a very productive way, and by so doing adds a new dimension to age studies. In five thematically clustered chapters, the author closely examines seven contemporary (2001-2011) American narratives—four novels and three films—via an approach that she terms “age readings.” An age reading reveals references to age in fictional narratives to be more than simply descriptive, and examines their metaphorical function that often revolves around “norms, ideals, and expectations” (70). Aged Young Adults is grounded in a solid theoretical basis of age/aging studies and profits from drawing on theories by eminent age scholars. Wohlmann’s reading of her primary material combines analyses of the fictional material with approaches from cultural studies, sociology, and developmental psychology. Consequently, individual chapters follow a “dialogic organization” (76) that illustrates the reciprocal influence between fictional narratives and “the socio-cultural environment” (30). Thus, analytical observations about the fictional narratives prompt theoretical reflections, which in turn actuate further critical examinations. Chapter one, “Age and Aging in Theory and Practice,” lays out the theoretical background and basis for the age readings that follow in the next four chapters. The first analytic cluster, chapter two, entitled “Conflicts of Timing,” examines Joel Zwick’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Sam Mendes’s Away We Go (2009). The two works are connected by their focus on the characters’ age crises, as well as on the “disciplinary function of age discourses” (91). Chapter three, entitled “Living Across the Life Course,” analyzes Tom Perrotta’s Little Children (2006) and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2002). This chapter’s focus lies on age as a flexible marker and the “shifting meanings of adulthood” that are presented by the works, as well as on the role of age norms and how they affect imaginaries of the life course. “Mental Health and Age,” chapter four, offers an examination of the various links between mental health, consumer culture, age/aging, and entrepreneurial selves in Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision (2005) and Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis (2003). The last analytic chapter, chapter five, entitled “Positive Age Metaphors,” examines Miranda July’s The Future (2011) and It Chooses You (2011), emphasizing particularly the aspects that unfold possibilities to reevaluate “notions of time, the future, [and] age or aging” (249). As can be seen from her selection of works, the novelty of Wohlmann’s approach, in the ever rapidly expanding multi-disciplinary field of age/aging studies, lies in the fact that her study focuses on chronologically young characters between the...

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Walter Benn Michaels, The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), Hb. Xiii, 230 pp., 8 color plates, 28 halftones, 4 line drawings.
Feb18

Walter Benn Michaels, The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), Hb. Xiii, 230 pp., 8 color plates, 28 halftones, 4 line drawings.

Walter Benn Michaels, The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015), Hb. Xiii, 230 pp., 8 color plates, 28 halftones, 4 line drawings. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   Walter Benn Michaels’s new book, The Beauty of a Social Problem, is dedicated to the work of a generation of younger photographers and visual artists—most  of them born after 1965—and  in particular to these artists’ shared belief in the autonomy of the work of art. At first glance, Michaels’s own interest in this notion of autonomy does not seem primarily theoretical, though theory does play a major role in his book, but also and in fact ultimately political. One of the central ideas behind his book is that the “separation” of the work of art “from the world” (xii)—from its subject and from its reader or beholder—might function as “an emblem of the relation between classes and also of the escape from that relation, of the possibility of a world without classes” (ibid.). This is a bold claim, to be sure, although The Beauty of a Social Problem is everything but a practical political manifesto (and Michaels never claims that he wanted to write one); rather, it is a prolonged theoretical meditation on the possibilities of thinking about the connection between the art world, on the one hand, and the social world on the other. For Michaels, contemporary photographic art and art theory present a particularly promising field to do so. Given the conceptual scope of the book, readers of The Beauty of a Social Problem will come across a number of political arguments and theoretical claims about the function of art and literature that Michaels has pursued throughout his career (for example, intentionality and meaning; the critique of the reader/beholder; social inequality vs. cultural diversity). But they will also come across a series of careful and often surprisingly unexpected close-readings of both contemporary artists (including, amongst others, Jeff Wall, Brian Urich, Arthur Ou, and Viktoria Binschtok) and classics in the history of photography (Walker Evans, August Sander, Paul Strand) that notably extend, and in many cases complicate, the range of arguments Michaels has become notorious for making, one of them being the relationship between photography and literature itself, and Michaels’s tendency to prioritize the former over the latter as his object of inquiry. The Beauty of a Social Problem consists of five main chapters: four lengthy pieces on the theory and history of photography and the visual arts (larger portions of which were previously published in journals) and a shorter final chapter, “Never Again, or Nevermore,”—at first sight somewhat inconsistent with the rest—focused...

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Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds., Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity (Durham: Duke UP, 2012), 400 pp.
Feb18

Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds., Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity (Durham: Duke UP, 2012), 400 pp.

Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds., Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity (Durham: Duke UP, 2012), 400 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   To scholars considering Afro-Pessimism as seriously as Sebastian Weier recently proposed in Amerikastudien/American Studies, a collection of essays titled Pictures and Progress will seem surprising.[1] Editors Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith announce their volume as an exploration of the ways “African Americans adopted and utilized photography in all its cultural forms to represent a new people, a new period, and new modes of black thought” (9-10). Instead of focusing on “structural white enslavism” (Weier 430), Pictures and Progress reminds its readers of the liberating potential of nineteenth-century photography. Its authors study a medium that produced authority, individuality, and micro-narratives of citizenship. Eleven substantial essays examine African American visual culture, cultural history, and literature. In between, four highly useful mini-chapters (“snapshots”) focus on the lives and oeuvres of early black photographers Augustus Washington, Thomas Askew, A.P. Bedou, and J.P. Ball. Wallace and Smith’s compelling introduction argues that the camera “helped to define the ethos of the era as well as direct the path of African American advancement” (15). Following Frederick Douglass’s explicitly optimistic thoughts on pictorial practices, the editors and most of their contributors imagine a “much more autonomous African American viewer” than the one Du Bois’s theories of “double consciousness” imply. They outline consumers “seeking progress and improvement through a study of the self objectified as image” (8).  Laura Wexler, for instance, concentrates on Douglass’s performances in his photographic portraits. She reads this “string of images” as expressions of Douglass’s determination to “insert himself” into the nation’s future (37). Ginger Hill explores Douglass’s theories of selfhood and the camera. In her essay, Douglass’s writings appear as “struggles with representation” (72) and as attempts to establish “iconicity […] in the face of the tragic” (71). Building on this foundation, the collected essays examine key literary and photographic texts of the African American nineteenth century. Augusta Rohrbach contributes a piece on Sojourner Truth’s negotiations with “shadow and substance.” Michael Chaney discusses Linda Brent’s “camera tactics.” These, Chaney finds, operate in a field where “the camera and the mulatta come together to form a composite machine for sustaining power relations through acts of seeing and being seen” (128). Along similar lines, Gabrielle Forman speculates on “mulatta genealogies” in the framework of slavery, freedom, and photographic culture. Smith discusses DuBois’s photographs for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair; she finds images “denaturalizing the assumed privilege of whiteness” (292) and “pushing subjectivity past the color line” (293). Wallace contributes a fascinating essay...

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Kathleen Loock and Constantine Verevis, eds., Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake/Remodel (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 272 pp.
Feb18

Kathleen Loock and Constantine Verevis, eds., Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake/Remodel (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 272 pp.

Kathleen Loock and Constantine Verevis, eds., Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake/Remodel (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 272 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   In Storytelling in Film and Television, Kristin Thompson describes remakes, adaptations, and sequels as both “the recycling and expansion of existing narratives.”[1] In other words, and contrary to critical voices that reduce processes of cultural reproduction to commercially-driven acts of copying, Thompson points out how these cinematic forms are characterized by serial patterns of repetition and variation. This serial understanding of cultural reproduction is also emphasized in Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions. The volume, a collection of papers originally held at a conference at the University of Göttingen in 2010, provides a variety of critical perspectives on remakes and adaptations that “contest the idea that the remake is a debased copy of some superior original” (2). As the editors point out in their introduction, the twelve contributions seek to get a grasp on “these diverse and yet similar processes of cultural reproduction and the positive potential of ‘retromania’ in our contemporary media climate” (12). Combining the interdisciplinary perspectives of American Studies, film and television studies, as well as fan studies, the volume approaches the phenomenon from three different angles, which also make up its thematic sections: Filmic adaptations of canonical literary texts (“Adapt”), remakes of cinematic classics (“Remake”), and fan-made video productions (“Remodel”). Frank Kelleter’s “‘Toto, I Think We’re in Oz Again’ (and Again and Again): Remakes and Popular Seriality” is not only the first essay in this section, but also an excellent starting point for the entire volume. Combining textual analysis and theoretical overview, Kelleter reads the series of transmedial Oz adaptations against the backdrop of twentieth-century American popular culture and within the context of what he calls “popular seriality.” Instead of treating the different Oz-versions in terms of “original and adaptation,” Kelleter argues that “we find opportune serializations across different artistic channels” (23). Therefore, rather than reading L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel as the “original” Oz-text, Kelleter treats The Wonderful Wizard of Oz already as a “retelling” of traditional fairy tales and thus as one of many instances in the larger (serial) field of popular culture (19). Kelleter explores various facets of the popular series, but also uses his analysis of the countless Oz narratives to call for a more complex academic understanding of adaptations and remakes in general. Rather than merely asking “how a given serial text reflects the cultural situation and intentional structures of its time,” Kelleter proposes an understanding of remakes that emphasizes the agency of a given popular series “in enabling its own cultural realities and intentional follow-ups”...

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Cornelia Klecker, Spoiler Alert!: Mind-Tricking Narratives in Contemporary Hollywood Film (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 172 pp.
Feb18

Cornelia Klecker, Spoiler Alert!: Mind-Tricking Narratives in Contemporary Hollywood Film (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 172 pp.

Cornelia Klecker, Spoiler Alert!: Mind-Tricking Narratives in Contemporary Hollywood Film (Heidelberg: Winter, 2015), 172 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   The book, originally conceived as a dissertation, is dedicated to the exploration of a phenomenon that has become a staple of popularity in contemporary Hollywood film since the 1990s and that has provoked critical commentary by a variety of scholars for the last ten years.[1] Klecker’s stated goal in the introduction to salvage Hollywood film from accusations of solely producing dumb, flat, one-dimensional entertainment by pointing out the narrative sophistication and intellectual stimulation of what she calls mind-tricking narratives may therefore seem unwarranted. In her words, “mainstream phenomena are well worthwhile an in-depth academic discussion” (15). This should go without saying and should therefore not necessarily be the objective but the basis for analysis. Nonetheless, it is this obvious desire to convince the reader of the artistic value of the films she analyzes that animates the author’s attempts to describe and categorize the elements and qualities that characterize mind-tricking films and by which they enrich the narrative possibilities of the medium. While the resulting observations are eminently worthwhile, what seems to be missing occasionally is a consideration of the cultural function that mind-tricking narratives fulfill. Beyond pointing out how “intricate and demanding” (15) these films are, one could interrogate what the films’ flattering of viewer sophistication is used for.      In the second chapter of the book, Klecker is at pains to establish the uniqueness of mind-tricking narratives in comparison to standard Hollywood fare. Following Bordwell, she argues that, just like art cinema, they violate an essential quality of classical narrative films, namely the emphasis on the clarity of causality. Mind-tricking narratives are radical in featuring resolutions that completely undermine the viewers’ assumptions about what they have seen so far by withholding crucial information. Klecker defines this essential characteristic as “an extreme case of a surprise gap that causes a radical correction of hypotheses that occurs once the gap is disclosed in the end of the film” (27). Examples include The Sixth Sense (1999), Fight Club (1999), Memento (2000), Identity (2003), or Shutter Island (2010). She acknowledges that every narrative, film or otherwise, works on the principle of withholding and releasing narrative information. Hence, her insistence on the radicalness of mind-tricking narratives is first and foremost a question of degree rather than an absolute. Despite relying on Bordwell’s observations on film narratology, she also has to acknowledge his skepticism of the subversive or innovative potential of mind-tricking narratives. Bordwell sees them as basically conforming to the tenets of classical cinema. He writes about one of the “genre’s” essential representatives, Christopher...

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Martin Holtz, American Cinema in Transition: The Western in New Hollywood and Hollywood Now (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011), 539 pp.
Feb18

Martin Holtz, American Cinema in Transition: The Western in New Hollywood and Hollywood Now (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011), 539 pp.

Martin Holtz, American Cinema in Transition: The Western in New Hollywood and Hollywood Now (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011), 539 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.3   The Western was never dead. Few movie genres have been such popular targets for critical obituaries and then have been found, upon closer inspection, to be very much alive, albeit in qualitatively quite diverse manifestations. Not only is there a continuous outpour of Westerns, there is also a continuous critical reception thereof. And although the monograph under review here does not initially stand out—it is neither transnational, transdifferent, transmedial nor of any other prefixed conviction—but appears rather conventional, it has a lot to commend it. The starting point is not the Western, but Hollywood. The underlying research interest of Holtz’s book is “the transition that Hollywood has undergone over the last forty years” (2), or more precisely, the changes and continuities from New Hollywood (which he dates 1967-1976) to what he calls Hollywood Now (which for him begins 2001 with the caesura of 9/11). “For an evaluation of ‘Hollywood Now,’” Holtz argues, “it thus seems to be beneficial to compare it with its formative years, which are regarded as so different in character yet already anticipated much of what has happened since” (3). For this comparison, he continues, a genre-theoretical approach is most useful because “genres are by nature transitional, paradigmatically mirroring the developments of Hollywood as a whole” (4), especially one of its most fundamental ambivalences: “American cinema has always clung to established formulas, eager to build on successes of the past” (4), yet realizing that renewal is inevitable in order to remain successful and economically viable. Hollywood’s development, in other words, is characterized by the same dialectic that characterizes genre development: difference and repetition. According to Holtz, then, the Western is simply the best genre for this comparison because it is prototypical, perennial, and, most importantly, negotiates a “national mythology” (4). For Holtz, the history of the Western is the “history of Hollywood in general” (4). This ambitious research interest is guided by three overarching arguments: first, that “the historical development of genres is influenced by a complex set of factors which transcends the simplicity of a single theoretical model” (5); second, that “the development of the American cinema from New Hollywood to Hollywood Now is marked by a consistency in terms of artistic inventiveness and ideological ambiguity despite changing historical backgrounds, industrial structures, artistic profiles, and audience compositions” (5); and third, that “the Westerns continue to be an eminently relevant form of cultural expression which paradigmatically reflect the complexities of American cinema” (5). Of these three, the second is...

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Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar and Johannes Voelz, eds., The Imaginary and its Worlds: American Studies after the Transnational Turn (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College P, 2013), 312 pp.
Feb17

Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar and Johannes Voelz, eds., The Imaginary and its Worlds: American Studies after the Transnational Turn (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College P, 2013), 312 pp.

Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar and Johannes Voelz, eds., The Imaginary and its Worlds: American Studies after the Transnational Turn (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College P, 2013), 312 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   The collection of papers in The Imaginary and its Worlds was developed out of a conference hosted at the John-F-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universitӓt Berlin in the summer of 2009 to honor the scholarly career of Winfried Fluck. Fittingly, the contributors here consider ways in which conceptions of the “imaginary” have shaped American studies both during and after the “transnational turn,” as that idea became institutionalized during the first decade of the twenty-first century. About half the contributors here are from Germany and half from elsewhere, and one of the most valuable aspects of this critical anthology involves its illumination of different ways in which the term “social imaginary” has been used and the different intellectual traditions it evokes. As Fluck himself observes, whereas for Cornelius Castoriadis the “radical instituting imaginary” was “the source of the self-creation of society ex nihilo,” for other scholars, such as Charles Taylor, the notion of a social imaginary has tended in the direction of “interpellation and subjection” (259), particularly in its more recent uses. In their introduction, Laura Bieger, Ramón Saldívar and Johannes Voelz observe that whereas the Lacanian imaginary has worked through misrepresentation, the genealogy of the imaginary in Germany has been influenced more by Wolfgang Iser’s reception theory, and indeed it is that exploration of “the imaginary through the lens of reception aesthetics” that constitutes Fluck’s major contribution to this field (xxv). Saldívar’s own essay emphasizes Fluck’s debt to Iser (12), while Fluck himself in his “coda” lays stress on how literary texts are above all “aesthetic objects” (238). The fact that they “continue to provide an aesthetic experience,” even though the “historical situation” framing their conditions of production may have changed, has the effect of ensuring in Fluck’s eyes that the Fredric Jameson maxim “‘always historicize’ [. . .] cannot solve the problem of interpretive conflict” (238). For Fluck, such “interpretative disagreement and conflict” is not “an irritating problem but, quite the contrary, an indispensable resource” (257), one that locates the value of cultural texts in relation to their transhistorical afterlife. The German tradition of American studies that Fluck espouses, as we see here, has tended always to be intertwined with the shifting horizons of reception theory. This has lent it a vestige of philosophical idealism that has served to differentiate it from more popular Marxist approaches, grounded as they are in social and economic contexts. Herwig Friedl’s essay in this collection, “William James versus Charles Taylor,” establishes...

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Winfried Fluck, Donald E. Pease, and John Carlos Rowe, eds., Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies (Hanover: Dartmouth College P, 2011), 460 pp.
Feb17

Winfried Fluck, Donald E. Pease, and John Carlos Rowe, eds., Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies (Hanover: Dartmouth College P, 2011), 460 pp.

Winfried Fluck, Donald E. Pease, and John Carlos Rowe, eds., Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies (Hanover: Dartmouth College P, 2011), 460 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   The late 2000s and early 2010s saw a considerable number of monographs and edited collections reconsidering the nexus of transnational and global American studies. Coming out of a discipline that tries to move beyond the exceptionalist legacy of Cold War American studies, transnational American studies questions established and new directions in the discipline alike, including frequently its own project and the legacy it builds on. The articles collected in Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies exemplify this trend by bringing together methodologically and thematically diverse articles that self-critically position themselves within a field in transition. The book is the result of a series of conferences that were financed through a research grant procured by scholars at the Humboldt University of Berlin, the Free University of Berlin, and the University of Potsdam, and collaboratively organized with John Carlos Rowe at USC and Donald Pease at Dartmouth College. Consequently, the list of contributors reads like a “who is who” of American studies in and around Berlin circa 2007 with a few international contributors including Rowe and Pease, as well as Nancy Fraser, Macarena Goméz-Barris, Peter D. O’Neill, and William Arce. As suggested by the reputation of the editors and the contributors who include many major forces in the reshaping of American studies, the book contains a number of excellent contributions to the field that will be essential reading for anyone seeking to enter it, and will add new perspectives to those already invested in it. The book is divided into four sections consisting of four (and in one case five) chapters each and an almost fifty page introduction by Donald Pease, in which Pease reviews the state of transnational and global American studies with remarkable lucidity, offering an overview over a diverse field that reveals both Pease’s profound knowledge and his investment in a more political direction for American studies. Although the first sentence proclaiming the “transnational turn” to be “the most significant reimagining of the field of American studies since its inception” (1) might signal otherwise, Pease is nevertheless careful to not be overly celebratory of transnational studies as the final step to get away from American Exceptionalism. Instead, he reviews work done over the past two decades, examining it from a range of different perspectives in order to illuminate its many different agendas, as well as the historical forces that shaped and continue to shape transnational approaches in American studies. While positioning the transnational project as part of a...

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Hartmut Lutz, Contemporary Achievements: Contextualizing Canadian Aboriginal Literatures (Augsburg: Wißner, 2015), 334 pp.
Feb17

Hartmut Lutz, Contemporary Achievements: Contextualizing Canadian Aboriginal Literatures (Augsburg: Wißner, 2015), 334 pp.

Hartmut Lutz, Contemporary Achievements: Contextualizing Canadian Aboriginal Literatures (Augsburg: Wißner, 2015), 334 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   The front cover of this outstanding collection shows a beadwork turtle designed by Anette Brauer with Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf, on its back. The animal here echoes Turtle Island, a term used by many native tribes such as the Anishinaabe and Iroquois to denote North America, and by extension texts such as Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle, and, more generally, well-known creation stories such as Beth Brant’s Mohawk version “This is History,” in which the earth is always shaped and built on the back of a turtle. The cover of Contemporary Achievements thus hints at the “Canadian cultural mosaic” and at the “Indigenous inhabitants on whose ancestral lands, Turtle Island, the beautiful mosaic was […] based” (23). As such, this book does not exclusively study Canadian and Canadian Aboriginal histories and their relations. It also examines the role of the people and peoples who populate(d) Turtle Island and had an impact on its politics, cultures, literatures, academia, and knowledge in the context of Canada’s multiculturalism policies, transnational relations and interactions with Europe and the United States. Most importantly, the “process of recognition and assertion of the Aboriginal presence in Canadian culture” (10). Celebrating these processes and achievements is Hartmut Lutz, whose expertise in American and Canadian Studies, and especially in Native American and First Nations scholarship, is reflected in the excellent compilation that is Contemporary Achievements. As a professor and guest professor at many distinguished universities in Germany, Canada, the United States, Poland, and Finland, among others, and with an extensive list of awards and publications, longstanding Indigenous Studies scholar and expert Hartmut Lutz delivers a major contribution not only to the SALC (Studies in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures) series, but to the interdisciplinary and challenging field of Indigenous Studies as a whole. The essays in this collection have all originally been published in a diverse range of internationally highly acclaimed journals and edited volumes. They have now been compiled into the edition at hand and have been organized into five thematic clusters all striving towards one major aim, namely to survey, contextualize, and give credit and voice to Canadian Aboriginal authors and texts. Lutz’s introduction, entitled “About this book,” addresses the history of the manuscript, gives thanks to colleagues and friends who have contributed in one way or another to the making of this volume, and provides a brief overview of the contents of the book. “Surveys of Canadian Native Literatures,” the first section of the volume, opens with an essay entitled “The Beginnings of Contemporary...

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Oliver Scheiding and Martin Seidl, eds., Worlding America: A Transnational Anthology of Short Narratives before 1800 (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2015), 245 pp.
Feb17

Oliver Scheiding and Martin Seidl, eds., Worlding America: A Transnational Anthology of Short Narratives before 1800 (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2015), 245 pp.

Oliver Scheiding and Martin Seidl, eds., Worlding America: A Transnational Anthology of Short Narratives before 1800 (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2015), 245 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   Anthologies are by nature provocative: the chosen selections will always impress some and dismay others, and, by prioritizing certain writers and values, editors make literary and political statements. There is nothing hidden, however, about the agenda behind Worlding America.  Rather than aiming to create or revise a pedagogical canon (in the mode of the Norton, Heath or Bedford anthologies), this slim collection is designed to make and illustrate a critical statement about the untapped abundance of short narratives that fall within the broad category of early American writing. It is therefore an invaluable resource for two overlapping areas of scholarly interest: the evolution of the American short story and new perspectives on early American writing. Because of the sheer diversity and the plot-driven designs of the narratives, the anthology is also a great read. The thirty selected narratives, which range from two to fifteen pages in length, are grouped into five categories: Life Writing, Female Agency, The Circum-Atlantic World, Cultures of Print, and Ghost Stories. These overlapping and eclectic subheadings reflect the anthology’s aim of being suggestive rather than exhaustive. Like boxes containing boxes, each category is divided into smaller subgroups, so that, for instance, what is meant by “Cultures of Print” becomes clarified by the section’s further division into Orientalism, Migrant Fictions and Sensationalism, each of which is represented by two texts. Under Sensationalism, for example, we find a fictionalized account of a man who murdered his family because he believed God commanded it, and a revenant love story set in Italy, pirated from a French collection, and published anonymously in an American periodical. For those familiar with Brockden Brown’s Wieland and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the connections are appealing, and despite the editors’ assertion that this anthology is not simply an Ur-context for the emergence of the American short story, the material certainly could be used to that end. The critical headnotes mostly skirt such teleological goals and focus instead on the peculiarities of early American literary culture, including the importance of eighteenth-century periodicals in shaping these brief, plot-driven narratives, and the prevalence of literary piracy and other forms of recycling that complicate the notion of authorship.  Within the subdivided structure of the anthology we find some predictable themes and genres: captivity narrative and slavery are there, for instance. But accounts from different locales, times, and cultures are thoughtfully juxtaposed so that adjacent to the dramatic account of New England’s Hannah Duston, who scalped her captors, is the...

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Sebastian Emling und Katja Rakow, Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA. “Have Fun and Prepare to Believe!” (Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2014), 266 pp.
Feb17

Sebastian Emling und Katja Rakow, Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA. “Have Fun and Prepare to Believe!” (Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2014), 266 pp.

Sebastian Emling und Katja Rakow, Moderne religiöse Erlebniswelten in den USA. “Have Fun and Prepare to Believe!” (Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2014), 266 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   Can spirituality be expressed through “modern religious experience worlds?” The answer is in the affirmative. Are religions, when marketed to appeal to broad audiences, inevitably watered down? Not necessarily. The volume documents the outcomes of the DFG-funded project “Moderne religiöse Erlebnisgesellschaften” at the Institute for Religious Studies at the University of Heidelberg and is the first publication in the new book series Transformierte Religionen. The authors, Katja Rakow and Sebastian Emling, present their field research of two key evangelical organizations in the U.S.: the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and the Creationism Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Lakewood is currently the biggest neo‐pentecostal megachurch in the U.S. attracting over 43,000 people to its seven services each week. In 2005 it moved into a former basketball arena with 9,000 parking spaces, an auditorium featuring 16,000 seats and a huge stage framed by two artificial waterfalls, providing space for a choir, orchestra, and three big screens. Aided by over 4,000 volunteers, the church is headed by Pastor Joel Osteen—the so-called “Smiling Preacher” (Washington Post, January 2005) and “a religious specialist and entrepreneur on the American market of religion” (10)—which also makes the church the site of his eponymous and (inter)nationally broadcasted TV-show. In turn, Lakewood serves both the local and the (inter)national community (96-103). As Rakow comments, the structure and atmosphere of the building is deliberately left neutral and reminds her more of a conference venue than a church (11). A similar observation about the lack of resemblance to a church is made by Emling, who compares the Creationism Museum to a shopping mall (15). Within the first five years since its opening in 2007, the museum has attracted over five million visitors and is led and financed by Answers in Genesis (AiG) with Ken Ham serving as its president. AiG is the most influential and successful American Young Earth-Creationism organization, a Christian-apologetic body with over 300 employees, its own monthly magazine (Answers), and over 900 international radio stations (121). The 6,200m2 complex located at Interstate 275 features not only the museum, a cafeteria, and book and souvenir store but also outdoor facilities such as a lake and a petting zoo. Taken together, the authors make three crucial claims and thereby revise scientific and common preconceptions of evangelicalism especially held by Europeans: First, against the tendency to portray them as hard-liner, conservative fundamentalists who denounce modern technology,[1] both authors present evangelical organizations as heterogeneous, complex, adaptive, and innovative religious providers on the competitive American...

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Felix Krämer, Moral Leaders: Medien, Gender und Glaube in den USA der 1970er und 1980er Jahre (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 416 pp.
Feb17

Felix Krämer, Moral Leaders: Medien, Gender und Glaube in den USA der 1970er und 1980er Jahre (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 416 pp.

Felix Krämer, Moral Leaders: Medien, Gender und Glaube in den USA der 1970er und 1980er Jahre (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 416 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2     On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by a deranged man, John Hinckley, Jr. This well-known tidbit of US-American history is one of the examples Felix Krämer uses to illustrate the production of what he calls “moral leadership” in the televised evening news. He locates this figure at the intersection of media production, white hegemonic masculinity, and the new religious politics in the 1970s and 1980s. In contrast to earlier Presidents, like Richard Nixon who, after his resignation, had become so ill he was sent to the hospital and was portrayed in the news as a frail, sickly, and defeated body (119), Reagan “proved” his virility by walking upright into the hospital (159-163, 176-178). There, he was “born again,” not only by surviving a punctured lung and heavy blood loss, but also as an exemplary leader who bested the erratic attack of a madman and showed the magnanimity to forgive him (180). Hinckley, the shooter, who inspired by the movie Taxi Driver had sought to impress actress Jodi Foster through his action, was declared legally insane. In the media coverage, Hinckley and Reagan came to symbolize violent, immoral anomy and decisive, moral leadership respectively, inscribing the dichotomy between good and evil into the public discourse (163-167). In the figure of Reagan, the combination of virility and virtue crystalized, making his blood a relic, the bartering of which made the evening news in 2012 (385).   Felix Krämer is a historian focusing on North America, discourse analysis, and gender studies. The reviewed book, written in German and published in 2015, was adapted from his dissertation submitted to the Westfälische-Whilhelms University, Münster in 2012.In Moral Leaders, Krämer undertook the herculean task of analyzing two decades of evening news of the three major US-American TV stations ABC, CBS, and NBC, translating the audio-visual discourse not only into text but also into German. Critical of an apparent crisis of masculinity during the 1970s and startled by the emergence of the New Christian Right at the end of that decade (386, 387), Krämer studiously examined the evening news to figure out how the media facilitated the enjoining of religious virtue and virility and produced a dispositive of (male, white, heterosexual) moral leadership, cumulating in the figure of the President as pastor.   The first three chapters of the book follow a loosely chronological order, moving from the media portrayal of various insurgent movements and related topics in the 1970s to the emergence of the new...

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Saskia Hertlein und Hermann Josef Schnackertz, eds., The Culture of Catholicism in the United States, American Studies – A Monograph Series 213 (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 396 pp.
Feb17

Saskia Hertlein und Hermann Josef Schnackertz, eds., The Culture of Catholicism in the United States, American Studies – A Monograph Series 213 (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 396 pp.

Saskia Hertlein und Hermann Josef Schnackertz, eds., The Culture of Catholicism in the United States, American Studies – A Monograph Series 213 (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 396 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   Wie kann man gleichzeitig ein guter Amerikaner und ein guter Katholik sein? Diese Frage treibt katholische und nicht-,  ja antikatholische Amerikaner seit über 200 Jahren um: Auf der einen Seite die dogmatische, hierarische und autoritäre Institution der Kirche mit ihrem unfehlbaren Oberhaupt in Rom, der überdies absoluter Herrscher eines eigenen Staatswesens ist, auf der anderen Seite das selbsternannte neue auserwählte Volk Gottes mit seiner Tradition eines auf Protestantismus, Liberalismus, und englische Tradition gegründeten Demokratie- und Freiheitsverständnisses. Diese durch die katholischen Massenmigrationen des 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhunderts zusätzlich angefeuerte aporetische soziokulturelle Grundkonstellation sorgt weiterhin, auch im 21. Jahrhundert, für gesellschaftspolitischen Zündstoff, obwohl die schlimmsten Konflikte, die sich im Laufe der Zeit immer wieder gewaltsam entluden, ausgestanden scheinen. Der Grunddissens zwischen Katholizismus und „Amerikanismus“ wurde noch bis 1965 durch die Spezifik der vor allem von Papst Leo XIII. und der Neuscholastik entwickelten katholischen Staatsdoktrin verschärft, nach der eine Trennung von Staat und Kirche nicht zuletzt in einem Staat mit katholischer Mehrheit nicht in Frage kam. Erst die Erklärung über die Religionsfreiheit des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils hat diese kirchlich-naturrechtliche Selbstpositionierung der römischen Kirche  aufgehoben und damit faktisch einer Amerikanisierung der Weltkirche im Sinne einer kooperativen Trennung von Staat und Kirche ohne laizistische Ideologie den Weg gebahnt. Dennoch bleibt der Katholizismus aus mancherlei Gründen ein Fremdkörper im kulturellen Organismus der Vereinigten Staaten, wie der inhärente Antikatholizismus aktueller amerikanischer TV-Serien belegt. Eine mit herausragenden Kennern der Kulturgeschichte des amerikanischen Katholizismus besetzte Konferenz der Katholischen Universität Eichstätt unter Federführung des leider viel zu früh verstorbenen Kollegen Hermann Josef Schnackertz  und Saskia Hertleins hat sich dieser vielschichtigen Problematik angenommen und ihre Ergebnisse nun in einem profunden Sammelband vorgelegt. Leider fehlt dem Band eine systematische Historisierung dessen, was in der US-amerikanischen Geschichte eigentlich unter Trennung von Staat und Kirche verstanden wurde, und wie sich die katholische Kirche jeweils dazu verhielt.  Das 19. Jahrhundert kannte im Grunde keinen wall of separation, eine Doktrin, die erst seit 1948 die verfassungsrechtliche Basis für die kirchenpolitischen Entscheidungen des United States Supreme Court bildet. Für die katholische Kirche und den Katholizismus hatte dies ambivalente Folgen. Man profitierte einerseits von der Abkehr von identitätspolitischen Vorstellungen, die Protestantismus und amerikanische Freiheitstradition einfach gleichsetzten. Auf der anderen Seite engte die mehr und mehr auf Abgrenzung denn auf Kooperation setzende staatskirchenrechtliche Doktrin des obersten Bundesgerichts die Spielräume katholischer Selbstentfaltung ein. Doch davon später. Nach einer knappen Einleitung, der es freilich an einer präzisen Definition, ja sogar überhaupt an einer Diskussion der beiden zentralen...

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Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank, eds., Quakers and Abolition (Urbana, Ill: U of Illinois P, 2014), 233 pp.
Feb17

Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank, eds., Quakers and Abolition (Urbana, Ill: U of Illinois P, 2014), 233 pp.

Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank, eds., Quakers and Abolition (Urbana, Ill: U of Illinois P, 2014), 233 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2     As Gary Nash writes in the final chapter of Quakers and Abolition, “The story of Quaker leadership in the abolition movement has been known and proudly recounted by Friends and friends of Friends for two centuries […] yet public consciousness [about their activism] remains largely as it was in the days of our grandparents” (209).  While Nash intends this quote to introduce his own exploration of the memory of Quaker antislavery, it also serves as a fitting conclusion to this volume, highlighting one of the chief accomplishments of the work as a whole. To those scholars unfamiliar with the Religious Society of Friends or with its work on behalf of antislavery, Quakers and Abolition provides an excellent introduction.  Each chapter illuminates important aspects of the history and theology of Quakerism, deftly navigating the reader through the at times perplexing features of Quaker faith and practice.  At the same time, this volume proves much more than a primer or summary, and scholars well versed in the history of abolitionism will learn much from its contents.  Editors Brychan Carey and Geoffrey Plank bring together an impressive set of scholars whose contributions offer a richer and more complex portrait of Friends’ involvement in and leadership of the transatlantic antislavery movement than we have to date. Too often, as in the 2006 film, Amazing Grace, Friends have been reduced to a mere presence in more mainstream scholarship regarding abolition.  Silent, stoic, (and somewhat stodgy), they remain stock characters in the drama of antislavery.  They are witnesses to the action but rarely its protagonists; as a result, they often linger at the margins and in the shadows of the narrative.  What’s more, even those authors who highlight the Society’s involvement with antislavery tend toward an overly simplistic understanding of Friends: too often, these Quakers are good, moral, unyielding—the voice and conscience of a people.  While appealing in its positivity, this portrayal is equally as distortive and erases the wide range of actions (and inaction) by Society members.  There are, of course, notable exceptions—scholars such as David Bryon Davis and Christopher Brown, both often cited by the volume’s contributors, highlight the complex political, economic, and social terrain navigated by worldly Friends—but by and large, two-dimensional caricatures have prevailed. Quakers and Abolition seeks to correct these reductive analyses.  Each of the essays grew out of presentations from the stimulating and productive “Quakers and Slavery, 1657-1865” conference organized by Carey and Plank and held in Philadelphia in 2010.  Taking place over three days...

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Ulrich Rosenhagen, Brudermord, Freiheitsdrang, Weltenrichter. Religiöse Kommunikation und öffentliche Theologie in der amerikanischen Revolutionsepoche (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2015), 370 pp.
Feb17

Ulrich Rosenhagen, Brudermord, Freiheitsdrang, Weltenrichter. Religiöse Kommunikation und öffentliche Theologie in der amerikanischen Revolutionsepoche (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2015), 370 pp.

Ulrich Rosenhagen, Brudermord, Freiheitsdrang, Weltenrichter. Religiöse Kommunikation und öffentliche Theologie in der amerikanischen Revolutionsepoche (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2015), 370 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2   Die Heidelberger Dissertation im Fach Systematische Theologie des lutheranischen Pfarrers und als Dozent am Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions der University of Wisconsin in Madison/Wisc. tätigen Ulrich Rosenhagen präsentiert sich als Anwendung des aktuell intensiv diskutierten Konzepts der sogenannten Öffentlichen Theologie auf das historische Beispiel, die religiös aufgeladene Rhetorik im Vorfeld und Verlauf der Amerikanischen Revolution ca. 1763-1783. Gerade die Evangelische Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck, der sich Rosenhagen eng verbunden fühlt (S. IX), ist mehrfach in den letzten Jahren mit vehementen Plädoyers zu dieser Form der Theologie hervorgetreten, die Lehrkonzepte Martin Luthers aufgreift.[1] Rosenhagen argumentiert in gewisser Weise pro domo und zugunsten der Bedeutung eigener Positionen, Praktiken und Prämissen, wenn er der protestantischen Religion, deren prominenten Vertretern, den Pfarrern, und biblisch verbrämter Rhetorik in Britisch-Nordamerika bzw. in den gerade formierten USA eine wesentliche Rolle bei den entscheidenden Phasen der Revolution zuschreibt. An dem Punkt ist zu bedenken, dass diese positive Einschätzung aus der  sichernden Rückschau der Sieger in der Geschichte erfolgt: unter heutigen Verhältnissen könnten in bestimmten Weltgegenden, auch in den USA, Geistliche, die ihre Gemeinden zum Kampf gegen tradierte Obrigkeiten und Machtverhältnisse aufrufen, als sogenannte ‚Hassprediger’ oder Befürworter einer fundamentalistischen Propaganda bezeichnet werden, die für weltliche Ziele die allgemein akzeptierte Autorität religiöser Basistexte instrumentalisieren.   Rosenhagen vermittelt den Eindruck, dass ausschließlich protestantische Pfarrer im Neuengland der 1770er Jahren das Beste für ihre bedrängten Schäflein zumindest verbal erkämpfen wollten, jenes Beste allein durch den Protestantismus in Nordamerika entstanden und in der protestantischen Religion die Einheit von Glaube und Freiheit gegeben sei.   Diese Thesen sowie grundlegende Begriffe und Forschungsansätze werden in der Einleitung (S. 1-37) und im ersten Teil mit der Hinführung zum eigentlichen Untersuchungsobjekt (S. 41-62) kurz vorgestellt, ehe dann eine bekannte Karikatur von 1769 An Attempt to land a Bishop in America die anglikanische Bischofskontroverse aufgreift und über die Stamp Act Crisis von 1764 zur Rezeption eines zum Massaker aufgeblähten Scharmützels in Boston 1773 überleitet. Die Unabhängigkeitserklärung der 13 Kolonien von 1776, der Schlüsseltext, der den eigentlich revolutionären, den alles verändernden Akt der Unabhängigkeit darstellt und vollzieht, steht in unmittelbarer Nachbarschaft zu Zeugnissen von sekundärer Bedeutung, die mit konkreten militärischen Ängsten und sozialen Traumen korrespondieren, die auch in der Jeffersonschen Erklärung angesprochen werden. Rosenhagen beschäftigt sich mit Flugblättern des Kontinentalkongresses, mit denen deutsche Militärs im Dienste Königs Georg III. unter Verweis auf den zürnenden alttestamentarischen Gott zum Desertieren und zur Übernahme amerikanischer Genüsse (Landeigentum, Freiheit, Sicherheit) bewegt werden sollten. (S. 63-124).   Besondere Beachtung schenkt der Autor in Teil II...

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Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett, eds., Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas (U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 360 pp.
Feb17

Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett, eds., Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas (U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 360 pp.

Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett, eds., Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas (U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 360 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1     The history of empire and religion in the Americas remains as politically relevant as ever. Pope Francis, as the first Latin American pope, was reminded of this last year when he first apologized for the “grave sins committed against the native people of America in the name of God” during his tour of Latin America, and then generated protests a few months later when he canonized Junípero Serra, the controversial eighteenth-century Franciscan friar and missionary in California loved by some and accused by others of suppressing Amerindian culture and imposing Christianity by force. Over the past 30 years, scholars have sought to understand the history of religion in the Americas in increasingly nuanced ways that move beyond mere accusations, apologies or apologetics. One of the most recent contributions to this scholarship is the new essay collection Religious Transformations, which considers not just how European Christianity shaped the peoples and cultures of the Americas, but how their experiences in the Americas reshaped European religious traditions and practice. In Religious Transformations, editors Stephanie Kirk (Spanish Dept., Washington University of St Louis) and Sarah Rivett (English Dept., Princeton University) have brought together renowned scholars to analyze and compare the histories of Ibero-Catholic and Anglo-Protestant empires through what they call the “provocative” lens of religion. The comparative colonial context is uniquely suited to this task. The essays in this cross-disciplinary volume reflect on the complexity and variety of the colonial world in its intimate relationship to Christian belief and practice, “while also maintaining nuanced attention to the particularities of a diverse range of communities and experiences” (20). Through case studies examining cartography, demonology, or missiology among others, each of the essays examines how “Christianity changed as a result of Atlantic transit into new forms of faith, ecclesiology, and theology” (1). One of the main interests of the collection is to problematize the common assumption that Anglo-Protestantism alone brought modernity to the New World—a part of the exceptionalist paradigm reinforced by the “Black Legend,” according to which the Spanish regime was particularly brutal and cruel towards Native peoples while the English were more benign. The articles in the book seek to present new connections across what has been seen as “an Anglo-Protestant versus an Iberian-Catholic paradigm,” emphasizing how they were parallel endeavors, linking “religious ideas and legal government to the organization and maintenance of a colonial community that also sought to extend its boundaries through missionary projects” (21). For communities seeking new beginnings in New Spain or New...

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Heike Brandt, Invented Traditions: Die Puritaner und das amerikanische Sendungsbewusstsein [Schriften der Forschungsstelle Grundlagen Kulturwissenschaft. Bd. 4] (N.P.: Verlag Karl Stutz, 2011), 292 pp.
Feb17

Heike Brandt, Invented Traditions: Die Puritaner und das amerikanische Sendungsbewusstsein [Schriften der Forschungsstelle Grundlagen Kulturwissenschaft. Bd. 4] (N.P.: Verlag Karl Stutz, 2011), 292 pp.

Heike Brandt, Invented Traditions: Die Puritaner und das amerikanische Sendungsbewusstsein [Schriften der Forschungsstelle Grundlagen Kulturwissenschaft. Bd. 4] (N.P.: Verlag Karl Stutz, 2011), 292 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2     “Uppon the first sight of New-England, June 29, 1638”                           Hayle holy-land wherin our holy lord                         Hath planted his most true and holy word                         Hayle happye people who have dispossest                         Your selves of friends, and meanes, to find some rest                         For your poore wearied soules, opprest of late                         For Jesus-sake                                                 . . .                         Come my deare little flocke, who for my sake                         Have lefte your Country, dearest friends, and goods                         And hazarded your lives o’th raginge floods                         Posses this Country; free from all anoye                         Heare I’le bee with you, hear you shall Injoye                         My Sabbaths, sacraments, my minestrye                         And ordinances in their puritye.                                                                                     Thomas Tillam                             Escaped from the house of bondage, Israel of old did not follow after the ways of the Egyptians. To her was given an express dispensation; to her were given new things under the sun. And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people—the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. Seventy years ago we escaped from thrall; and, besides our first birthright—embracing one continent of earth—God has given to us, for a future inheritance, the broad domains of the political pagans, that shall yet come and lie down under the shade of our ark, without bloody hands being lifted. God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. . . . Long enough, have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us, if we would but give utterance to his promptings. And let us always remember that with ourselves, almost for the first time in the history of earth, national selfishness is unbounded philanthropy; for we can not do a good to America but we give alms to the world. Herman Melville, White-Jacket (1850)     Intellectuals wince at the jingoistic rhetoric prevalent in American oratory, especially when unctuous politicians running for high office invoke lofty metaphors of the “Citty upon a Hill”: We Americans are a chosen people on an errand to bring freedom and democracy...

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Abram C. van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York: Oxford UP, 2015), xii + 311 pp.
Feb17

Abram C. van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York: Oxford UP, 2015), xii + 311 pp.

Abram C. van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York: Oxford UP, 2015), xii + 311 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies, 61.2     Anyone who picks up a copy of Sympathetic Puritans might wince at what purports to be something of an oxymoron: “Sympathetic Puritans”? Are you kidding me? Whatever happened to H.L. Menken’s old gibe, “A Puritan is one who is afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun,” or: when the Puritans arrived on New England’s shore, they first “fell on their knees and then on the Indians.”? Clichés about witch-crazed Puritan killjoys and hardnosed Indian haters are more popular than ever, and Professor van Engen’s fine book, I am afraid, is not going to change anyone’s mind reared on Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, let alone Hawthorne’s obligatory high-school read, “Young Goodman Brown” or his classic The Scarlet Letter (A+). If anything, Adam Simon’s and Brannan Braga’s serialized TV drama Salem (2014), now in its third season, will only boost our national obsession with dour superstitious Puritan zealots who gave us Cotton Mather, Salem witchcraft and, yes, Thanksgiving! To be sure, van Engen’s Sympathetic Puritans is about none of the above. Quite to the contrary, it posits that a “Calvinist theology of sympathy shaped the politics, religion, and literature of seventeenth-century New England” and that the manifestation of “fellow feeling and mutual affections” among the elect served as visible markers to distinguish the community of saints from carnal hypocrites (2). As is well known, the early seminal conflict between John Cotton’s sudden Pauline conversion and Thomas Shepard’s preparational theology constituted the stone of stumbling in the formative Antinomian Controversy. It pitted the followers of John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson with their emphasis on a rapturous conversion (like that of Paul on the road to Damascus) against those who embraced a gradualist conversion morphology as codified in the “preparationism” of Shepard and his father-in-law Thomas Hooker. The latter defined the ordo salutis as a drawn-out process of successive stages—contrition, humiliation, vocation (grace), justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification—which became normative in New England. They knew that undergoing conversion could be an emotional rollercoaster of the first order. For instance, the posthumously published account of Joanna Drake’s harrowing experience, in The Firebrand Taken Out of the Fire (1647, 1654), testifies to the agony of one caught in the maelstrom of self-condemnation engulfing the rock of assurance. Those familiar with Thomas Hooker’s oft-reprinted vademecum Poor Doubting Christian Drawn unto Christ (1628) or with John Bunyan’s popular allegory Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) can testify to Christian’s doleful encounter with Giant Despair and the Slough...

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Jan Stievermann, Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity: Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s “Biblia Americana” (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 493 pp.
Feb17

Jan Stievermann, Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity: Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s “Biblia Americana” (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 493 pp.

Jan Stievermann, Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity: Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s “Biblia Americana” (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 493 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.2     Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity is a rarity in this day of ideologically inflected cultural history, a lucid fusion of textual, intellectual, theological, and literary history that confirms Jan Stievermann’s place among the very best historians of early America on both sides of the Atlantic.  In the hands of someone less talented than Stievermann, a description of how Cotton Mather developed his commentaries on the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles (Song of Solomon), Isaiah, and Jeremiah for the “Biblia Americana” he spent so much of his life preparing could easily become unreadable.  Here, instead, we have a book that is informative, interesting, and astute at every turn.   Stievermann’s purpose of this book is three-fold: first, to identify the writers on whom Cotton Mather drew in developing his commentary; second, to identify the challenges—exegetical, historical, theological, and the like—Mather was facing and how, in the context of those challenges, he juggled his sources; and third, to place Mather in the “evidentialist” turn of c. 1700, that is, the moment when orthodox Protestants began to rely on external (historical) evidence to validate the singularity of the Bible as divine revelation.   Not that Mather ever doubted the principle that the Bible was perceived and understood through a spiritual sense or that he questioned the orthodoxy he inherited from the Reformed tradition.  But the times demanded something else by way of proof, a transition Stievermann sees through the lens of Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (1974).    Each of these tasks required not only close attention to the manuscript commentaries, which Stievermann has published separately, but also to the many writers on whom Mather depended—some more than others, for like Calvin before him, he borrowed source material from compilations or commentaries that his contemporaries had assembled.   What emerges from all this work is an excitingly astute survey of pan-European exegetical and historical scholarship on ancient Israel, biblical geography, philology (before there was such a field), natural history, and the like, scholarship in the service of reaffirming or, as in the case of Grotius, challenging the singular authority of Scripture.  But for Stievermann, all of this information is prolegomena to his real purpose, namely, to establish Cotton Mather’s modernity—or proto-modernity—as someone who began to practice a “representational-factualist model of biblical realism” even as he remained a thoroughly traditional exegete who took for granted “the absolute veracity and infallibility of biblical narratives” and a  Christianized reading of the Hebrew Bible (7).  Moreover,...

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ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.
Jan04

ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.

ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   In New World Drama, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon aims at nothing less than a conceptual and methodological re-conceptualization of early American theatre and drama. Her study critically addresses, challenges, and revises the coordinates that have traditionally informed scholarly debates in this field. In fact, theatre and drama have been routinely exempted from most deliberations of early American literature. In contrast to the few critics who have focused on a performative tradition that simultaneously envisions and enacts “America” as concept and reality, Dillon works within a transatlantic framework which allows her to develop a new critical narrative “that is colonial and Atlantic in scope rather than solely national and one that focuses on scenes of representation, embodiment, and erasure in theatrical spaces as well as the layered and contrapuntal performances of colonial relations therein” (223). Published in Duke University Press’s prestigious New Americanists series edited by Donald E. Pease, Dillon’s book thus adds to the growing body of scholarship in transnational American studies. It is no surprise, then, that the chronological reach of Dillon’s study—which begins with the execution of King Charles I. in London in 1649 and concludes with the mid-nineteenth-century theatre riots in New York City—sits uneasily with common periodizations of early American literature that usually focus on a post-revolutionary struggle for cultural emancipation from British and European role models. Her choice to begin her study at the height of Puritan rule in England and to end it with the democratic clamor of antebellum theatre riots is an apt one since it allows her to illustrate what she perceives as the central developments in theatre and drama in a circum-Atlantic world.          Building on the recent transnational turn in American studies, Dillon’s introductory chapter outlines the methodological premises and core arguments of her study. It argues that the Atlantic world of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century saw the rise of a “performative commons.” This new way of imagining collective identities, Dillon claims, is the result of transforming an earlier collective form of ownership and access to limited public resources into the abstract notion of a collectivity that imagines itself as the carrier of “popular sovereignty” and fundamental political rights. For Dillon, this new “virtual body” has less a material than an aesthetic and figurative shape. Informed by Jacques Rancière’s theories of spectatorship and Erving Goffman’s notion of audience participation, Dillon locates the formation of this “performative commons” in scenes from playhouses around the Atlantic rim where audiences become actively involved in...

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CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.
Jan04

CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.

CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1     The concept of narrative identity has made a remarkable career in the past few decades. Philosophers, psychologists, and literary scholars as diverse as Paul Ricoeur, Donald Polkinghorne, and Paul John Eakin have contributed to its wide transdisciplinary proliferation, and it is hard to imagine what literary and cultural studies would look like without it. One might even argue that “narrative identity” is by now so firmly established in contemporary narrative theorizing and analysis that many of its once innovative, provocative assumptions have turned into shopworn slogans—“life as narrative” (Jerome Bruner), “how our lives become stories” (Eakin), the “storied self” (Dan P. McAdams), and so forth. The present volume takes its departure from these interdisciplinary certainties and asks whether we have to revise and expand the concept in the wake of recent disciplinary approaches as well as far-reaching changes in our life-worlds that include matters of globalization and migration, bio-technological developments, and gender-related transformations. The volume thus sets out to reinvestigate and reframe narrative identity in the light of these issues as well as with regard to “new concerns in narrative literature, new arguments in philosophy and psychology and new approaches in narratological research” and asks how these may “add to our notion of narrative identity” (4). In short, the volume addresses the precariousness of the concept of narrative identity at a moment in time at which identities seem more fragmented, pluralized, relational, and de-essentialized than ever before. Rethinking Narrative Identity zeroes in on these questions by suggesting a conceptual framework that highlights the significance of perspective and persona in research on narrative identity. The volume’s ten chapters present contributions from a variety of (inter‑)disciplinary angles, from psychology (Mark Freeman, Gabriele Lucius-Hoene) through philosophy (Wolfgang Kraus, Norbert Meuter), and linguistics (Jarmila Mildorf), and has a strong foothold in literary and cultural studies (Martin Klepper, Rüdiger Heinze, Kim L. Worthington, Eveline Kilian, Eva Brunner, Nicole Frey Büchel). While the discussed material includes a number of non-fictional texts (e.g., narrative interviews), the majority of the articles are concerned with literary fiction and autobiography, very much in keeping with the Ricoeurian notion that literature often provides the aesthetic and ethical models for all other forms of identity construction through storytelling. The volume’s conceptual framework is laid out in Martin Klepper’s substantial introductory chapter on “Rethinking narrative identity: Persona and perspective,” which alone is worth getting the book. In it, Klepper outlines the crises that the notion of narrative identity has undergone as well as the challenges and aporias it has...

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CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.
Jan04

CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.

CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   In her study “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (2014), Christine Marks analyzes Hustvedt’s fictional and non-fictional works, including the latest novel The Blazing World (2014). Marks approaches Hustvedt’s works with an intersubjective focus which presupposes that Hustvedt “finds intersubjectivity to be the basis for a healthy development of the self and scrutinizes the detrimental effects of American society’s failure to promote relational identity formation” (2). Identity for Hustvedt, as Marks argues, is “relational, focusing on the interdependencies that shape identity and the physical connectedness between self and world” (3), thus she creates “relational models of identity” (3). Marks’s analysis of the relationship of self and other, that is, of the relationality of the characters in Siri Hustvedt’s fiction, is based on an extensive discussion of relevant philosophical theories as put forward by, for example, Friedrich Hegel, Martin Buber, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emanuel Levinas, Jacques Lacan, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Concepts such as the master-slave constellation, the mirror stage, the power of the gaze, and dialogism serve as starting points for an in-depth and well-versed discussion of Hustvedt’s fiction, which often also draws on selected essays by the author. The study, originally submitted as a dissertation in American Studies at the University of Mainz, proceeds from a detailed chapter on philosophies of intersubjectivity via a discussion of vision and the visual arts in Hustvedt’s work, to a systematic analysis of identity and the boundaries of the body that are questioned in cases of hysteria and anorexia nervosa, and finally to a discussion of attachment, loss, and grief and how characters in Hustvedt’s fiction deal with the sudden emptiness of place through the absence of the other. Photography is one of the media used in Hustvedt’s fiction to delineate the unstable positions and identifications of self and other. Although photography, just like the mirror image, might suggest an authentic and true representation of the self and then may potentially fill the hole in the self, it is used by Hustvedt to show how such images can contradict one’s own self-image and how they potentially distort the subject because of the subjective choice of “an isolated fragment” (91). Photographs, because they hardly ever correspond to people’s self-image, indicate “a feeling of absence, fragmentation, and disorientation” (93), as Marks observes with reference to Iris Vegan, the protagonist of Hustvedt’s debut novel The Blindfold (1992). The power of the self is given up in the moment of transition from being...

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BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.
Jan04

BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.

BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Representing the “first study of contemporary black performance poetry from the viewpoint of transnational American Studies” (back cover), Birgit Bauridl’s Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? pursues two overall goals: first, the study intends to demonstrate “the significance of performance poetry for the American cultural landscape” by discussing it in the light of key issues, terms, and concepts arising from cultural studies, such as memory, identity, and the emergence of communities across national boundaries, including a transnational American Studies framework; second, it aims to illuminate the reciprocal advantages of employing ideas from performance studies and transnational American Studies to understand performance poetry (273). Bauridl’s approach of viewing performance poetry through the double-lens of performative studies and transnational American studies, on the one hand, and her use of performance poetry as a platform to negotiate various ideas and concepts relevant to performance poetry, on the other hand, give it due critical weight to performance poetry and also show her extensive and detailed knowledge of theories and performance poetry as well as their respective historical developments. The first chapter, “Taking Notes: Roots, Perspectives, and Goals,” serves as a general introduction to her following chapters and covers a lot of ground. It touches upon diverse issues such as her definition of the term “contemporary performance poetry,” her quest for ‘material’ in rural and urban America and the difficulties of establishing a corpus of performance poetry, a short history of performance poetry (here: slam poetry) from its emergence in the 1980s to the present, and the ‘transnational turn’ in American Studies. Having established the necessity of looking at “contemporary black performance poetry from the vista point of the transnational” (49) and defining “the transnational” as a “‘category of analysis’” (49), Bauridl moves on to discuss and adapt concepts from performance studies to the needs of performance poetry, especially the concept of liminality. Chapter 2, “Rehearsal: Fine-Tuning the Concept,” first provides the readers with an overview of the multifaceted ‘discipline’ of performance studies, its emergence, the major figures and their theories, and important critical debates. It then presents a heterogeneous group of concepts that are relevant to her discussion of performance poetry, including Erika Fischer-Lichte’s concept of Aufführung, and the concepts of ritual, liminality, and social drama, which were primarily developed by Victor Turner and Richard Schechner. “Fine-tuning” these concepts to fit performance poetry in the subchapter entitled “Approaching Performance Poetry,” she argues, for instance, that performance poetry displays characteristics of the ritual and, most importantly, occurs...

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MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.
Jan04

MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.

MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   We live in a post-ironic age, or so much contemporary criticism would have us believe. Ironically enough, however, as Matthew Stratton points out in The Politics of Irony in American Modernism, the discourse on the obsolescence and end of irony is hardly new. Its repeated pronouncement must be understood, he argues, as “recurrent symptoms of a chronic disease within the body politic” (3) that has seen irony invoked in lieu of the issues that are actually under debate. Stratton’s book argues that an analysis of the uses of the term “cast as much light upon the values of the user […] as it does upon the object of the characterization” (8). The Politics of Irony in American Modernism is thus precisely about the question of what the various uses of the term irony really meant and which politics were mobilized or obscured through invoking it. To speak about irony all too often involves exclusive definitions of irony, and indeed the study of modernist irony is no exception. A prime example of this may be Franco Moretti’s suggestion that though irony is an “indispensible component of any critical, democratic and progressive culture, its modernist version has a dark side with which we are not familiar enough.”[1] It is precisely these attempts to say what irony “had” or “was” that Stratton’s study counteracts by its insistence on reading irony in its specific usages. Modernism in Stratton’s reading is a “particularly influential period where ‘irony’ exploded as a term to describe features not only of life and art of the possibilities for aesthetics to orient the lives of social individuals toward political goals” (5). Stratton is not interested in defining the highly complex term “irony” and looking for it in modernist novels; rather, his—let it be said straight away, excellent—study traces the “particular ways in which writers in both canonical modernism and mass culture (with no particular divide adduced between them) used the term ‘irony’ to describe themselves, their texts, and their world” (10). The term irony is used, as Stratton points out, by different authors and critics in different ways for different ends, but in all of these individual manifestations of modernist irony, “the concept […] came to represent intersections between politics and aesthetic practices” (13). In other words, it is a form of mobilizing literature’s integral potential as a praxis “to bring about, affect, and effect the field of ‘the political’” (14). Stratton’s four chapters span forty years from the 1910s to the 1950s. The first chapter, “The...

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JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.
Jan04

JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.

JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   James Nagel, a prolific scholar with many books on nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction to his credit, among them a monograph on contemporary short story cycles, has turned his attention to collections of short stories published in the Deep South between the late 1870s and 1900. Focusing on four collections of stories reflecting the very complex social reality of New Orleans, he provides close readings of more than fifty stories by one male and three women writers. Their fiction, in complementary fashion, captures the unique blend of ethnic and linguistic diversity shaping this city and its hinterland in Louisiana. His analyses of the first story cycles of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin and the early New Orleans story circle of Alice Dunbar-Nelson are preceded by a detailed explication of the historical context, with special emphasis on the social regulations concerning racial divides and conventional arrangements like plaçage, which fostered the originally frequent disregard of these barriers in the rigid social caste system there. Nagel explains how the Code Noir observed in the French colony remained in effect under American rule and persisted after 1865 when the racial stratification was disregarded and collapsed into two classes even prior to the adoption of the Jim Crow laws. Nagel also clarifies the different uses of the ambiguous term “Creole” in nineteenth-century texts, referring either to the descendants of French and Spanish colonials or to “Creoles of color,” and provides many instructive comments on and corrections of readings by earlier interpreters (of the stories by the four writers) which have overlooked specific social conventions. One of his primary concerns seems to be to demonstrate the cohesion of the four volumes chosen, and his argument for each book thus includes observations on the recurrence of types and characters, of constellations of figures and their preoccupations, on themes and motifs, and the functional use of the perspective of characters in whom the individual authors are primarily interested. In his appreciation of the narrative art of the four writers, Nagel illuminates the problems and often tragic consequences of social restrictions, including the prohibition of interracial relationships in the most private sphere of life. The sequence of the names of the authors in the subtitle of the book does not correspond to the order in which they are treated, as Nagel first considers Old Creole Days, Cable’s first collection, which apparently “initiated the use of the Crescent City as a subject for cyclic...

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GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.
Jan04

GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.

GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   The anthology Twain in His Own Time is the first volume of a series called Writers in Their Own Time edited by the eminent scholar Joel Myerson. The series has so far anthologized the memories of the contemporaries of sixteen American authors—among them Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson and Abraham Lincoln. According to Myerson, the goal of the series is to foster a holistic understanding of “the lives of American writers” by “[p]roviding the best first-hand accounts—published and unpublished, adulatory and critical—written by both famous and forgotten contemporaries.”[1] Gary Scharnhorst, the editor of Twain in His Own Time, is a distinguished scholar of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and a leading Twain scholar, who has published four volumes about the prominent American writer. Among these publications is an authoritative collection of Twain’s interviews that was printed by the University of Alabama Press in 2006. Twain in His Own Time features an introduction by Gary Scharnhorst, a detailed chronology of Twain’s life and a bibliography as well as an index. The heart of the anthology is the ninety-four anecdotes that contemporaries of Twain remembered about their encounters with the American writer. The memories span over a time of several decades and are organized chronologically. They voice the recollections of such gravitational figures of Twain’s life like his mother, his daughters, fellow pilots of the Mississippi River, his illustrators E.M. Kemble and Dan Beard, as well as politicians and coeval literary figures. The lengths of the memories range from one to six pages. For every recollection, Scharnhorst provides a short introduction, which situates the anecdote in the fitting historical moment of Twain’s life. With the anthology Twain in His Own Time, Scharnhorst wants to cut through the veil of Mark Twain’s carefully constructed public persona. Like almost every successful artist, Twain was a marketing genius and meticulously controlled the materialization of his artistic self. Scharnhorst postulates that the selected ninety-four recollections of Twain’s contemporaries pierce through his public mask. He argues that the assembled voices of diverse contemporaries will enable readers to see Mark Twain in a new, much more sophisticated light. He states further that this collaborative biographical method will capture the complex personality of Mark Twain in a way no single biography can. The mosaic pictures that the diverse anecdotes provide expand the limited perception of any biographer. In this sense, one of the implicit goals of the anthology Twain in His Own Time, as well as the series Writers in Their Own Time,is...

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BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.
Jan04

BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.

BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Of the current scholarship driving the material turn in literary studies, Babette Tischleder’s The Literary Life of Things is a major contribution to critical efforts intent on disentangling the complicated relationship between American fiction and material culture. Using a dual narrative trajectory, the study not only expands current theories informing thing studies and material culture but demonstrates the pervasiveness with which object-oriented ontologies informed American fiction from the mid-nineteenth- to the twenty-first century. In the first trajectory, the introduction offers a précis of current criticism discussing what is at stake when we as humans claim that the very things that are not human impact our lives but also have a life of their own. In a refreshing move that foregrounds the semantics of “life” over that of “things,” Tischleder calls attention to the psychological implications that inform the fictional representation of subject/object relationships as they unfold in both space and time.Positioned this way, the studytakes measure of the mostly Marxist driven field of thing theories and their various object-centered arguments. Moving deftly from Arjan Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff’s take on commodification and the social life of things to Marcel Mauss and John Frow’s competing notions of gift economies, the author’s argument for the importance of matter’s agency is motivated by two thinkers in particular. On the one hand, The Literary Life of Things gains much of its momentum from Bruno Latour’s almost giddy praise of literary studies in Reassembling the Social (2005), where he argues that unlike empirical data, literature provides a “freer” environment for exploring material life. On the other hand, Tischleder also takes a page from Hannah Arendt’s classic The Human Condition (1958) and its postulation that the tangibility of experience is a key feature of world-making just as the material process of reification is crucial for turning actions into the stuff of future memories. Calling on an array of theorists, ranging from D. W. Winnicott to Gaston Bachelard to Pierre Bourdieu, the book asks readers not only to find new ways that include nonhuman objects into our interpretive calculus of knowledge production but to consider the question of how fiction enables objects to come alive in rather than around us. The study’s second trajectory consists of five case studies in which the author puts her working questions into action by tracking the nexus between the human and the material in select works of American fiction. The application of contextual sources and interdisciplinary methodologies cannot hide the influence of Bill Brown’s seminal...

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KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.
Jan04

KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.

KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   In her study of “the seeds” (xi and xii) and “the echoes of pragmatist thinking” (xiii) in American poetry, Kristen Case traces parallels in the ways that a number of pragmatist thinkers and five famous American poets have understood the relationship between writing and reality (the “picture of mind and world” xiv). Over the course of six chapters, she relates the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and Henry David Thoreau to poetic texts by Marianne Moore, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Susan Howe. Thereby, in texts from pragmatism’s (pre)history to contemporary poetic production, she traces “a particular epistemology […] in which mind and world are understood as inseparable, and the human being is regarded as, in Thoreau’s terms [in his essay “Walking”], ‘an inhabitant, or part and parcel of Nature’” (Case xi). Case is by no means the first scholar to devote attention to the nexus between pragmatism and poetry. As she duly notes, Richard Poirier’s Poetry and Pragmatism (1992), Jonathan Levin’s The Poetics of Transition: Emerson, Pragmatism and Literary Modernism (1999), and Joan Richardson’s more recent A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein (2007) are important explorations of the subject. American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice builds on the groundwork laid by these and comparable studies and fills in some of their gaps by including “philosophers who have received less attention from literary critics (Dewey, Peirce, and Thoreau) and poets who are not generally considered among the inheritors of this tradition (Moore, Olson, and Howe)” (xii).  The first chapter functions as an introduction to the subsequent analyses and presents an ingenious study of starting points of pragmatist thought in Matthew 7:16-20: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.   Titled “‘By Their Fruits’: Words and Action in American Writing” (1-20), the chapter traces metamorphoses of the biblical metaphor over the course of more than 170 years. Case introduces basic tenets of pragmatism by following the emergence of a philosophical “turn to practice (variously defined) as...

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SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.
Jan04

SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.

SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Mit Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900 hat Sabina Matter-Seibel einen längst fälligen Beitrag zur Erforschung des sentimentalen Genre in der Frauenliteratur vorgelegt. Im Fokus ihrer Untersuchung stehen nicht mehr allein Subversion und Widerstand in einer Vielzahl von Romanen weißer und afroamerikanischer Autorinnen, sondern auch das komplexe Zusammenspiel sowohl hegemonial-dominanter als auch subversiv-marginalisierter Konventionen, Sprachen und Lesarten. Matter-Seibel baut auf der feministischen, genderorientierten und revisionistischen Forschung der 1990er Jahre auf, die zu einer kontinuierlichen Neubewertung der Frauenliteratur und in Vergessenheit geratener Autorinnen und ihrer Werke beigetragen hat. Es mag zu Zeiten des transnational turn überraschen, dass der Fokus ausschließlich auf amerikanischen Texten und nationalen Belangen liegt. Es ist jedoch eine der besonderen Leistungen der Studie, einen äußerst dynamischen, erhellenden und sinnfälligen Dialog zwischen kanonisierten, erforschten Romanen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen und weniger bekannten Autorinnen zu entfachen. Die Studie beeindruckt außerdem durch ihre große Breite und die Detailliertheit der Textinterpretationen der ausgewählten Romane, wobei sich Herangehensweisen des New Historicism und der Rezeptionsästhetik gelungen ergänzen. Indem sich Schriftstellerinnen der Tradition des sentimentalen Romans bedienen, argumentiert Matter-Seibel, schreiben sie gegen androzentrische Machtpositionen an, partizipieren daran aber zugleich, was unweigerlich zu ideologischer Verstrickung und zu einem Schwanken der Autorinnen „[z]wischen Ohnmacht und Ermächtigung“ (41) führe. Wie Matter-Seibel betont, ist die auktoriale Partizipation eine zweifache: sie umfasst weibliche Körper und Ideen bzw. Werte. So entstehen vielschichtige Texte, deren Gesellschaftsentwürfe und Gesellschaftskritik gleichermaßen auf materiellen und ideellen Aspekten basieren. Trotz der Hybridität der Romane ist für Matter-Seibel letztendlich die sentimentale Tradition bestimmend, wodurch ihre Studie stark durch Genre und Periodisierung geprägt ist. Diese methodische Ausrichtung birgt trotz der Betonung der ideologischen Ambiguität und dialogischen Verflochtenheit der ausgewählten Romane die Gefahr einer gewissen Homogenisierung, die den produktionsästhetischen – ganz besonders den intellektuellen und philosophischen – Ansprüchen und Leistungen der Schriftstellerinnen nicht immer gerecht wird. Ferner impliziert diese Herangehensweise eine nicht unproblematische linear-teleologische Sicht auf die untersuchten Romane innerhalb der Zeitspanne von 1850 bis 1900, wenn Matter-Seibel etwa konstatiert, dass die nachlassende Autorität des sentimentalen Romans mit einer zunehmenden Ablösung der Schriftstellerinnen von „herrschenden literarischen Konventionen und den Erwartungen des Lesepublikums“ (571) einhergeht.           Auf das einleitende Kapitel, welches neben Forschungsstand, Fragestellung und Methode die Auswahl des Textkorpus erläutert, folgen vier Interpretationskapitel mit den Themenkomplexen „Frauenfrage,“ Wirtschaft und Arbeit, Reformliteratur als moralische Instanz und „Afroamerikanische Variationen.“ Jeder Themenbereich wird durch jeweils relevante sozio-historische Kontexte eingeführt, wobei Kapitel 2 zur „Frauenfrage“ grundlegende (hetero)normative Begrifflichkeiten, Ideologien und weibliche (Mittelschichts-)Ideale, wie etwa die der separate spheres, true womanhood, Ehe und Mutterschaft, self-possession, das „natürliche“ Wesen der...

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LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp.
Jan04

LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp.

LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Debates around the Great American Novel (GAN) have been going on for a century and a half, with periods of greater or lesser efflorescence. We are now in a time of heightened and, one suspects, enduring interest in the topic, given a number of factors: ongoing identitarian debates around the novelistic canon; contestations of the very legitimacy of universalizing constructs like the GAN; an inveterate American fixation with lists and rankings; and, not unrelated to these factors, the internet’s maieutic role in the proliferation of all manner of discourse and data—websites, wikis, blogs, surveys, etc.—and advanced information technology’s growing capacity to quantify literary reception as we see, for example, in the “computational criticism” being developed at the Stanford  Literary Lab but also in social media.   For the record, the inaugural formal intervention into the politics of the GAN occurs in 1868, when novelist John W. De Forest, in an essay in The Nation, offers a brief prescription of what such a singular work might entail. Not surprisingly, he comes up with an essentialistic model. Such a work must be a “tableau” that depicts “the American soul” and, after briefly dismissing works by Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, settles his nomination on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), though not before flagging its idealized characterizations and flawed plot (qtd. in Buell 24).   Lawrence Buell’s views on the GAN owe little to the essentialization of De Forest and likeminded others who have contributed to GAN discussions. Indeed, his considerable breadth of reference and the exegetical nuance of his readings confirm what he announces in his title: though notionally a project that will yield a category containing precisely one work, the GAN critical enterprise is actually rather different; the objective of revealing the GAN is a kind of “dream” to be pursued, but not one that will yield any sort of apodictic result. As Buell acknowledges in his introduction, the whole “GAN idea” is “absurdly oxymoronic if taken too solemnly,” if it attempts to discern “the one single once-and-for-all supernovel” (5).   Strangely, The Dream of the Great American Novel is the first monograph-length study of this complex field of literary production and reception and, given this complexity but also the extraordinary richness of the tradition, any fulsome first treatment of the topic will be long, and Buell’s is long and intricate. Studies in the GAN are of course studies of canon (de)formation and reception aesthetics, but Buell resolutely ties The Dream of...

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THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.
Jan04

THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.

THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   “The geographic fantasies pursued in U.S. literature,” Jennifer Rae Greeson has written in Our South, “have not been simply ‘superstructural’ window dressing for the real operation of power in the United States.”[1] This idea—namely, that “geographic fantasies” or aesthetic discourses of landscapes on the one hand, and discourses of territorial politics on the other hand, are inextricably linked in U.S. literature—also lies at the heart of Thomas Dikant’s Landschaft und Territorium. For such a double focus on aesthetic and juridico-political aspects of representations of the land in U.S. writings, perhaps no other time period in American literature furnishes as many fruitful examples from different genres as that of the massive territorial expansion of the United States during the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Dikant thus situates his study between the Ordinance of 1874 and the publication of Melville’s Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War in 1866, dedicating each of his altogether four analytical chapters to texts from one canonical writer of that time span: Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Cooper’s The Pioneers, Emerson’s “Nature” and his Poems, as well as Melville’s aforementioned poetry collection. The introductory chapter employs Petrarch’s famous “Ascent of Mount Ventoux” as a starting point for an informed discussion of the two central concepts of the book, “landscape” (representing an aesthetic approach to the land) and “territory” (as a shorthand for a political interpretation of the land). Especially in the case of the former term, however, such a heuristic separation of the aesthetic and the political dimensions of “the land” is not unproblematic, as the author himself acknowledges when he points out “[d]ass es sich bei der Repräsentation der Landschaft um keine unpolitische Darstellungsform handelt und dass das Betrachten der Landschaft eine Praktik ist, der politische Implikationen innewohnen” (22). Likewise, drawing on Robert David Sack’s concept of territoriality, Dikant establishes that the “territory” is the result of various practices of control over a geographic area—prominent among which are, amongst others, aesthetic representations of landscape (cf. 27). Rather than mutually exclusive categories, then, “landscape” and “territory” constitute concepts that feed into each other. Perhaps the best arguments against an oversimplified juxtaposition of “landscape” and “territory,” though, are Dikant’s illuminating readings of Jefferson’s, Cooper’s, Emerson’s, and Melville’s texts, which, individually, show how exactly the aesthetic and the juridico-political are intertwined in the case of each writer and, collectively, trace shifting emphases of landscape depiction in U.S. literature from the Early Republic to the Civil War. One of the...

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HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.
Jan04

HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.

HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.   Amerikastudien/American Studies 61.1   In order to prove “that the writings and career of Edgar Allan Poe cannot be separated from the world of banking and finance in antebellum America” and “that to talk about Poe’s genius as producing nothing but unearthly visions is to diminish his hold of the language of banking and finance” (165), Heinz Tschachler provides five chapters of historical description, analysis, and discussion, accompanied by a Prologue and an Epilogue, Endnotes, an Index, and a Bibliographic Essay. With passion for the subject, Tschachler sheds light on the discourse of money and currency in the U.S. in the first half of the nineteenth century and on the use of a monetary discourse and of financial metaphors in Poe’s writings from several perspectives. Those are 1) the disregard for a relation of Poe’s stories and poems to monetary discourse in the critical reception of his work, with the exception of biographical attention to Poe’s poverty; 2) a gold standard or a gold-backed paper currency in relation to paper money as a fiduciary system based on trust and the inscription of both of these systems in Poe’s writings; 3) the relations between banks and politics in the U.S. from the early nineteenth century to the Civil War and how they affected Poe’s life and writings; 4) counterfeiting, fraudulent bank practices and the lack of a national currency in the Jacksonian Era and the resulting sense of economic insecurity among the people; and 5) the eventual realization by Abraham Lincoln with the Legal Tender Act of 1862 of a trust-based paper money system, along with the discussion of the question whether Poe, by then deceased, might have supported the establishment of this system—which again only lasted until the re-introduction of the gold standard in the 1880s.   In terms of politics and monetary economy, the main event in Poe’s life and writings as well as throughout Tschachler’s historical analysis is Andrew Jackson’s so-called ‘bank war’ in favor of hard money, that is, a currency based on gold coins and a gold standard. Jackson attempted to settle the many controversies on the question of American money in 1832 with a veto against the re-charter of the Second Bank of the United States that would have become a national—or federal—institution issuing paper money for all of the states. Tschachler shows how the depression following Jackson’s veto, culminating in the Panic of 1837 and lingering well through the 1840s, influenced the daily life of the people, Poe’s...

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FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014),  416 pp.
Nov02

FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014), 416 pp.

FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014),  416 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   As you hold The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook in your hands and flip through its pages, you will quickly ask yourself the questions, for whom was this book written and for what purpose. The publisher’s catalogue provides an explanation: Oxford University Press advertises the book, which is edited by Frances H. Kennedy and the Conservation Fund, as the “the ultimate historical traveler’s guide to the American Revolution, written for the vast and ever-growing crowd of history tourists.” I have my doubts that a large part of this crowd would find this guidebook to be at all useful. In preparing the guide, the author utilizes the list of 400 sites and landmarks connected with the American Revolution that the National Park Service compiled in 1996. One hundred and forty-seven of them are highlighted. Kennedy arranges the entries chronologically, starting with Boston Common, jumping from Bunker Hill to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and concluding with Fraunces Tavern in New York. Among Kennedy’s selections are the well-known and popular destinations every American student will recognize from standard history textbooks like the already mentioned Independence Hall, Saratoga Battlefield, or Yorktown. Then you will also find places you have probably never heard of, and there may be sites you would miss. Kennedy’s list mainly includes battlefields and forts, and she concentrates on presenting the Revolution as a primarily military event. The guide would have been better balanced if Kennedy had complemented the focus on the military sites with more historic places where you could learn about daily life during the Revolution. But the question of selection is not my point of criticism. What makes this guidebook really useless is the manner in which it has been organized and the conception of its entries. Presenting the information chronologically is not at all helpful for a guidebook format. A good guidebook should be organized to allow tourists to locate sites of interest within a region and provide them with guidance on how to travel from place to place within that region.  In order to make use of the book as it is designed, you would have to know a specific date associated with a place of interest even before you opened the book. The entries themselves do not provide any guidance about what a visitor will find at the identified historic sites today. There is no practical information such as directions, visitor amenities, hours of operation, or entrance fees. Instead, the entries consist of abstracts compiled from scholarly works. Kennedy quotes such luminaries...

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WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
Nov02

WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.4   This deeply informed and richly layered study starts out from essentially one key question: How has it been possible that an overall positive image of idealized southern “rebels” holds such a prominent place in America’s cultural history, given that the secession almost destroyed the nation’s democratic union? As Wolfgang Hochbruck unfolds his answer, he traces the ways in which a wide range of cultural expressions have constructed, reconstructed and, in fact, pre-constructed the American Civil War between 1845 and the 1960s. Reaching back before the beginning of the actual military conflict, and forward to its centennial, his book offers illuminating discussions of popular songs, poems, plays and magazine fiction; veterans’ letters, diaries, and photographs; battle souvenirs, military service records, and uniforms; exhibitions, memorials, and battlefield parks; and a number of canonical and lesser known short stories, novels, and films. According to Hochbruck, the dynamics that have been at play in the construction of a romantic image of southern “rebels” are linked to the peculiar character of Civil War veterans’ memory, to the shaping power of a modern cultural industry, and to the practice of structuring the memory of an event by reaching back to a time before the event took place, resulting in what he calls an “epimetheic” process. The argument is essentially three-fold: 1) the Civil War was the first military conflict whose participants, due to their discursive position, have actively constructed their own memorialization on a massive scale, 2) the veterans’ memories stand not so much in tension with as they become part of a pervasive industrial productionof the Civil War and its subjects, characterized by a remarkable alliance between the cultural industries of North and South, and 3) the prominence of “positive” images of the “rebels,” including a range of racist, undemocratic positions, has been shaped by the (public memory of the) pre–war period, channeling individual and collective expectations for decades to come. Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus (Epimetheus’ Creatures: Veterans, Memory, and the Reproduction of the American Civil War) shows how processes of memory and industrial reproduction have reduced recollections of the war to a progressively smaller number of events and ideological interpretations and how veteran experiences have been incorporated and streamlined in the process; the veterans are turned into quasi-mythical figures that embody the trans-sectional nostalgia for the “Old South” and the ideal of national reconciliation at the price of (remembering) more differentiated and critical positions towards slavery, secession, and war. The study is as committed to theory as it is...

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EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.
Nov02

EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.

EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.  Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   Die Quellenlage zum Inhalt des Untertitels ist einerseits hervorragend, andererseits ausgesprochen schlecht. Hervorragend, weil – meist auf beiden Seiten des Atlantik  – zahllose Gerichtsakten, Zeitungen, Memoiren, Berichte, Verordnungen, Gesetze, politische Demarchen, Schiffspapiere, Ego-Dokumente etc. mehr als ausreichend sind, um zahllose Fallstudien, Anekdoten, Genre-Skizzen, Kriminalgeschichte und vielerlei Informationen zu belegen; ausgesprochen schlecht, weil diese Quellen derart lückenhaft sind, dass so etwas Elementares wie die Anzahl der Deportierten, hier speziell zwischen 1718 (Transportation Act) und 1776, höchst umstritten ist.   Die Schätzungen liegen zwischen 25.000 und mehr als 50.000 Sträflingen, die zwangsweise von Britannien in die amerikanischen Kolonien spediert wurden, der Löwenanteil nach Virginia und Maryland. Davon sollen 20% bis 30% Frauen gewesen sein. Edith Ziegler glaubt an über 50.000 mit einem weiblichen Anteil von 15.000. Die niedrigeren Zahlen könnten unter anderem darauf zurückgehen, dass Historiker im 19. Jahrhundert (auch George Bancroft) auf den Druck der Pflanzer-Aristokratie reagierten, deren Albtraum es war, unter ihren Vorfahren könnten Kriminelle sein; es schien also ratsam, deren Existenz zu leugnen oder jedenfalls zu minimieren.   Ziegler widmet zwei der acht Kapitel der Kriminalität und dem Gerichtswesen vor allem in den großen britischen Städten, zwei der Überfahrt und dem Verkauf der Sträflinge in Maryland (Hauptuntersuchungsgebiet der Verfasserin). Das fünfte Kapitel behandelt Stellung und Tätigkeit der Frauen in Maryland, das sechste die Flucht aus dem Dienstverhältnis innerhalb der Kolonien. Im vorletzten geht es um die (geringe) Kriminalität der zu 7 oder 14 Jahren oder lebenslänglichem Aufenthalt verurteilten Frauen und die vorzeitige Rückkehr nach Britannien von einigen – ungeachtet der angedrohten (und selten ausgeführten) Todesstrafe. Im letzten Kapitel wird das Schicksal der weiblichen Sträflinge in den Jahren des Unabhängigkeitskrieges beschrieben.   Es war noch der Continental Congress, der 1788 eine Resolution verabschiedete, die den Einzelstaaten empfahl, „to pass proper laws for preventing the transportation of convicted malefactors from foreign countries to the United States” – eine Maßnahme, die den Sträflings-Import aus dem ehemaligen Mutterland endgültig abschloss, der jedoch 40 Jahre später eine neue Etappe der Kriminellen-Abschiebung in die USA folgte, diesmal aus etwa 30 anderen europäischen Ländern, darunter gut 20 deutsche Staaten. Bis Ende der 1860er Jahre liefen die getarnten Sträflings-Verschickungen der Kontinentaleuropäer nach Nordamerika mit den britischen völlig öffentlichen Deportationen nach Australien parallel. Die Zahlen allerdings lagen weit auseinander: etwa 4.000 in die USA, 163.000 oder gut 40-mal so viele nach Australien.   Eine Conclusion fehlt, aber es folgen sechs Appendices auf 20 Seiten, die nützliche Tabellen und Gesetzestexte enthalten. Das Buch hat Schwächen. Das vermutlich...

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MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp.
Nov01

MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp.

MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   Marc Priewe’s Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730 offers an encyclopedic study of early American medicine through an analysis that intersects literary, historical, and medical works. Priewe seeks to identify the “eclectic fusion” of contesting and conflicting perspectives on health, disease, and healing as they are shaped by belief systems, attitudes toward the natural world, and scientific knowledge (68). Because, as he demonstrates, the New World provided a unique opportunity for hybrid knowledge about disease and healing, the works of often-anthologized early American authors (i.e. Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Edward Taylor, Michael Wigglesworth, etc.) should be reexamined for a better understanding of colonial views on health and disease. Central to Priewe’s discussion are the amalgamated views of health and healing in colonial New England. In addition to the traditional Galenic system of the body where health is achieved by balance of the humors and sickness indicates an imbalance, early Americans integrated Native American cures, European folk healing practices, and new emerging medical science.  However, as Priewe points out, these were always tempered by the reigning medical theory: Christianity. Ministers and laypeople alike believed in divine pathogenesis, the notion that the body was affected by one’s spiritual condition.         For the seventeenth century and the early decades of the eighteenth, most colonists recognized illness “as complicated yet potentially legible signs from God” (351), but as science and religion became more discrete, this medical providentialism became more and more secularized, an evolution that Priewe traces throughout the text. As Priewe explains, his work is concerned with the “shuttling […] between God and Galen” (Galen’s principles of humoral medicine dominated medical science for centuries) in colonial America (14). This negotiation of the spiritual and the natural or scientific was ongoing and varied from person to person and even from case to case. For instance, Cotton Mather’s writings about medicine show a constant conflict between reason and faith. Nonetheless, as Priewe shows, the competition between medicine and science that had divisive effects in England in the seventeenth century was less of a problem in early America where the potential for hybrid knowledge and care was possible and even necessary with the dearth of physicians. In addition, the cures described in the authors Priewe studies are a product of transnational information circulation where Paraclesian iotrochemistry (wherein chemical means were used to treat diseases) was mixed with dream healing (the belief that cures could be revealed in dreams). These and other methods were “coexisting, contesting...

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JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330.; PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230.
Nov01

JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330.; PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230.

JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330. PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     From a Western European perspective, the US American death penalty in the twenty-first century often stands as the icon of a penal system characterized by judicial error, racial bias, capitalist exploitation and, not least, by an almost medieval inhumanity—a fatal backwardness that marks America’s difference from Western Europe. This perspective easily occludes that in the nineteenth century, the US was at the forefront of penal reform and the abolition of the death penalty. In fact, the state of Pennsylvania was the first to introduce murder in two degrees, and many other states—in contrast to Western European nations— drastically reduced the number of capital crimes on their statutes; the antebellum period, moreover, saw a privatization of executions throughout the American northeast and a sustained campaign for the abolition of capital punishment led by state and national societies.             Historians such as Louis P. Masur, Stuart Banner, Philip English Mackey, and Alan Rogers have documented the activities of this “other” abolitionist movement in the age of reform, yet the role that an imaginative literature played within the battle against capital punishment has been largely overlooked. With Against the Gallows: Antebellum Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment and Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925, Paul Christian Jones and John Cyril Barton, who have both been publishing on the issue in journals throughout the 2000s, have now offered the first monographs to address this neglected body of texts. Yet Jones’s and Barton’s takes on how literature participates in the debate about the death penalty are very different, and in that sense, Against the Gallows and Literary Executions complement each other well and provide us with a broad understanding of the engagement of literary writing and writers in the discourse about capital punishment in the antebellum period and beyond.             Jones, who published his study in 2011, can be said to have opened up the investigation of nineteenth-century death penalty texts by focusing on a great variety of genres and authors of the 1840s and 1850s—building on Barton’s 2006 call to “understand[…] the American Renaissance in terms of that ‘other’ abolitionist movement.”[1]Against the Gallows focuses on explicit anti-gallows writing and seeks to reconstruct “various cases of intriguing cooperation between America’s literary figures […] and the reformers, politicians, clergymen, and periodical editors who were attempting to end the practice of capital punishment...

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STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama  (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp.
Nov01

STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp.

STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama  (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   In the preface to this collection of essays, the editors lament that research on the United States has become marginal at German political science departments (IX). Maybe so, but, fortunately, their institutional marginality has not prevented German-speaking political scientists (it should be noted that several contributors to this volume are based in Austria) from producing excellent work grounded in empirical research and theoretical frameworks. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen (A World Power Facing New Challenges: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Obama Era) is the latest publication in a series of conference volumes aimed at analyzing American world power in its domestic and international settings. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the efforts of the Obama administration to renew America‘s claim to world leadership as well as its international credibility, which had suffered significantly during the presidency of George W. Bush. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led to what many observers considered “imperial overstretch” even before the financial crisis of 2007/8 dealt a serious blow to American economic power. When he assumed office in 2009, President Barack Obama faced a grave domestic crisis and a populace tired of military interventions and increasingly skeptical of international commitments. Internationally, the rise of China and Russia’s anti-Western turn posed momentous challenges to American leadership. At the beginning of his first term, Obama not only promised to restore American power but also to reduce its costs, pursue multilateral approaches, and abide by international rules. To what extent has he been able to deliver on his promises and to what extent has he succeeded in restoring America’s global leadership role? Six years into the Obama presidency, the authors of this book offer tentative answers to these questions.               Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen contains thirteen essays divided into three major parts. Part one addresses the domestic constraints on Obama’s attempt to implement a foreign policy based on smart power, that is on a prudent mix between elements of hard military and economic power, on the one hand, and soft power that includes commitments to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the other. Jürgen Wilzewski concedes that Obama has been genuinely committed to smart power but also notes the failure to close the detainment camp at Guantanamo and the policy of “targeted killings” as conspicuous violations of a foreign policy based on values; Congress, the author finds, is only partly to blame for that failure. In their...

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ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. ; PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill.
Nov01

ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. ; PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill.

ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   According to Susan Smith Harris, drama—and, one might add, the performing arts in general—have always been treated as the “bastard child” of the American literary family, i.e. “[they have] been marginalized, excluded, or ‘disciplined’ in the culture in general and the university in particular.”[1] She identifies the reasons for the neglect and dismissal of American drama and performances as being both historical and ideological. They range from the contested history of drama and theater in the United States, the alleged “unworthiness” or “non-literariness” of this kind of literature, and the ensuing generic hegemony of poetry and prose, to the increasing professionalization of the field of American Studies. Given this, the persistence of an anti-theatrical sentiment in academia manifests itself in the conspicuous absence of American drama from various anthologies, critical and literary histories, college texts and curricula, literary magazines, scholarly journals, or individual studies.[2]         Both studies under review, Astrid Haas’s Stages of Agency: The Contributions of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse and Pia Wiegmink’s Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States, are most welcome exceptions to this (unwritten) rule as they not only focus on (activist) plays and performances, respectively, but, they also demonstrate how American Studies can generally benefit, methodologically and in terms of subject matter, from opening up to “performative expressions of American culture” (Wiegmink 391). While Haas’s study is the more traditional one of the two in that it offers a “text-centered approach […] grounded in literary rather than performance studies” (14), Wiegmink deliberately concentrates on performative rather than textual expressions of activism and political engagement. What both authors have in common, however, is their strong belief in the fact that, as Haas rightfully puts it, “art can […] serve as a corrective to hegemonic views” (7) and, even more importantly, that politically engaged art is not obsolete but alive and kicking. Stages of Agency is, according to the author Astrid Haas,   the first to analyze U.S.-American AIDS drama produced on the country’s mainstream stage between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s with a focus on the role of theater and drama as social agents in the societal perception and signification of the epidemic through their interaction with and contribution to the diverse medical, socio-political, media, and artistic discourses on AIDS in the United States. (9-10)   Indeed, Haas’s is a pioneering study as it exclusively focuses on representations of...

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PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pages.
Nov01

PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pages.

  PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.4   “Of the reasons which influenced, of the hopes and fears which agitated, and of the miseries and records which are left of the Loyalists—or, as they were called in the politics of the time, the ‘Tories’—of the American Revolution, but little is known. The most intelligent, the best informed among us, confess the deficiency of their knowledge.”[1] To say that nothing has changed since Whig politician and historian Lorenzo Sabine (1803-1877) wrote those lines would be stretching the point. From the early 1820s when he moved to Maine, Sabine devoted himself to the history of the other side of the American Revolution. His publications were extremely controversial, for prior to that time it was an undisputed and common understanding that there was only one story to be told about the American Revolution, and that the good and the bad characters in this story were to be easily identified as the Patriots and the Loyalists.  More recent studies on the Loyalists, like those of Mary Beth Norton or Maya Jasanoff,[2] have definitely influenced our understanding of this marginalized group and may even have raised awareness of the importance of studying Loyalists within the context of the American Revolution. However, there is no doubt that the Loyalists continue to be relegated to the shadows when it comes to historical research of this period. In Writing the Rebellion, Philip Gould, the Nicholas Brown Professor of Oratory and Belles Lettres at Brown University, tries to shed some light upon this shadowy topic from the perspective of literary history. He begins his brief and very readable study by posing the question why has “Revolutionary literary studies largely ignored the writings that opposed the American rebellion” (6)—especially since those writings have not been the work of a small group of misfits, but rather represent the thoughts of a significant minority of political dissenters, who are estimated to have comprised 20 to 30 percent of the British Americans in the Thirteen Colonies. Gould’s answer is as simple as it is striking: “The winning side stands in as a synecdoche for the whole” (6). According to Gould, for generations, American literary history contributed to the development of a national narrative of “truly American” values and culture.  At the core of this narrative is the year 1776, which constitutes the starting point and the manifestation of the principles of independence as the principles of the United States.  Those who fought for and eventually gained independence were—of course—the Patriots.  The dissenting...

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ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp.
Nov01

ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp.

ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     Es gibt bereits einige umfassende Überblickswerke zur amerikanischen Geschichte in deutscher Sprache (Sautter, 1976 [8. Aufl. 2013]; Heideking/Mauch, 2008; Dippel, 2010; Stöver, 2012; Berg, 2013;). Alexander Emmerich und Phillip Gassert strukturieren ihre US-Geschichte entlang „Amerikas Kriege[n]“. Diese Prämisse, die vielleicht gerade dem Kultur- oder Gesellschaftshistoriker zunächst etwas eng erscheinen mag, erweist sich als ausgesprochen zielführend. Nicht zuletzt ist das öffentliche Image der USA heute durchaus ein kriegerisches. Die Autoren halten es in ihrer Analyse keineswegs mit Heraklit und stellen den Krieg als „Vater aller Dinge“ dar, sondern spannen überzeugend den größeren Zusammenhang der verschiedenen Konflikte auf. Zu den diachronen Verflechtungen, die zuweilen über mehrere Jahrzehnte oder länger verfolgt werden, gehören Erinnerungskultur und nationale Mythen ebenso wie Argumentationsmuster für und wider den Krieg. Gezwungenermaßen können die einzelnen Konflikte nicht in ihrem ganzen Detailreichtum behandelt werden. Gleichzeitig aber legen die Autoren besonderen Wert auf den öffentlichen Diskurs und erinnern immer wieder daran, dass keiner der Kriege, in die Amerika involviert war, unumstritten war – erst recht nicht in den USA selbst. Gerade für eine deutsche Leserschaft – und dieses Buch richtet sich eindeutig eher an eine interessierte Öffentlichkeit als an ein Fachpublikum – ist diese differenzierte Darstellung der amerikanischen Positionen interessant und – vom Vietnamkrieg einmal abgesehen – auch neu. Unter der Leitfrage wie „Demokratie und Krieg“ zusammen gehen (7ff. und 248 ff.) entfalten die Autoren ein vielschichtiges und durchaus ambivalentes Bild. Es reicht von den Gründungsidealen in der Unabhängigkeitserklärung bis zum Massenpatriotismus nach dem 11. September 2001. Wilsons Reden zum Eintritt in den 1. Weltkrieg deuten Emmerich und Gassert als „Schlüssel zum Verhältnis der USA zum Krieg“ (8), wird doch die enge Verwobenheit von Idealismus und wirtschaftlichem Interesse ebenso deutlich wie die eigenartige Mischung aus Missionsdrang und Verantwortungsgefühl. Doch gehöre, so die These des Buches, auch der Ausbau von Geheimdienstapparaten und die Investition in Waffentechnologien, wie Langstreckenraketen oder jüngst Drohnen, zum „democratic way of war“ (10). Da demokratische Öffentlichkeiten eine besonders geringe Toleranzgrenze gegenüber den eigenen Opfern aufwiesen, seien sie eher bereit, alternative Formen zur klassischen Kriegführung zu akzeptieren um die eigenen Soldaten zu schützen. Dass jedoch auch gerade in den USA selbst über verdeckte Präventivmissionen der CIA oder den Einsatz von bestimmten Waffentypen heftig diskutiert wurde und wird, thematisiert das Buch an dieser Stelle nicht. Erst später wird darauf verwiesen dass, vor allem seit den 1970er Jahren, Menschenrechtsverletzungen einen neuen Stellenwert in den Antikriegsdiskursen haben (233). Auch die Frage, welche Rolle das Militär an sich in der amerikanischen Gesellschaft spielt, wird nicht erörtert, oder aber was es in diesem Zusammenhang bedeutet, dass...

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GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp.
Nov01

GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp.

GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   The election of Barack Obama promised the emergence of a post-racial society in which Americans are no longer divided along black-and-whites lines. However, the upheavals against racism, white police brutality, and legal injustice against African Americans following the deadly shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson have drastically demonstrated that this hope was premature.  In his new book The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston and one of the most prolific Marxist historians of slavery, imperialism, American race relations, and the African American freedom struggle, traces the genealogy of American racism back to its colonial beginnings. Horne makes the startling case that racism and slavery were not only founding pillars of the American Republic, but also a major cause for American independence. Thus, Horne considers the much-celebrated revolt of the North American settlers not as a triumph of freedom and democracy but as a last minute counter-revolution to rescue slavery and white supremacy in the face of pressing dangers from slave insurrections, Native American resistance, and British abolitionism. While some of Horne’s arguments seem familiar from the more recent revisionist literature on slavery and the American Revolution stressing the importance of slavery at the founding of the American Republic, Gerald Horne builds on and expands this scholarship.[1] Horne ably integrates the arguments about the centrality of slavery and African American agency in the American Revolution into a coherent narrative and manages to locate it within the overall history of early capitalism and the geopolitical rivalries among European powers in the Caribbean and the Americas. Due to its broad sweep, the book is not always an easy read and sometimes hard to follow. However, the reader is rewarded by a wealth of information on slave rebellions and thought-provoking arguments challenging the conventional wisdom about the relationship of racism, imperialism and the egalitarian spirit of the American Revolution. Horne sets out from the premise that it “is an error to view the history of colonial British North America as simply ‘pre-U.S. history’ in a teleological manner” (viii) and that “a number of contingent trends led to 1776” (3). As far as enslaved African Americans and the soon-to-be displaced Native Americans were concerned, the victory of the white North American settlers in the American War of Independence was probably the worst possible...

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KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp.
Nov01

KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp.

KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     What happened to Englishmen’s identities during the establishment of colonial settlements in America? And how did these settlers “become colonial” living in the New World, experiencing crisis, misery, and catastrophe through suffering and acts of violence? In Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America, Kathleen Donegan sets out to answer these and related questions in her examination of early colonial identity in English settlement writings and narratives of the first years, putting crisis and catastrophe at the center of her study’s interest. By focusing on colonial individuals and their writing through the framework of catastrophe and misery, Donegan uncovers a history often overlooked in past research. She zooms in on the “present” of the early years of settlement and on formative, “seasoning” (7) experiences, disconnecting it from being solely read in the comprehensive context of the subsequent overall achievement of the colonies. Part of the value of the book stems from Donegan’s selection of texts and her excellent close readings—often against the grain—of well-known authors, like William Bradford or George Percy, and less widely read narratives, like John Nicholl’s An Houre Glasse of Indian Newes (1607). She sheds light on the interplay of the settlers’ charter-imposed official duty of establishing a colony versus actual experiences, on the settlers’ negotiations with their own sense of belonging, and their transition of becoming “something else” (87) due to everyday circumstances. Seasons of Misery is organized as a “lateral study of an intensive period” (16) of Donegan’s chosen colonies “rather than a longitudinal study of any one region or a comparative account of regional development” (16). In her in-depth analysis of four early English settlements in the United States and the West Indies, Roanoke, Jamestown, Plymouth, and Barbados, the author thoroughly proves her claim that “it was through early catastrophe that colonial identities were first formed” (20).  The book is divided into four major chapters, each dedicated to one of the stated colonies, and framed with an introduction and an afterword. In the introduction (“Unsettlement”), Donegan starts with the overall historical as well as literary contexts of her texts and explains her focus on misery and catastrophe with reference to early American scholars, such as Mitchell Breitwieser or Richard Slotkin. Donegan approaches her material through literary criticism and narrative history to eventually uncover “both the junctures and disjunctures between the inner and material world” (16) on the way to creating “new forms of coloniality” (16). Chapter 1 (“Roanoke: Left in Virginia”) opens up the...

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WILLIAM EARL WEEKS, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Vol. 1: Dimensions of the Early American Empire, 1754-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 336 pp.
May18

WILLIAM EARL WEEKS, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Vol. 1: Dimensions of the Early American Empire, 1754-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 336 pp.

WILLIAM EARL WEEKS, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Vol. 1: Dimensions of the Early American Empire, 1754-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 336 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     The 4-volume Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations—written by leading scholars in the field—has been a knowledgeable, readable, reliable, and useful introduction to U.S. diplomatic history from the foundation of the republic to date. However, since its publication dates back twenty years, the editor, Warren I. Cohen, made the decision to revise the book series to incorporate the scholarship of the last two decades and consequently asked each individual author to update their contributions. Because Bradford Perkins, writer of the first volume in 1993, deceased in 2008, Cohen chose William Earl Weeks, Lecturer in History at San Diego State University, to write a new monograph on the early phase of U.S. foreign relations. Weeks is most successful in providing an erudite and informative overview—reflective of recent trends in diplomatic history such as the connection of foreign policy and domestic politics, the incorporation of non-state actors, transnational movements of ideas and peoples, and global interdependences—in his discussions of post-1815 U.S. foreign relations. This is not surprising, since it is the period for which Weeks has earned himself the reputation of a preeminent expert through important previous publications.[1] The focus of his research interests is also revealed by the fact that the antebellum period makes up two thirds of the book, whereas the early republic is dealt with only in the remaining third (in Perkins’s book the relation was the other way round). By treating America as an empire, Weeks leaves behind traditional divisions of foreign and domestic affairs. For example, by arguing that California was such an alluring target since it offered suitable entrepôts for Asian markets, he connects American territorial expansionism in North America and commercial expansionism throughout the world (149-50). He, moreover, includes detailed discussions of the Missouri Crisis, the Wilmot Proviso, and the Kansas-Nebraska-Act—topics which treatments of American diplomatic history usually ignore; Perkins failed to even mention these events in his account. More than his predecessor, Weeks elaborates on the sectional differences and the nexus between expansionism and the collapse of the union, hinting at the fear that southern slaveholders could expand the union (and consequently increase the number of slave-holding states) to Mexico and the Caribbean, making it urgent for Republicans in 1860 to end the expansion of slavery once and for all (237, 245). Blurring the lines between domestic and diplomatic history, Weeks also gives the Civil War a prominent place in his account, devoting an entire chapter each to its origins and...

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JAMES NAGEL, The American Short Story Handbook (Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 315 pp
May18

JAMES NAGEL, The American Short Story Handbook (Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 315 pp

JAMES NAGEL, The American Short Story Handbook (Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 315 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.2/3   This book is part of the Wiley Blackwell Literature Handbooks-series, which, as the blurb reads, “offers the student thorough and lively introductions to literary periods, movements, and, in some instances, authors and genres [. . .] in volumes that are as stimulating to read as they are convenient to use.” James Nagel’s The American Short Story Handbook delivers on all these promises and more. After a brief introduction the book falls into three parts. The first of these is a historical overview of major periods, which is subdivided into four subchapters, predictably the American Renaissance, here called the Age of Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism, American Modernism, and the Contemporary American Short Story. Not so predictably, this historical overview begins with a chapter on the American Story to Washington Irving, counteracting the wide-spread cliché that the American short story starts with Washington Irving. The period section is followed by an author section, discussing twenty notable short story writers from Irving, Poe, and Hawthorne to Jamaica Kincaid, Tim O’Brien, and Louise Erdrich. The third and last major section is devoted to the presentation and interpretation of thirty-two individual stories, ranging from Benjamin Franklin’s “The Speech of Polly Baker” (1747) and Ruri Colla’s “The Story of the Captain’s Wife and an Aged Woman” (1789) to Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” (1982), Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” (1989), and Judith Cofer’s “Nada” (1992). Although not all of the authors discussed are represented by stories, there is a certain overlap of stories which are presented in both the author and the stories section. This is useful for many readers who will foreseeably consult individual sections rather than read the whole book. The book is rounded off by a glossary of critical terms and a selected bibliography. The latter lists many useful studies of aspects of the short story from Fred Lewis Pattee’s groundbreaking history of the genre of 1923 to The Penguin Book of Lesbian Short Stories, edited by Margaret Reynolds in 1994.[1] It also indicates Nagel’s own stupendous expertise in the field by listing his authored books on the contemporary short story cycle and on New Orleans story-telling, as well as the Anthology of the American Short Story (2008) he edited and A Companion to the American Short Story (2010) he co-edited with Alfred Bendixen.[2] Both these last-mentioned volumes are ideal companion pieces to The American Short Story Handbook for the more dedicated student of the American short story. The voluminous anthology contains most of the stories discussed in the Handbook. Unfortunately, it carries a...

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CONSEULA FRANCIS, The Critical Reception of James Baldwin 1963-2010: An Honest Man and a Good Writer (Rochester: Camden House, 2014), 174 pp.
May18

CONSEULA FRANCIS, The Critical Reception of James Baldwin 1963-2010: An Honest Man and a Good Writer (Rochester: Camden House, 2014), 174 pp.

CONSEULA FRANCIS, The Critical Reception of James Baldwin 1963-2010: An Honest Man and a Good Writer (Rochester: Camden House, 2014), 174 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.1     James Baldwin, Harlem’s own voice of reason, is regarded as a visionary and virtuoso in African American literature. Although often read as working through Richard Wright’s shadow, Baldwin’s work intended to do more than expand the literary canon or support a singular focus on civil rights concerns. Universal themes, an unrestrained voice, and remarkable foresight were his ammunition; the typewriter was his weapon, which made him a fighter for love and humanity in the midst of exorbitant racial and gender dynamics that largely shaped the United States in the mid-twentieth century. His writing, both fiction and nonfiction, was in that sense less concerned with seeking ultimate solutions, but rather in raising provocative questions and addressing a conscious reader. This mission, in which the truth about oneself is manifested, is itself the craft of James Baldwin’s writing.               With Critical Reception Conseula Francis provides an easily accessible “overview of the critical trends in Baldwin scholarship” (3) that praises the writer’s thematic plurality without neglecting objectivity when surveying the numerous approaches of Baldwin criticism. After introducing the complexity of studying Baldwin and demonstrating how critics lost themselves in the wide range of literature by and on Baldwin, Francis opens a thorough dialogue and thematic discussion between the critical voices, approaches, and turns of Baldwin scholarship. Organized into three parts, she captures the stages and periods of Baldwin criticism, illustrates Baldwin’s popular reception, and renders a contemporary account of Baldwin studies—all presented in an equally critical, essential, and concise fashion. Francis’s Critical Reception is, therefore, not only a superb overview on Baldwin criticism, but also a comprehensive study on the vastness and depth of Baldwin’s literary legacy.               Francis begins with the critical takes on Baldwin’s writing, in particular his early novels and the essay collection The Fire Next Time (1963). She captures how throughout the 1960s critics struggled most with Baldwin’s manifold roles as essayist, revolutionary, and fiction writer, and his repeating attempts to integrate this new form of protest that proclaimed love as opposed to aggressive resistance and called for a renewal of social awareness. As many critics at the time claimed, Baldwin’s literary sphere and celebrity did not coincide with the thematic depth on racial dynamics African American recipients expected. Eldridge Cleaver was one of these early skeptical readers of Baldwin’s works. Often accused of being a “favored son of mainstream American media” (18), Baldwin’s approach aimed at a collective and comprehensive human experience rather than merely accusing (white)...

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ALFRED BENDIXEN and STEPHEN BURT, eds. The Cambridge History of American Poetry (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 1326 pp.
May18

ALFRED BENDIXEN and STEPHEN BURT, eds. The Cambridge History of American Poetry (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 1326 pp.

ALFRED BENDIXEN and STEPHEN BURT, eds. The Cambridge History of American Poetry (New York: Cambridge UP, 2015), 1326 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     As Alfred Bendixen and Stephen Burt note in their introduction to The Cambridge History of American Poetry, there have been “surprisingly few attempts to provide a literary history of poetry in the United States” (1-2). While there are several useful introductions to twentieth-century American poetry, not a single comprehensive one-volume history has been published since Jay Parini’s Columbia History of American Poetry (1998). The much-awaited Cambridge History of American Poetry impressively fills this gap and provides today’s readers with a resource encyclopedic in scope yet organized in a clear, accessible manner. The book consists of 50 chapters, each by a different contributor, that cover the major figures, movements, and trajectories in American poetry from its beginnings in the Native American oral tradition to the turn of the twenty-first century. These chapters are organized in four sections: “Beginnings” (to 1800), “A New Nation” (1800-1900), “Forms of Modernism” (1900-1950), and “Beyond Modernism” (1950-2000). While the first and fourth sections foreground general trends and developments, the middle sections tend to focus on individual poets and elucidate broader developments by contextualizing these poets against their literary and historical backgrounds. What all chapters have in common is that they are written to be read independently of one another. Each provides a well-rounded discussion of the topic at hand and repeats information introduced in previous chapters if necessary. This approach helps the volume avoid the unifying claims and grand narratives of classic literary histories—a strategy that, as Burt points out in the concluding chapter, is typical not only of contemporary scholarship but of contemporary American poetry as well (1144). While this strategy results in occasional inconsistencies—the work of Yvor Winters, for example, is repeatedly cited for its influence on later poets but never discussed in itself—it produces a remarkable diversity of opinion, especially on controversial figures like Allen Tate. It is a commonplace in contemporary scholarship that any critical assessment of a writer is influenced by the critic’s own socio-cultural perspective. The Cambridge History of American Poetry puts this idea into practice. Yet most of the contributors seem to share a set of basic methodological principles. While some chapters merely enumerate poems or poets relevant to their topic, most offer an instructive combination of close reading and contextual information. Attempts to fit a poet into a preconceived theoretical framework are refreshingly rare. Almost all contributors attend to questions of style and formal organization, and many take on the literary historian’s task of evaluating the lasting significance of individual poets. They...

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CARY NELSON, The Oxford Handbook to Modern American Poetry (New York: Oxford UP, 2012), 716 pp.
May18

CARY NELSON, The Oxford Handbook to Modern American Poetry (New York: Oxford UP, 2012), 716 pp.

CARY NELSON, The Oxford Handbook to Modern American Poetry (New York: Oxford UP, 2012), 716 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   Cary Nelson’s Oxford Handbook to Modern American Poetry is in many ways the companion piece to his Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2000), which was republished as a two volume edition in 2014. Nelson’s influential revisionist poetry anthology combined canonic poets with writers on the left, neglected women writers, and African American political poets, among many other new voices he introduced. Moreover, the anthology broadened the poetic archive by including genres such as experimental collage poems and broadsides. Most importantly, Nelson’s anthology put all of these voices into conversation with each other, hence emphasizing that it is necessary to think about the history of modern American poetry outside of schools and established critical trajectories and to see poetry as a vast field of cultural expression in which unforeseen connections can be established if the alternative texts are selected. The Oxford Handbook to Modern American Poetry draws out these methodological and theoretical implications and develops them into programmatic essays about new directions in poetry scholarship. Although the collection of essays offers a number of exemplary readings of canonic and non-canonic texts alike, it is best understood as a research handbook offering new perspectives on modern and contemporary American poetry. It succeeds almost completely in its attempt to create what Nelson calls “coexisting alternative maps of the modern poetry terrain” (6). The book gathers a representative selection of contemporary critics that have redefined the terms of scholarship on modern and contemporary American poetry. The two opening essays set the volume’s agenda; they are among the best recent writing on modern and contemporary American poetry because they both gracefully steer clear of assigning poets to various schools, instead insisting on the cultural and social dynamics from which particular poems emerge. The first essay, contributed by Nelson himself, is perhaps the best short survey of modern American poetry and mandatory reading for all classes on twentieth-century American poetry. Instead of iconoclastically doing away with established paradigms, Nelson carefully charts the complex history of modern American poetry, not only putting T.S. Eliot, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams (themselves often divided into various schools) into conversation with poets such as Aaron Kramer, Muriel Rukeyser, and Melvin Tolson, but also with post-World War II writers such as Sylvia Plath, Lovelock Paiute poet Adrian Louis, and Native American literature’s superstar, Sherman Alexie. Nelson makes clear that the “century of innovation” was united in its experiment with poetic form to tackle cultural, social, political, and economic issues of the day. This...

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AUDRA SIMPSON and ANDREA SMITH, eds. Theorizing Native Studies (Durham & London: DukePress, 2014), pp. 337.  JAMES H. COX and DANIEL HEATH JUSTICE, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 2014), pp. 741.
May18

AUDRA SIMPSON and ANDREA SMITH, eds. Theorizing Native Studies (Durham & London: DukePress, 2014), pp. 337. JAMES H. COX and DANIEL HEATH JUSTICE, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 2014), pp. 741.

AUDRA SIMPSON and ANDREA SMITH, eds. Theorizing Native Studies (Durham & London: Duke UP, 2014), pp. 337. JAMES H. COX and DANIEL HEATH JUSTICE, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 2014), pp. 741. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     Both Theorizing Native Studies and The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature offer timely reminders of the meaning attributed to the concept of “critical theory” by the Frankfurt School, a meaning that is inseparable from its practical purpose: “a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human ’emancipation from slavery,’ acts as a ‘liberating […] influence,’ and works ‘to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers’ of human beings. […] Critical Theorists […] seek ‘human emancipation’ in circumstances of domination and oppression. This normative task cannot be accomplished apart from the interplay between philosophy and social science through interdisciplinary empirical social research.”1 As Dian Million emphasizes in her essay in the Simpson and Smith volume: “Theory, theorizing is […] a verb, an action,” (Simpson & Smith, 32; original emphasis). Theorizing by guiding one’s actions towards decolonization, self-determination, and Native sovereignty underpins both of these important contributions to the discipline of Native American and Indigenous Studies.   Theorizing Native Studies addresses the recent explicit turn to “high theory” in Native Studies and poses as its organizing question: how can critiques based on the assumption that theory is opposed to community practice or political engagement or indigenous traditions in fact be turned to the work of theorizing what the editors call “a politically grounded and analytically charged form of Native Studies” (1)? In the outstanding introduction by Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith, a comprehensive survey is offered both of the various directions in which theory has been taken in Native Studies, and the utility of these approaches is assessed in relation to issues of decolonization, analysis of settler-colonialism as both material practices and an epistemological-representational regime, and indigenous intellectual praxis. Beginning with an outline of the relation between theory and truth that raises issues of relativism and essentialism, the editors propose that the “high” theory associated with European poststructuralism is not anathema to indigenous activism; rather, the capacity to interrogate historically contingent regimes of truth is fundamental to the work of historical contextualization and critique that is characteristic of the discipline of Native Studies. This then leads to a nuanced discussion of the question “who owns theory”? The indigenous subjects of settler theorizing or theorists whose thinking is generated within Native communities? Simpson and Smith shift the terms of this debate to question “the perceived ownership of theory,” to suggest...

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CHRISTOF MAUCH UND RÜDIGER B. WERISCH (Hg.; unter Mitarbeit v. Angelika Möller), USA-Lexikon. Schlüsselbegriffe zu Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft, Kultur, Geschichte und zu den deutsch-amerikanischen Beziehungen (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2013), 1334 pp.
May18

CHRISTOF MAUCH UND RÜDIGER B. WERISCH (Hg.; unter Mitarbeit v. Angelika Möller), USA-Lexikon. Schlüsselbegriffe zu Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft, Kultur, Geschichte und zu den deutsch-amerikanischen Beziehungen (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2013), 1334 pp.

CHRISTOF MAUCH UND RÜDIGER B. WERISCH (Hg.; unter Mitarbeit v. Angelika Möller), USA-Lexikon. Schlüsselbegriffe zu Politik, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft, Kultur, Geschichte und zu den deutsch-amerikanischen Beziehungen (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2013), 1334 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     Nachdem das von Rüdiger Wersich herausgegebene USA-Lexikon Mitte der 1990er Jahre erstmals publiziert worden war, konnte es sich rasch einen sichtbaren Platz im Feld der deutschsprachigen Referenzhandbücher zu Geschichte, Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur der Vereinigten Staaten erobern. Exemplare standen in den Regalen zahlreicher Universitäts- und Stadtbibliotheken ebenso wie in Einrichtungen der Erwachsenenbildung, einzelne Beiträge fanden nicht selten ihren Weg auf die Literaturlisten von Handouts, die Studierende zu ihren Referaten einreichten. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist es verdienstvoll, dass Wersich und sein neuer Mitherausgeber Christof Mauch die Mühe auf sich genommen haben, nach beinahe zwei Jahrzehnten eine Neuauflage des Lexikons zu realisieren.   Das gilt umso mehr, weil sich seit der Erstausgabe viele Rahmenbedingungen geändert haben: Erstens hat sich durch das Internet die Dichte sowie die Geschwindigkeit, mit der Informationen bereitgestellt, abgerufen und verarbeitet werden, grundlegend gewandelt. Ein Buch mit über 500 Einträgen auf über 1.300 Seiten ist in Zeiten, in denen man einen Wikipedia-Beitrag jederzeit im Bus lesen und auf ein Endgerät speichern kann, nicht nur ein verlegerisches, sondern auch ein konzeptionelles Wagnis. Zweitens hat sich die wissenschaftliche Beschäftigung mit den USA seit Mitte der 1990er Jahre verändert. In der Geschichtswissenschaft sind traditionelle Schwerpunkte auf ‚große Politik‘ und deutsch-amerikanische Beziehungen de-zentriert worden, Gesellschaft und Kultur haben als Untersuchungsgegenstände deutlich an Bedeutung gewonnen. In der Politikwissenschaft stehen heute Strukturen, Organisationen sowie Akteure im Zentrum des Interesses, die ausdrücklich jenseits traditioneller Vorstellungen von einem als homogen begriffenen politischen Systems wirkmächtig sind. Und in den Literaturwissenschaften haben u.a. feministische und postkoloniale Ansätze auch hierzulande dem etablierten Kanon ein Ende bereitet. All diese und weitere Entwicklungen haben sich auch an den Universitäten niedergeschlagen, wie sich an einer Vielzahl von Studiengängen mit innovativen Ausrichtungen ablesen lässt. Darüber hinaus hat sich, drittens, der Charakter sowie der Stellenwert der intellektuellen Beschäftigung mit den Vereinigten Staaten im Verlauf der Jahre nach Ende des Kalten Kriegs verschoben. Mit der zunehmenden Globalisierung konkurrieren die USA nunmehr stärker als vorher um ihren Rang als die Gesellschaft, an welcher sich große Teile der westeuropäischen oder deutschen Bevölkerung abarbeiten, sei es affirmativ oder in Opposition. Das öffentliche Interesse an den USA ist in der Bundesrepublik nach wie vor groß, heute aber weit weniger selbstverständlich als es noch vor 20 Jahren war. Vielen dieser Trends versucht das USA-Lexikon durch äußere und innere Neuausrichtungen Rechnung zu tragen. Neben der gedruckten Ausgabe ist das Lexikon auch als E-Book erschienen, darüber hinaus bietet der Schmidt Verlag online eine...

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BILL HARDWIG, Upon Provincialism: Southern Literature and National Periodical Culture, 1870-1900 (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2013), 184 pp. MARK J: NOONAN, Reading the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine: American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893 (Kent: KentState UP, 2010), 235 pp. WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ, CHRISTOPH IRMSCHER, eds., Cultural Circulation: Dialogues between Canada and the American South, Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 843 (Wien: VÖAW, 2013), 398pp.
May18

BILL HARDWIG, Upon Provincialism: Southern Literature and National Periodical Culture, 1870-1900 (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2013), 184 pp. MARK J: NOONAN, Reading the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine: American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893 (Kent: KentState UP, 2010), 235 pp. WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ, CHRISTOPH IRMSCHER, eds., Cultural Circulation: Dialogues between Canada and the American South, Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 843 (Wien: VÖAW, 2013), 398pp.

Bill Hardwig, Upon Provincialism: Southern Literature and National Periodical Culture, 1870-1900 (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2013), 184 pp.  Mark J. Noonan, Reading the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine: American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893 (Kent: KentState UP, 2010), 235 pp.  Waldemar Zacharasiewicz, Christoph Irmscher, eds., Cultural Circulation: Dialogues between Canada and the American South, Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 843 (Wien: VÖAW, 2013), 398pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   Few subfields of American studies have profited as much from recent perspectival changes and methodological developments in the discipline, such as the transnational turn or Periodical studies, as the field of Southern studies has. The three books under review here all look at the U.S. South through the lenses of either “new Southern studies” (Zacharasiewicz’s and Irmscher’s Cultural Circulation) or Periodical studies (Noonan’s Readingthe Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine) or a combination of the two (Hardwig’s Upon Provincialism), and the insightful and illuminating readings of literature and culture from and about the South offered in these volumes clearly demonstrate how these new approaches have, each in its own way, revitalized and invigorated Southern studies.             New Southern studies, perhaps the more prominent of the two, can be traced back to the early 2000s. In the preface to a special issue of American Literature on “Violence, the Body and ‘the South’” (2001), Houston A. Baker Jr. and Dana D. Nelson coin the term “new Southern studies” and call for a “complication of old borders and terrains [as well as] wishes to construct and survey a new scholarly map of ‘The South.’”[1] More special issues in the same spirit followed, among others in the Southern Quarterly (2003), the Mississippi Quarterly (2003-2004), the South Central Review (2005), and again in American Literature (2006). In the latter journal, guest editors Kathryn McKee and Anette Trefzer respond to Baker Jr.’s and Nelson’s call by giving the new Southern studies an explicitly transnational orientation,[2] thus bringing it in line with the rest of the discipline. The transnational turn in new Southern studies is also reflected in the titles of a number of essay collections (e.g. Jon Smith’s and Deborah Cohn’s Look Away: The U.S. South in New World Studies, 2004) and monographs (e.g., James L. Peacock’s Grounded Globalism: How the U.S. South Embraces the World, 2007), some of which appeared in the newly established series “New Directions in Southern Studies” and “The New Southern Studies” by UNC Press and the U of Georgia Press, respectively. The work of scholars such as Patricia Yaeger, Michael Kreyling, Scott Romine, and Martyn Bone has complemented these efforts by more generally interrogating and deterritorializing the idea or myth of the U.S. South.            ...

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PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp.
May10

PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp.

PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   In this impressive study of the pervasive yet often neglected literary and cultural relationships between the United States and Australasia, Paul Giles takes readers on a tour beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s satires and ending with J. M. Coetzee’s novels. Consisting of ten roughly chronologically ordered chapters, this book submits American literary history to a ‘topsy-turvy’ rereading by looking through an antipodean lens. This results in a reconfiguration of familiar themes and tropes, key texts, literary and cultural movements as well as the works of individual authors. Enlightenment, manifest destiny, modernism, globalization, surrealism, and postmodernism are among the subjects that Giles scrutinizes with regard to their Australasian investments and their potential to unsettle the notion of American exceptionalism. Choosing a “transcontinental comparative perspective,” Giles, whose previous monographs have been important contributions to a transatlantic and global remapping of American literary history, aims to “realign the emergence of US culture within an Australasian orbit” in order to show how such an approach “could serve to destabilize assumptions of national identity and, hence, to problematize American projections of utopian values onto the variegated nature of the Pacific scene” (Giles 13). Thus, his book teems with re-interpretations of canonical texts by British, US-American, Australian or ‘hybrid’ writers, but also returns to the works of less well-known authors in an attempt to show that “Australasia has profoundly, if indirectly, helped to shape the direction of American literature” (3). As the story he recounts in his book unfolds, Australasia emerges as an “imaginative space” (4), whose presence manifests itself in literary texts belonging to different genres and periods through “figures of hemispheric reversal” (4). In chapter two, following the introduction, Giles searches works by Benjamin Franklin, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur and John Ledyard for stirrings of a planetary consciousness, as well as instances of geographical and perspectival inversions, all of which are meant to reflect a de-centering of America or, more generally, forms of “geographical reorientation” (79). Chapter three looks even more closely at geographical and astronomical images and themes in the works of Philip Freneau, Richard Alsop, Joel Barlow, and Charles Brockden Brown. Barlow’s epic poem The Columbiad (1807) serves as an important example of America’s positioning within a global context—written at a time that is usually perceived as the peak of nationalist sentiment. Rather than merely reiterating the rules of neo-classical style, The Columbiad uses a “style of bouleversement” (93; emphasis in the original) that is—it will become clearer throughout the study—symptomatic of the interest that American writers...

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ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp.
May10

ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp.

ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     The tragic attacks of 9/11 have reshaped global and local relationships and have directly affected Arab communities scattered throughout the United States, resulting in two new opposite phenomena:  the growing senses of venom, hatred, and revenge inflicted on Arab American communities, and these communities’ responses to new waves of ‘Islamophobia.’ These phenomena find apt argument and elaboration in the articles included in Arab American Literature and Culture, edited by Alfred Hornung and Martina Kohl, which is one of a number of books written in response to problematic matters involving Arab and Muslim communities both in the United States and in Europe. Hornung and Kohl examine “the situation of Arab descent worldwide” that has been influenced greatly by politics in the United States following the September 11 attacks (1). Ghada Quaisia Audi’s text, “Challenges Facing the Arab American Community from a Legal Perspective,” demonstrates that while the United States Constitution maintains “the basic rights” of any American citizen—which includes Arab Americans—these basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are being denied to Americans of Arab descent. “Within hours of the terrorist attacks of September 11,” Audi explains, “Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were targeted for acts of hate, violence, discrimination, racial profiling, and economic ruin as a direct result of the highlighted negative generalized media and government scrutiny of Arabs” (9). Ostracism from the American community—a de-Americanization process—has cast Arab Americans as “‘perpetual foreigners,’ deemed as being loyal to their country of origin, rather than to America, and hence disloyal and subversive” (9). This process of ‘de-Americanization’ causes a sense of the spiritual exile that is felt by many Arab Americans, creating a complicated relationship between Americans of Arab descent and other Americans. Audi argues that even though the first amendment “guarantees the right of freedom of expression for everyone” (7), Islamic symbols such as the mosque are perceived as anti-American. The continuing “headscarf/hijab debate” is another example of how Islamic customs are unwelcome in the United States (17). Audi not only points out these difficulties in her text, she offers a simple solution: citizens of the United States must be reminded that Arab Americans are Americans; they are an integral, essential part of the American community.  As Americans they are guaranteed the same rights and freedom of expression—especially religious expression—as any other American and cannot be deported or isolated. Regarding Arab Americans’ patriotic virtue, George W. Bush has stated that “there are thousands of Arab Americans that live in New York City who...

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STEFAN HIRT, Adolf Hitler in American Culture: National Identity and the Totalitarian Other (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2013), 652 pp.
May10

STEFAN HIRT, Adolf Hitler in American Culture: National Identity and the Totalitarian Other (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2013), 652 pp.

STEFAN HIRT, Adolf Hitler in American Culture: National Identity and the Totalitarian Other (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2013), 652 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     Stefan Hirt’s book Adolf Hitler in American Culture: National Identity and the Totalitarian Other is a far-ranging and ambitious work that tries to explain not only the evolution of Adolf Hitler’s image but also how that image of the alien “other”  challenged America’s insecure self-identity as a nation of individualists and freedom-loving Americans.  In order to find a solid hook on which to hang his argument, the author casts a wide net of critical postmodern analysis over the course of the last eighty odd years of American history to discover why and in what way Hitler became a pop-icon of evil in American culture.  How does Hirt propose to untie this complicated intellectual knot? His answer is that he intends to concentrate less on Hitler than on what American popular culture made of his image (p. 12). It turns out, however, that the real prey he is after is not so much Hitler or the Führer’ image but the problem of American self-identity over the course of American history. This is a tall order, and one that the author handles poorly because his knowledge of US history is culled from one-sided studies; they come from   critical, even radical, postmodern historiography and avant-garde filmography. This approach is indicated by the label “Discursive Frameworks” in chapter 3. Discursive means passing rapidly or indiscriminately from subject to subject; rambling, digressive, extending over or dealing with a wide range of topics. The purpose behind this chapter is to advance the theoretical framework underlying this book; its subtitles are identity, Ideology, and cultural memory. In what follows the author exaggerates the difficulty of the theoretical terminology of postmodern thought, which he then applies to US cultural identity. He focuses on American identity problems, ideological ambiguities, self-serving mythologies, and split-minded cultural memories. There is much talk throughout the book about white, waspish sexual uncertainty, cognitive dissonances, male cold war anxieties (as though women were not equally horrified by the possibility of thermonuclear war), fetishes of various sorts, narcissistic self-glorifications, and so forth. The author is relatively consistent, however, in limiting himself to America’s media culture, much of it, admittedly pop or low brow. Pop is what the public consumes as art or music; it has no standards other than how much of it is consumed and can therefore be quantifiably ascertained. It is vulgar, formulaic, and unoriginal. Pop’s products are cartoons, cheap dime novels, popular films, comic books or pulps, and men’s magazines, which George Orwell called “yank mags.” The...

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STEPHEN KALBERG, Deutschland und Amerika aus der Sicht Max Webers (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013), 233 pp.
May10

STEPHEN KALBERG, Deutschland und Amerika aus der Sicht Max Webers (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013), 233 pp.

STEPHEN KALBERG, Deutschland und Amerika aus der Sicht Max Webers (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013), 236 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   Ever since he submitted his dissertation on Max Weber in 1978, Stephen Kalberg, who teaches sociological theory at Boston University, has produced a continuous flow of studies on Weber’s work. An appendix in the book under review lists 36 Weber-specific publications, many of them translated into several other languages. In the book’s first chapter, Kalberg draws on his deep knowledge of Weber’s work to give a concise introduction into some of the basic concepts of Weber’s interpretive method. The following chapters 2 to 7 are then intended as illustrations of the explanatory potential of Weber’s approach and deal with a variety of different topics. This provides a number of interesting case studies but also leads to many repetitions. The reason for this redundancy dawned on me only gradually: despite the impression created by the title, the book is not a monograph in which an argument is developed step by step in a sustained and systematic fashion but a collection of essays written for different occasions. All of the seven chapters of the book—ranging from 11 to 40 pages—were first published between 1987-2006, many of them in sociological journals like Soziale Welt and Sociologica Internationalis. The author does not mention this fact in his introduction, but perhaps he did not think it necessary because all of the chapters, as varied as they are in subject-matter, have one basic assumption in common: every American phenomenon that the author finds in need of analysis can be explained by Max Weber’s thesis that the uniqueness of American conditions must be seen as the result of the formative influence of ascetic Protestantism. Weber’s Protestant Ethic thesis thus becomes the key for also understanding modern America. Due to the long-term impact of ascetic Protestantism, the American public sphere has been pervaded by positive values and an active disposition, making a retreat into private life, typical of fin de siècle German “Kulturpessimismus,” unnecessary (chapt. 2). In contrast to German Lutherans, American Puritans have made work a key value in social life (chapt. 3). In contrast to Tocqueville, Weber explains the strong role of voluntary associations in American democracy more accurately by tracing their origins to ascetic Protestantism (chapt. 4). Disagreements on foreign policy between Germany and the U.S., as for example in the case of America’s invasion of Iraq, have to take into account the strand of idealistic moralism in American foreign policy that can be traced back to ascetic Protestantism. Because of that tradition, America simply has a different political culture, which explains its...

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HERMANN WELLENREUTHER, Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730-1830 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 384 pp.
May10

HERMANN WELLENREUTHER, Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730-1830 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 384 pp.

HERMANN WELLENREUTHER, Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730-1830 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 384 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     Hermann Wellenreuther, writing about the experience of Pennsylvania Germans in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, notes that “the large majority of scholars assume that magic brought the books to the potential customers” (23).  While perhaps an exaggeration of the often text-centered approach to the study of printed material in early North America, Wellenreuther brings to the fore distribution and distributors, in addition to production and content, in his characterization of peddlers as “the link between producers of goods, such as printers of broadsides and books, and consumers” (23).  Emphasizing the role of itinerant salesmen is just one way that he peoples his incredibly detailed story of German-language broadsides in North America in the monograph Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730-1830.  This book should be viewed as part of a larger research project resulting in a series of end products.  A group of scholars based at Georg-August University at Göttingen, including Wellenreuther, librarian Reimer Eck, and research bibliographers Dr. Carola Wessel and Dr. Anne von Kamp, crafted a plan to identify broadsides printed in North America for a German-reading audience based on the initial findings of librarian Dr. Werner Tannhoff.  With funding from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft beginning in 2000, they were able to document 1,682 examples.  In addition to this monograph—in which the author often uses the first person plural “we” to describe the work undertaken—the project resulted in a printed bibliography, also published by the Pennsylvania State University Press, and an internet database hosted by Penn State’s library and available at: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/GermanLanguageBroadsides.html.  The latter remains a living source with the ability for other researchers to add additional information and newly discovered broadsides. The research team began by defining a broadside as being “printed on a single sheet [of paper] on either one or both sides irrespective of its contents” (3).  In the context of early America, a broadside might also be known as a “handbill” or a “sheet” (6).  Broadsides could range from real estate advertisements, to hymns, to election announcements, to devotional material, to postings of stud fees for horses.  Color images of 16 broadsides are included in a color section of the book; additional black and white images are found interspersed with the text.  In establishing the scope of the project, Wellenreuther and his collaborators chose to exclude printed forms and hand written texts, as well as longer...

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MARTIN PAUL EVE, Pynchon and Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Foucault and Adorno (Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillian, 2014), 229 pp.   LUC HERMAN and STEVEN WEISENBURGER, Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination and Freedom (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013), 258 pp.
May07

MARTIN PAUL EVE, Pynchon and Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Foucault and Adorno (Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillian, 2014), 229 pp. LUC HERMAN and STEVEN WEISENBURGER, Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination and Freedom (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013), 258 pp.

MARTIN PAUL EVE, Pynchon and Philosophy: Wittgenstein, Foucault and Adorno (Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillian, 2014), 229 pp. LUC HERMAN and STEVEN WEISENBURGER, Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination and Freedom (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013), 258 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   As if already prematurely preparing for the slowly approaching semi-centennial anniversary of the publication of Thomas Pynchon’s epochal Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)[1], the so-called Pynchon-industry has produced two important studies that re-engage with one of the most important authors of twentieth century American, if not world literature—although some critics would debate his standing in the twenty-first century, given his latest publications. Notably, with Martin Eve’s Pynchon and Philosophy and Luc Herman and Steven Weisenburger’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Freedom, and Domination, one gets a glimpse of what could be termed first and second generation Pynchon criticism: Weisenburger’s seminal work A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion from 1988 is still an incomparable help to for first-time readers of Pynchon’s novel before the community went online and launched its Pynchonwiki,[2] while Herman co-edited, amongst other things, the Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon; Eve is the co-founder of the open access online journal Orbit: Writing around Pynchon, launched in 2012. Despite the fact that the two studies indeed assume entirely different approaches to Pynchon’s texts, both monographs highlight the cultural importance of Thomas Pynchon and thereby indeed show that any such separations are highly constructed, or, as Gravity’s Rainbow has it: both books rather mark a scholarly interface “[w]here ideas of the opposite have come together, and lost their oppositeness” (50). At least on a superficial orthographical level, Martin Paul Eve’s Pynchon and Philosophy singles up all lines with recent Pynchon scholarship. This is because in echoing Pynchon’s penchant for patterns, for “Kute Korrespondences,” as Gravity’s Rainbow aptly puts it (600), Eve’s monograph closes ranks with other recent related studies that also play with the allusive possibilities that Pynchon’s surname elicits: besides Hanjo Berressem’s Pynchon’s Poetics (1993), Samuel Thomas’s Pynchon and the Political (2007), or Sascha Pöhlmann’s Pynchon’s Postnational Imagination (2010),[3] Eve’s book evokes yet another alliterative field that, arguably, seems doubly questionable in the context of Pynchon studies. On the one hand, Pynchon’s texts display an implicit and explicit incredulity towards any systematic thought such as philosophy. While Eve is aware of this methodological friction, this obviously does not mean that one cannot attempt such an endeavor, or as he himself puts it: “we need not be overly worried about critically dominating Pynchon’s work; his texts are more than capable of fighting back” (130). On the other hand, it also begs the question whether a literary study in the twenty-first century that deals with Pynchon and philosophy...

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MIRIAM KUROSZCZYK, Poetic Brokers: Robert Hayden, Melvin B. Tolson, and International Modernism in African American Poetry ( Trier: wvt, 2013, Mosaic: Studien und Texte zur amerikanischen Kultur und Geschichte 47), 193 pp.
May07

MIRIAM KUROSZCZYK, Poetic Brokers: Robert Hayden, Melvin B. Tolson, and International Modernism in African American Poetry ( Trier: wvt, 2013, Mosaic: Studien und Texte zur amerikanischen Kultur und Geschichte 47), 193 pp.

MIRIAM KUROSZCZYK, Poetic Brokers: Robert Hayden, Melvin B. Tolson, and International Modernism in African American Poetry ( Trier: wvt, 2013, Mosaic: Studien und Texte zur amerikanischen Kultur und Geschichte 47), 193 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   This dissertation sets out to correct race-based misconceptions regarding the poetics and the sociopolitical perspectives of two African American poets whose works, the author claims, need to be reread and freshly understood within the modernist movement as an international cultural phenomenon (see, for instance, 2). According to Kuroszczyk, “[b]oth Hayden and Tolson share visions of advancing mankind toward a future of freedom and equality” (2), albeit from contrasting vantage points of religious belief (Hayden was a member of the Bahá’í Faith) and of the Marxist international (which determined Tolson’s outlook). In Hayden’s case, a universal perspective on mankind transcends race as the poet’s sole concern; in Tolson’s case, the African American experience is brought into sharp relief by relating it to modernism (4). The author proceeds from delineating the poets’ respective aesthetics (chapters one and two) to discussing further poems (chapters three and four) and thus intending to offer unprecedented ways of reading these poets’ works from what she calls a “cross-cultural” vantage point (see 9, 11, 14 et passim). As a result of these readings, she argues, Hayden and Tolson emerge as poets who “realize [. . .] their premise of art as social agent” (18). The two chapters following the introduction explain the respective genesis of the two writers’ poetics. Following in the footsteps of John Hatcher’s groundbreaking study of Hayden’s work as seen through the lens of his religious beliefs, Kuroszczyk—who also conducted research at the National Bahá’í Archives in Illinois and who includes reproductions of manuscript pages—explores the significance of the central principles of Hayden’s faith for his work as a poet. The exploration of this side of Hayden’s thinking is laudable because most critics in the past have avoided acknowledging it altogether. Although the research project as a whole certainly deserves praise, pressing questions remain. Tolson’s Christianity-infused Marxism could be explained in further detail (see 45-48) so that the comparison between the two authors’ outlooks becomes clearer. The distinction between Hayden’s ostensibly “monolithic universalism” and Tolson’s tripartite universalism (71) deserves more discussion. As this is a comparative study, the analysis of Tolson’s poems in the second chapter could be enhanced by pointing out details such as similarities to Hayden’s works (e.g., weaving metaphors in Tolson’s “Tapestries of Time” [75] and in Hayden’s “Middle Passage”), the use of musical forms as tropes (78), the fact that Tolson and Hayden often refer to the same historical figures (78-79), as...

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ANNE-MARIE SCHOLZ, From Fidelity to History. Film Adaptations as Cultural Events in the Twentieth Century (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013), 227pp.
May07

ANNE-MARIE SCHOLZ, From Fidelity to History. Film Adaptations as Cultural Events in the Twentieth Century (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013), 227pp.

ANNE-MARIE SCHOLZ, From Fidelity to History. Film Adaptations as Cultural Events in the Twentieth Century (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013), 227pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     2013 has been a highly productive year for adaptation studies and has seen a number of publications addressing a broad spectrum of aspects of this field of research.[1] What distinguishes Anne-Marie Scholz’s new book from these studies is her deliberate focus on the influence of the historic circumstances surrounding the production as well as the reception of filmic adaptations of literary sources. According to Scholz, the two paradigmatic approaches in adaptation studies—the “fidelity model” as well as the “model of intertextual dialogism” (2)—neglect, in their textuality-based analyses, “all notions of historical materialism in favor of a ‘free play of signification’” (2) and have, in consequence, considerable shortcomings when it comes to the analysis of “the significance of film adaptations as social and cultural events in history” (3). The title of the book—From Fidelity to History—is therefore programmatic: Scholz’s analysis focuses on the question of how specific historic situations equally affect the processes of adapting literary works for the silver screen as well as the reception of these adaptations by audiences and critics alike. Drawing on the theories of Barbara Klinger and Janet Staiger, Scholz understands adaptation “as a form of reception […] on the three-tiered level of, first, the relation between the literary work and the film director and production teams; second, between literary work, film, and historically specific audience reception; and, third, between the films and my own readings[.]” (3). This notion of adaptation provides the theoretical and methodological backdrop for a detailed study of two highly distinct bodies of film that Scholz analyzes with a special accentuation on their transnational character. The first of the two sections that constitute the book is entitled “Post-Cold War Readings of the Receptions of Blockbuster Adaptations in Cold War West Germany 1950-1963” and focuses on three classics: The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949), The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) and The Trail (Orson Welles, 1962). These films can be seen as quintessential examples of mid-twentieth century cinematic transnationalism as they are all based on texts by European authors that have been adapted by Anglo-American producers for an international target audience. Scholz embeds her close readings in a vast number of extra-diegetic sources—production histories, advertising strategies, newspaper reviews as well as works on political and cultural history—in order to analyze particularly “the ways in which German audiences created interconnections between cultural and political issues in their responses to these films and what role the relationship between literature and film played...

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CORNELIS A. VAN MINNEN AND MANFRED BERG, The U. S. South and Europe:  Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Lexington:  University Press of Kentucky, 2013), 316 pp.
May06

CORNELIS A. VAN MINNEN AND MANFRED BERG, The U. S. South and Europe: Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013), 316 pp.

CORNELIS A. VAN MINNEN AND MANFRED BERG, The U. S. South and Europe:  Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Lexington:  University Press of Kentucky, 2013), 316 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.2/3   If ever scholars saw the southern United States as an isolated region preoccupied with parochial concerns, the edited volume The U. S. South and Europe will dispel such old stereotypes.  What appears in the narratives of the fourteen essays included here is a distinctive area long engaged in global concerns.  The scholarship on the Atlantic World has demonstrated this point already, especially in the context of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonization, but the work at hand advances the field of study by demonstrating a triangulated approach that places the South within the context of Europe and the United States.  The old binaries of North versus South and black versus white that have driven academic inquiry for decades, give way as the authors consider new questions about the influence of Europe on the South and the impact of ethnicity on the region while also taking into account the United States.  By approaching the South through the lens of Europe, these essays offer a fresh look at the region. The subtitle clarifies the timeframe as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with nearly one hundred and fifty years covered—albeit unevenly—from the 1830s to the 1970s. Five chapters are set in the Antebellum South, one during the Civil War, two in the 1890s, two in the early twentieth century, two during the Second World War, and the last two in the Civil Rights Era.  Likewise, the subject matter shows the region from a variety of Western European perspectives, from that of German travelers, French journalists, British reformers, Italian immigrants, and Swedish researchers in the U. S. South, to southern perceptions of Renaissance Italy, Medieval Europe, English evangelicals, and African decolonization.  In short, the breadth makes the volume valuable. Opening the book is the essay “Southerners Abroad:  Europe and Cultural Encounter, 1830-1895” by William A. Link, who uses travel accounts of southerners who toured Europe in the nineteenth century to suggest how tourism influenced the region’s thinking about the old country.  In a novel approach that considers issues of race and gender through a reading of black and white, male and female accounts, Link discovers European travel presented some women an escape from the patriarchy and for African Americans a romanticized escape from the harshness of white supremacy.  In “Alexis de Tocqueville and Three German Travel Accounts on the Antebellum South and New Orleans,” Thomas Clark inverts the gaze.  While the Frenchman has long been a staple of studies that...

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JENNA M. GIBBS, Performing the Temple of Liberty: Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760-1850 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), 313 pp.
May06

JENNA M. GIBBS, Performing the Temple of Liberty: Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760-1850 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), 313 pp.

JENNA M. GIBBS, Performing the Temple of Liberty: Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760-1850 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), 313 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.2/3 Over the last two decades, theater scholars such as Joseph Roach, Peter Reed, and Jeffrey Richards have studied early American theatrical culture as part of a circum- or transatlantic performance network. Performing the Temple of Liberty: Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760-1850 builds on the tradition of this scholarship. In focusing on two eighteenth-century theatrical centers, one in the Old World, the other in the New, Jenna M. Gibbs traces the impact of popular performance on and off the stage on political debates surrounding slavery, abolition, race, and class. She investigates how plays and other printed materials, such as images, cartoons, broadsides, poems, and songs travelled between London and Philadelphia, arguing that the permeability and exchange between print and performance “helped create a transatlantic lexicon of slavery and antislavery” (7). This lexicon, however, was not stable, but was influenced by specific local social and political dynamics and shifted considerably over the almost one hundred years the book covers. Gibbs’s skillful negotiation of the tension between local conditions and transatlantic exchanges is one of the book’s greatest strengths. Her argument is grounded in thorough research of cultural performance in London and Philadelphia while extrapolating from there how the transatlantic migration of printed materials shaped pro- and antislavery discourses in Britain, the early United States, and the British Atlantic at large.   In her first set of chapters, Gibbs explores the contested meaning of liberty and equality on both sides of the Atlantic in the wake of the American Revolution as embodied in the two neoclassical figures of Britannia and Columbia. Chapter one focuses on how the figure of Columbia inspired a symbolic repertoire of images and new performance traditions, such as “oral blackface,” that ridiculed black people and excluded them from the American republican project, and Columbia’s “Temple of Liberty.” Chapter two shows how Britons cast Britannia as an anti-slavery icon in reaction to the loss of the American colony. Gibbs demonstrates how stage performances and printed materials celebrating the 1807 abolition of the slave trade became invested with a pronounced liberalism that conveniently ignored the continued practice of chattel slavery in the British colonies. In chapter three, Gibbs examines the role of Africa in British and American anti-slavery thought. She shows how ideas about race and the position of black people in society first articulated in missionary accounts, travel narratives, and scientific treatises seeped into poetry, drama, and contemporary imagery, which were in turn popularized through stage...

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JENNIFER CLARK, The American Idea of England, 1776-1840: Transatlantic Writing (Aldershot: Ashgate,2013), 232 pp.
May03

JENNIFER CLARK, The American Idea of England, 1776-1840: Transatlantic Writing (Aldershot: Ashgate,2013), 232 pp.

Jennifer Clark, The American Idea of England, 1776-1840: Transatlantic Writing (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013), 232 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.2/3 In just a few words, Jennifer Clark succinctly expresses the guiding assumption of her monograph claiming that “[i]f the lines between American and English culture were blurred, the political differences were sharp and always in focus” (157). Read the other way around, i.e. that following political independence, cultural allegiances between the United States and England remained in focus, this sentence encapsulates the central concern of much recent research in the burgeoning field of transatlantic literary studies. Numerous monographs and essay collections have, over the last ten years or so, revisited the literary and cultural connections between colonial America and the United States, respectively, and Great Britain (Clark, tellingly, focuses on England only). Perforating American literary history by contesting the notion of exceptionalism that has steered the direction of American studies for a long time, these scholars have reexamined periods, authors, genres, reception processes, media and book history as well as mentalities and cultural sensitivities by virtue of their transatlantic investments. As Clark points out elsewhere in her book, transatlantic studies seek to leave behind binary models of conceptualizing the relationship between the two nations, providing a more “accommodating and multi-dimensional framework” (16) for the many, yet relatively unexplored, phenomena that are subsumed by the category transatlantic relations.             Clark responds to this call for multi-dimensionality and complexity in the six main chapters that her monograph comprises (in addition to the Introduction and Conclusion), covering a refreshing and innovative combination of textual genres and discourses. These chapters are meant to put into relief different platforms that US-American writers used to envisage England after the Revolution, thereby honing the American self-image. Clark’s argument is that “[…] post-revolutionary American society was significantly concerned with the intellectual condition of no longer being formally connected to Great Britain, that this was important and engrossing, and that the process was seen as a nationalistic concern. American culture should be interpreted as a product of transatlantic interaction rather than conflict”(15).             In chapter one, Clark traces the precarious and changing significance of Anglophilia within US-American political discourse after the Revolution. Once praised as signs of erudition and taste, the (rhetorical) appreciation of English things—ranging from furniture to the monarchy—could now come across as pro-English leaning and thus a destabilizing factor. This affected early political writing in the United States where certain expressions acquired a threatening edge. Chapter two looks at the allegorical representation of John Bull, the “earthy persona for the English nation” (57), as a prime example of the “[…] direct and unequivocal literary mimicry, ideological borrowing...

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WALTER JOHNSON, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2013), 526 pp.
Feb27

WALTER JOHNSON, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2013), 526 pp.

WALTER JOHNSON, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2013), 526 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 In River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, tries to correct, if not completely turn on its head, the dominating perspective on antebellum America. According to the most widely shared interpretation of the period, the North rapidly developed into a modern, capitalist, industrial, and aggressively expansionist society over the course of the nineteenth century, whereas the South—remaining premodern, quasifeudal, and agricultural—fought a rearguard action to defend the status quo and eventually broke away from the union once Southerners realized that time was not on their side in the sectional power struggle over the nature of westward expansionism. Johnson challenges this narrative in two ways. First, he depicts the Mississippi Valley (incorporating parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri) as a vibrant and dynamic region whose slave-holding inhabitants were at the forefront of the nineteenth-century capitalist revolution rather than backward-looking traditionalists, took full advantage of new technologies such as the steam boat, operated their plantations in highly sophisticated and systematic ways, and employed modern management techniques. According to Johnson, it was no coincidence that “by 1860, there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the United States” (5). Second, Johnson leaves the national framework of the well-known story about how the North and South became increasingly alienated from each other behind by putting the Mississippi Valley slave-holders in a global context: he shows them to be key players in the emerging global capitalist system who had utopian dreams of building a worldwide slave empire, reopening the transatlantic slave trade, and turning the South into an international trading hub. He thus traces “the history of alternative visions of what ‘the South’ might look like” by asking “where Southerners (and slave-holders in particular) thought they were going and how they thought they could pull it off in the first place” rather than defining the South in hindsight simply as the states that seceded from the union in 1860/61 and consequently merely inquiring “what ‘the South’ was leaving” (16). It is hardly possible to concisely summarize the multitude of Johnson’s arguments and to critically assess all the claims he makes in his book of fourteen chapters and more than 500 pages, which combines ecological, economic, and cultural history and makes use of a wide range of primary sources such as newspapers, slave narratives, legal documents, personal correspondence, pamphlets,...

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HEIKE SCHWARZ, Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Fiction (Bielefeld: transcript, 2013), 456 pp.
Feb27

HEIKE SCHWARZ, Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Fiction (Bielefeld: transcript, 2013), 456 pp.

HEIKE SCHWARZ, Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Fiction (Bielefeld: transcript, 2013), 456 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 Memoirs, novels, films, and academic studies in the humanities frequently establish a counter discourse to medical science, highlighting the narrative forces at work in illness and often promoting an understanding of illness as culturally determined, constructed, and flexible. Perceptions of mental illness can be shaped by “objective” medical knowledge (as found, for example, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the subjective experience of suffering, and fictional as well as non-fictional representations thereof. Multiple personality disorder (MPD), or dissociative identity disorder (DID), the subject of Heike Schwarz’s Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Fiction , lends itself as a perfect case study of the definitional complications brought about by the absence of scientific evidence. Because of this epistemological gap, as Schwarz translates from the German Brockhaus Psychologie, MPD has frequently been designated to be “an artificial product of therapeutics” (133). This embeds the disorder in a long tradition of doubt and anxiety over illnesses of uncertain etiology, from hysteria to chronic pain syndrome.  Schwarz’s comprehensive analysis of the reconfigurations of MPD/DID over time through both medical and fictional texts is a timely and fascinating illumination of these discourses’ impacts on, or even productions of, mental illness. By revealing the fundamental influence of fictional discourse on definitions of mental illness, Schwarz’s pioneering interdisciplinary study of MPD/DID bridges the gap between the sciences and the humanities. Schwarz puts forward the thesis that in fact popular definitions of the disorder mainly originate in the field of fiction rather than psychiatric theory (cf. 15). The concept of multiple personality, as she suggests, “is now a fixed part of popular culture with a genre and subgenres of its own in a self-referential mode presenting the trope of multiple personality as a vivid metaphor of not only individual trauma or (patho)subjectivity but of the contemporary subject within a fragmented society” (13).[1] Her study exhibits the many facets of the disorder and its inextricable connection to popular culture through a wealth of psychiatric and literary sources, working towards a more inclusive and interdisciplinary understanding of MPD through an examination of the reciprocal interrelations between the two discursive fields. The book is structured in three parts: “History and Theory,” “The Culture-Embedded Syndrome – Multiple Personality and Dissociation in American Fiction,” and “Contemporary Variations in Selected Novels.” In part one (“History and Theory”), Schwarz traces psychiatric theories and famous historical cases of MPD/DID and distinguishes it from related mental disorders like hysteria and...

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JACE WEAVER, The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927 (Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 2014), XIV + 340 pp.
Feb27

JACE WEAVER, The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927 (Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 2014), XIV + 340 pp.

JACE WEAVER, The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927 (Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 2014), XIV + 340 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 The dust jacket of this handsomely designed hardcover shows (parts of) Cherokee artist America Meredith’s ‘naïve’ painting “St. Brendan: He Came, He Saw, He went Back Home.”  This tongue-in-cheek title is a very fitting and witty comment on Weaver’s study because it ironically echoes Julius Caesar’s famous imperialist statement veni, vidi, vici, but unlike the Roman emperor, the Irish saint made no attempt at conquest. The painting shows St. Brendan and seven monks leaving North America. Near the shore there are three Indigenous individuals who resemble the Eastern Algonquins sketched by John White on Roanoke Island more than four hundred years ago, and even the coastline recalls the mappings of the times. The Natives on the green continent are watching the departure, two of them waving goodbye, another just pondering. One of the monks in Brendan’s vessel is waving a white handkerchief at the Indigenes, while the others are facing east, praying, reading, watching a seagull, or scanning the horizon. The saint in the bow with his bishop’s biretta and crosier is also facing east towards Europe, while behind him there’s another monk leaning over the ship’s side looking at a smiling green whale on whose back the entire vessel appears to be resting. Absorbing the curious monk’s attention is a tiny pink turtle on this side of the ship, riding on the whale’s back. Well-known from Haudenosaunee and other First Nations’ creation stories, the turtle seems to indicate that there is an American presence on its way to Europe, just as the memories of Brendan’s presence might linger with the Indigenes who are waving him goodbye: traces of a polite visit, long before the Columbian Exchange began. In recorded history, however, there were no such peaceful encounters that left the Indigenes unscathed and resulted in the Europeans going “back home” peacefully and empty-handed. Quite to the contrary, as Weaver’s study shows. In his preface, Jace Weaver positions himself biographically and in relation to the research of earlier studies, and he gives as his objective “to restore Indians and Inuit to the Atlantic world and demonstrate their centrality to that world, a position equally important to, if not more important than, the Africans of Gilroy’s black Atlantic” (xi). So it is against Gilroy’s foundational work[1] that Weaver’s book needs to be read as well as against a host of earlier studies dealing with history and literature related to American Indigenous people, who were involved in that Atlantic world...

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JOSEPH F. KETT, Merit: The History of a Founding Ideal from the American Revolution to the 21st Century (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2013), 344 pp.
Feb27

JOSEPH F. KETT, Merit: The History of a Founding Ideal from the American Revolution to the 21st Century (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2013), 344 pp.

JOSEPH F. KETT, Merit: The History of a Founding Ideal from the American Revolution to the 21st Century (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2013), 344 pp.   Analyzing notions like religious pluralism,[1] republican virtue,[2] or the pursuit of happiness,[3] historians of U.S. intellectual history have repeatedly engaged with complex notions associated with the founding of the nation. In doing so they not only deliver what has come to be called “conceptual histories”[4] but usually also aim to demonstrate how these histories relate to the current understanding and relevance of respective ideas. Joseph F. Kett adds merit to this ever-growing list. With that, he tackles a concept that, despite its prominence in public discourse, has never really been systematically researched. The author maintains that one explanation for this imbalance lies in the contentious debate about how merit can best be measured. Kett’s book, therefore, not only presents an intellectual history of merit itself but just as much, or even more so, a history of the various ways Americans have sought to establish and assess merit.   Without necessarily re-asserting American Exceptionalism, Kett points out that merit has long been considered particularly important in the United States. Due to the lack of a hereditary aristocracy, all stratification of society including politics, the military, and the professions, could only be acceptable on the basis of merit. Thomas Jefferson memorably coined the phrase “natural aristocracy” of the “talented, virtuous and wealthy” (47). John Adams, on the other hand, was skeptical: He worried about how, for example, it would be possible to distinguish between mere popularity and true merit (cf. 48). Adams was particularly concerned if it was left up to society—or worse, “the multitude”—to decide this question (261). Thus Adams’s criticism already hits on two key problems of dealing with the concept of merit: The difficulty of comprehensively defining it and subsequently identifying it correctly. Kett’s analysis reveals a close connection between these two challenges. What we recognize as merit, of course, heavily depends on what we value as worthy. While it might be possible to measure intelligence or a specific skill in marks and grades, how do we measure the merit of character? While the former might, to a certain extent, be broken down into fields of knowledge or ability, it is a lot more difficult to establish what exactly is (a) good character.   The author approaches this tension both historically and sociologically. First, he explores how the emphasis has changed over time as merit was defined in various ways. During the Revolution and the Early Republic, the concept of merit was closely tied to the concept of character, a term...

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FRANK BARON, Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters, Yearbook of German-American Studies, Supplemental Issue, Vol. IV (Topeka, KS: The Society for German-American Studies, 2012), 254 pp.
Feb27

FRANK BARON, Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters, Yearbook of German-American Studies, Supplemental Issue, Vol. IV (Topeka, KS: The Society for German-American Studies, 2012), 254 pp.

FRANK BARON, Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters, Yearbook of German-American Studies, Supplemental Issue, Vol. IV (Topeka, KS: The Society for German-American Studies, 2012), 254 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.1 In Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters, Frank Baron aims to tie together two important strands of research on nineteenth-century America that had previously been mostly dealt with independently. While the bulk of Lincoln studies only cursorily glanced at German immigrants, by far the most numerous group of newcomers in antebellum America and thus a major factor in any ambitious politician’s calculations, German-American studies rarely found Lincoln at the center of their attention. Yet Baron claims that in the years leading up to the 1860 presidential election the eventual Republican candidate not only “recognized the power of the German vote” but there even was a “quiet alliance between German-Americans and Abraham Lincoln” (3). Ironically, the structure of Baron’s book reflects the aforementioned problems of historiography. While the first half almost exclusively deals with certain aspects of German-American political participation in the United States (Lincoln only makes a short appearance when he meets with German dignitaries on a trip to Kansas in 1859), the final three chapters mostly cover the well-known stories of Lincoln’s nomination and election, without offering too much new insight into the role German-Americans played in the process. In between, though, the author presents a brief yet intriguing analysis on Lincoln’s efforts to secure the German immigrant vote for his party, and ultimately, for himself. When Baron speaks of German-Americans he often, albeit not always, really means members of Turner societies and the so-called Forty-Eighters, whose revolutionary experience and love of freedom forced (or at least incited) them to emigrate to the United States and made them natural allies of the antislavery Republican party. Baron starts out by giving a short history of the New York Turner Society that greatly benefits from his access to previously unused sources from the organization’s archives. With the Turners’ attention shifting from labor-related issues to the antislavery movement after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska-Act in 1854, Baron directs his own focus to the free states’ campaign against slavery in Kansas. He finds that Germans, often of Turner or Forty-Eighter background, were eager to participate in the Emigrant Aid Societies’ efforts to send free settlers to the contested territory. Some of them even joined John Brown in his battles with slaveholding ‘border ruffians’ from neighboring Missouri. Rather unexpectedly, Baron then moves on to the nativist challenge of immigrant power in the United States. The Know-Nothings of the 1850s were deeply suspicious of beer-drinking, strange-talking, and often...

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WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ and CHRISTIAN FEEST, eds., Native Americans and First Nations: A Transnational Challenge (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2009), 259 pp.
Feb27

WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ and CHRISTIAN FEEST, eds., Native Americans and First Nations: A Transnational Challenge (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2009), 259 pp.

WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ and CHRISTIAN FEEST, eds., Native Americans and First Nations: A Transnational Challenge (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2009), 259 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.1 This book revisits indigenous issues through a transnational lens and is a major contribution to this field. It connects the study of colonial history and politics, cultural contacts, and neo/colonial with postcolonial practices of representation across the Atlantic and across North American borders. Borders that we know do not exist for a number of indigenous nations, for example the Blackfeet (Canada) or Blackfoot (United States), as illustrated in Thomas King’s wonderful short story “Borders,” and the Mohawk at Akwesasne, as highlighted through trafficking across the St. Lawrence in the challenging film Frozen River (dir. Courtney Hunt, 2008). The book discusses recent key topics within Indigenous Studies from transnational and transcultural perspectives, such as indigenous knowledges and settler bio- and geopolitics, especially in connection with globalization, migration patterns, and flow of goods, moneys, culture, and intellectual property. This book is thus a timely addition to the scholarly works in indigenous Studies that take up ‘transnational challenges.’This book is thus a timely addition to the scholarly works in Indigenous Studies that take up ‘transnational challenges,’ with a collection of interdisciplinary articles that are the result of a research colloquium at the University of Vienna in 2006. It was organized by Waldemar Zacharasiewicz, himself a longstanding scholar of transnational American and Canadian Studies and Christian Feest, Europe’s foremost ethnologist in the field, then director of the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna. In his introduction, Zacharasiewicz gives an overview over the history of Native Studies in Europe as well as the essays by eminent Native Studies scholars and younger colleagues. Nancy Bunge starts the collection with her essay “The Wheeler Family and the Intimate Middle Ground,” in which she uses Richard White’s concept of the ‘middle ground’ —the relationships between Native people and settlers concerning political and economic aspects—and extends this concept to long-lasting intimate relations between these cultures. On the basis of archival documents, she describes the story of the missionary Leonard Wheeler and his family who lived among the Ojibwe in Wisconsin between 1842 and 1866, a cultural contact marked by appreciation and sympathy, respect for resistance to conversion, critique of government politics toward Native people, and gradually changing Eurocentric attitudes of Wheeler and his family. This essay largely remains in a descriptive historiographic mode and therefore wants some more theoretical discussion of the “intimate middle ground” as also a more critical stance towards remaining condescending attitudes and acts of the Wheelers. In her essay “Going Native: Emily Carr’s Road to Regeneration,” Carmen Birkle outlines cultural contact...

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KORNELIA FREITAG and BRIAN REED, Modern American Poetry: Points of Access
Feb27

KORNELIA FREITAG and BRIAN REED, Modern American Poetry: Points of Access

KORNELIA FREITAG and BRIAN REED, Modern American Poetry: Points of Access. (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), xii + 236. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 What do Terry Eagleton and Marjorie Perloff have in common? As the introduction by Kornelia Freitag and Brian Reed points out, both scholars deplore students’ unwillingness to attend to the linguistic specificities of poetry. Instead, they tend to offer “bizarre” (7) (Perloff) opinions about the supposed meaning of poems without engaging with questions of form. Implicit in Eagleton and Perloff is the assumption that this was different in the past, therefore one might well ask: “What has happened?” (8). This is not the question the introduction addresses, though. Instead, it tackles the slightly different question why there has been a steady increase in publications concerned with the teaching of poetry ever since the 1920s. The rise of creative writing programs, the decline of the New Criticism and its appreciation of formal analysis, the marginalization of poetry within American Literature, the rise of approaches that stress cultural conditions such as feminism, postcolonialism, and queer theory are a somewhat contradictory array of factors: Why are there more and more books on teaching poetry if it is deemed less important to teach? Perhaps it has been deemed increasingly difficult to teach? Somewhere in the introduction’s depiction of developments in the literary and educational fields, there lurks the suspicion that perhaps these pedagogical books have not been very effective: either teachers have not managed to convey the skills considered missing, or students do not care and prefer their own approaches anyways.   The good news is that there is a vibrant interest in American poetry, both in terms of production and in terms of reception. And, as the eleven contributors to the book testify, there are scholars and teachers who believe that they can provide points of access to poetry including an engagement with form and language. Their contributions are listed chronologically according to the poetry they discuss, beginning with Lisa Simon’s “Teaching War Poetry: A Dialogue Between the Grit and the Glory,” which briefly discusses an excerpt from Joel Barlow’s “Columbiad”, and ending with Martina Pfeiler’s article on Slam Poetry. There are different ways of grouping these texts—the introduction distinguishes between three essays on single poets (Dickinson, Stein, O’Hara), three essays on groups of writers (Imagists, Confessional Poets, Indian-American Poets), and four essays reporting directly on teaching experiences and sharing didactic insights. For the purposes of a critical discussion, however, it seems appropriate to ask what the contributors consider as advisable access points and how they suggest using them.   There is, for instance, the didactic question as to whether one begins...

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VÉRONIQUE BRAGARD, CHRISTOPHE DONY, and WARREN ROSENBERG, eds., Portraying 9/11: Essays on Representations in Comics, Literature, Film and Theatre (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 176 pp.   MICHAEL C. FRANK and EVA GRUBER, eds., Literature and Terrorism: Comparative Perspectives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), 276 pp.
Feb27

VÉRONIQUE BRAGARD, CHRISTOPHE DONY, and WARREN ROSENBERG, eds., Portraying 9/11: Essays on Representations in Comics, Literature, Film and Theatre (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 176 pp. MICHAEL C. FRANK and EVA GRUBER, eds., Literature and Terrorism: Comparative Perspectives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), 276 pp.

VÉRONIQUE BRAGARD, CHRISTOPHE DONY, and WARREN ROSENBERG, eds., Portraying 9/11: Essays on Representations in Comics, Literature, Film and Theatre (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 176 pp.  MICHAEL C. FRANK and EVA GRUBER, eds., Literature and Terrorism: Comparative Perspectives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), 276 pp.  Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 On September 11, 2013, the official memorial ceremonies in New York had found a quiet routine. Laura Petrecca noted in USA Today that the anniversary had “diminished” over the years: “The news coverage is less. The sadness and anxiety aren’t as palpable;” and Marc Santora wrote in The New York Times that the memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center site “has taken on the familiarity of ritual.”[1] At the same time, academics continue to engage in the effort of locating 9/11 within history, both nationally and transnationally. In spite of many recurrent themes and topoi (such as the exceptionalist discourse on ‘national trauma,’ or the tacit correlation between mourning and patriotism, or even military action), the debates about the role and relevancy of 9/11 continue to evolve into new directions and to unearth original or previously unnoticed trends of discourse. The recent academic book market mirrors this trend, with publications such as Christian Kloeckner’s, Simone Knewitz’s and Sabine Sielke’s encyclopedic and rewardingly diverse collection, Beyond 9/11: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Twenty-First Century U.S. American Culture (Frankfurt: Lang, 2013), or Georgiana Banita’s insightful monograph study Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11 (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2012). If these and the two volumes to be addressed here are any indicator, the public interest in the attacks and their long-term reverberations is far from being exhausted.   The memorialization of 9/11 in contemporary forms of fiction, poetry, graphic novels and comics, film, theater, performance, and the visual arts has become a widely transnational venture, and especially a transatlantic one, as these two collections also illustrate. Portraying 9/11, edited by a Belgian and American team of editors, features eleven articles from the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and Literature and Terrorism, edited by two scholars based at Konstanz, brings together eleven German and two U.S.-American perspectives. In the introduction to Portraying 9/11, the editors briefly address current paradigms of approaching the events—e.g., of the “domestication” of 9/11 (Žižek) or the “semiotic greed” (Packard) by which it expands into other discursive fields—and emphasize the continuing relevance and scope of their exploration: “[i]f one can conceive the existence of a so-called ‘9/11 literature,’ one must therefore acknowledge that it is vast, entails many permutations, and continues to expand. Whether approaching the calamities directly or via metonymy, in terms of trauma, culture or...

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MICHAEL FUCHS and MARIA-THERESIA HOLUB, eds., Placing America: American Culture and Its Spaces
Feb27

MICHAEL FUCHS and MARIA-THERESIA HOLUB, eds., Placing America: American Culture and Its Spaces

MICHAEL FUCHS and MARIA-THERESIA HOLUB, eds., Placing America: American Culture and Its Spaces (Bielefeld: transcript, 2013), 213 pp.  Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 The discussion of geographical as well as cultural, literary, and political spaces and places has attracted a lot of attention in the humanities over recent decades. Ever since Henri Levebvre, Edward Soja, Michel Foucault, Doreen Massey, and many others have opened the discussion, which has become subsumed under the name of the spatial turn, space has assumed a central position in critical discourses across scholarly disciplines. Space, these theorists argue, needs to be discussed whenever time and history are, for time and space are inseparable; space is marked by time and history, while time becomes palpable only in and through space. The volume that Michael Fuchs and Maria-Theresia Holub present is positioned within this discourse and contains various texts, which examine the central question of where and when America can be located or placed (cf. 10), thus considering the place of the United States’ both in space and in time. The editors refer back to the extensive spatial narrative of the United States (as in the New World, the frontier, the City Upon a Hill, etc.) that has shaped the American conception or understanding of self—American identity—as a people and nation. This spatial narrative, they argue, is intricately linked to “both a specific moment and place in time” (9), namely the foundation of the United States of America. Thus, space and time co-constitute American identity, or rather identities. Only during the last century has the mystification of America’s spatial narrative ceased and a more honest scholarly examination begun, which acknowledges both Native American sufferings and modern life in North America and includes a glance across U.S. borders. The volume’s first of four parts, “Constructing America from Afar,” includes two reflections on American Studies as a discipline. It opens with a (re)positioning of American Studies as a discipline within a transnational, Leopold Lippert even argues “postnational” (24), context. The transnational scope and practice of American Studies is thus defined programmatically for the entire volume. Lippert proposes the transnational as a “theoretical move, as a scholarly performance rather than a field of study” (26) and goes on to explain performance as “a continuous reenactment that is never a literal repetition” (28) of any one act. The transnational, therefore, expands the field of scholarly interest and prompts scholars to renegotiate and perform knowledge and “explore postnational knowledges” (24) in what Lippert calls a transnational turn. His turn thus entails a new approach and practice in American Studies. Many turns have been proclaimed in cultural studies over the past decades, of which...

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GREGOR HERZFELD, Poe in der Musik: Eine versatile Allianz, Internationale Hochschulschriften
Feb27

GREGOR HERZFELD, Poe in der Musik: Eine versatile Allianz, Internationale Hochschulschriften

GREGOR HERZFELD, Poe in der Musik: Eine versatile Allianz, Internationale Hochschulschriften 590 (Münster: Waxmann, 2013), 232 pp.  Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 This monograph represents the published version of a Habilitationsschrift in musicology accepted at Freie Universität Berlin in 2012. It is encouraging to see that a musicologist focused his postdoctoral dissertation on a subject area which, to a large extent, has been the prerogative of literary scholars and cultural historians but which, doubtless, benefits from the input of further disciplines. As the author points out, it is rather surprising that musicologists have, so far, scarcely contributed to researching the overwhelming number of music-related adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s works and biography (cf. 11). As at least 1,200 compositions have been documented, a monograph can only indicate trends and discuss case studies. Thus, Herzfeld’s central goal and claim reside in demonstrating the versatility of Poe adaptations across centuries, national boundaries, genres, styles, and readings of the author’s and his works’ meanings and transnational cultural significance (cf. 11, 19 et passim). The monograph maps new territory by combining the perspectives and insights of music history, literary scholarship, social sciences, and the history of aesthetics (cf. 13) in the attempt to fathom trends within Poe adaptations regarding atmosphere, constructedness, biography, gender, song, and musical setting (cf. 12). Throughout the study, Herzfeld thus reflects on Poe’s aesthetic theories (as expressed in “The Philosophy of Composition,” “The Poetic Principle,” and his review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales) along with contexts and readings provided by the areas of interest listed above. Unfortunately, the author does not consider adaptation theory or intermediality theory at all and thus disregards current scholarly discourse that could have added analytical depth to his, albeit often impressive and well-written, detailed descriptions and insightful interpretations of Poe’s texts and of their adaptations by composers (see, for instance, Herzfeld’s unanswered, presumably rhetorical question regarding differences between adaptation and appropriation [188], which has been discussed by theorists).[1] Among other things, the outdated belief in the artistic primacy of the source text, which has given way to regarding adaptations as works of art in their own right, remains unaddressed (cf., for instance, 20). Herzfeld begins his study with Claude Debussy’s opera fragment La Chute de la Maison Usher (for which the composer also wrote the libretto based on Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”) as this permits explaining that Poe’s popularity in France predates his acceptance in his country of origin; he subsequently also discusses Poe in relation to other French composers such as Maurice Ravel and Olivier Messiaen. As an Americanist, looking at Poe reception from a transnational perspective would be an attractive...

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FRED TURNER, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia & American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties.
Feb25

FRED TURNER, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia & American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties.

FRED TURNER, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia & American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2013), 365pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.1 (2015)   In 2006’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner connected the rebellious energies behind The Whole Earth Catalog—offering star charts, guidelines for growing-your-own, and a communal withdrawal from big business and big government—to some of the founding figures of the Digital Revolution. The same method of linking two unlikely cultural formations, along with the same overtones of historical irony, shapes his recent “prequel” (10), The Democratic Surround: Multimedia & American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. In a narrative supported by rigorous research and yet still eminently readable, Turner extends his media genealogy backwards in time, showing how the immersive “multi-image, multi-sound-source media environments” (3) we associate with 1960s counterculture, “designed to expand individual consciousness and a sense of membership in the human collective” (8), in fact originated with a group of cold warriors looking for a mode of communication that would reinforce democracy in both the individual and the national character. With the phrase “democratic surround,” Turner coins a term to reach across the “different incarnations” of these immersive multimedia experiences and to express their binding interest in both modeling and actively producing a democratic society (9). In the 1930s and 40s, Turner begins by reminding us, American social scientists worried about the stultifying effects of mass media increasingly saw devices like film, radio, and newspapers as potential organs for fascist propaganda. Turner thickens this familiar story with a representatively graceful movement from one scene to another: a glimpse at the twenty-two thousand gathered for a fascist rally in Madison Square Garden in 1939 helps establish the threat of totalitarian politics at home, while Theodor Adorno’s infamous claim that the chorus of jazz music encourages conformity to the social collective reappears as a provocative example of intellectuals’ critique of mass culture. Taken together, moments like these help Turner establish the causes and consequences of this era’s deep-seated fear of the ‘authoritarian personality’ in more complex terms than they are often treated. Chapter two, in many ways the central articulation of the book’s principles, then demonstrates how a “culture and personality” (54) school of anthropologists, psychologists, and journalists in the United States joined with government organizations like the Committee for National Morale in order to identify a corresponding mode of communication capable of shaping non-authoritarian personalities. Believing “the key to building both a democratic personality and a democratic culture was the transformation of apperception,” figures like Margaret Mead and her husband Gregory Bateson sought to develop immersive experiences...

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Mission Statement

At the meeting of the editorial board in the fall of 2015, the general editor Oliver Scheiding suggested to establish the new position of review editor. I am honored to announce that with the current issue I have joined the editorial team and serve as the first review editor of Amerikastudien / American Studies. As of issue 59.1 (2014), reviews have been available exclusively online, with the effect that access and visibility have increased considerably. Online publication also offers the chance of moderately extending the list of reviews. I would like to take advantage of this change by introducing the arrangement of reviews in groups related to disciplinary subfields and / or themes. Readers will find the particular focus in the rubrication(s) heading the list of reviews that is still offered in each printed issue. Predictably, there will be exceptions to the rule. On the one hand, such categorization depends on the ample availability of respective reviews and thus may not always be possible. On the other hand, any strict observation of rubricating all reviews might lead to the unwanted neglect of such publications that either do not fit into any common category or that fall under a rubric that happens to have been chosen in a recent issue. As has been pointed out by the general editors past and present, a journal strongly relies on the active participation of its readers for providing a vital space of lively exchanges of ideas and critical debates in our field. I would therefore like to thank our readers who have contributed to this exchange by offering their expertise by way of writing reviews or recommending books that should be considered for review. As to the future, I would like to encourage all readers of Amerikastudien / American Studies to join the discussion—vociferously! Christa Buschendorf Review...

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Jared Gardner, The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture. Reviewed by Matthew Pethers
Nov09

Jared Gardner, The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture. Reviewed by Matthew Pethers

JARED GARDNER, The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2012), 203 pp. Reviewed by Matthew Pethers  Amerikastudien / American Studies 59.4 (2014) In surveying the field that Jared Gardner’s essential new book intervenes into, an optimistic observer might adapt his chosen title to offer the headline: “The Rise and Rise of American Magazine Studies.” Whether best seen as an adjunct of the recent turn to book history, an outcrop of intellectual history, or, in Gardner’s view, as a consequence of the digital era’s “return [to] […] increasingly miscellaneous, anonymous, fragmented, collaborative and decidedly non-novelistic writing” (161), it is the case that a steadily growing scholarly interest in American periodical culture seems to be evident. The last few years alone have seen the publication of significant monographs such as James Landers’s The Improbable First Century of ‘Cosmopolitan’ Magazine (2010), Mark Noonan’s Reading ‘The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine’: American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893 (2010) and Susan Goodman’s The Republic of Words: ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ and its Writers, 1857-1925 (2011). Yet as the titles of these works clearly indicate, much of the focus of recent periodical research has been on single magazines. This is certainly true for the more specific domain of early American magazine studies, where perhaps the most widely-cited book of the last decade has been William C. Dowling’s Literary Federalism in the Age of Jefferson: Joseph Dennie and ‘The Port Folio,’ 1801-1812 (1999). The contemporary monographs to come closest to an overview of this period are: Mark Kamrath and Sharon Harris’s co-edited volume Periodical Literature in Eighteenth-Century America (2005), though as a collection of essays that is necessarily piecemeal; and Catherine O’Donnell Kaplan’s Men of Letters in the Early Republic: Cultivating Forums of Citizenship (2008), though that subordinates its myriad insights into a range of magazines to a broader argument about post-Revolutionary sociability. In short, what we lack for the late eighteenth century, as well as for other periods, are systematic, comprehensive accounts of American magazine culture that directly address the distinctiveness of periodical writing and production. Which is precisely why Gardner’s The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture deserves to be dubbed indispensable.   As the most sustained and persuasive analysis of the early American magazine’s cultural significance that we possess, and as the most detailed account of its repeated failure to prosper, Gardner’s book is notable for its ability to draw broad conclusions and strong claims from the material it treats. More specifically, Gardner develops the argument that late eighteenth-century American culture privileged what he calls the “editorial function” (x) over the more individualistic modes of self-expression we have...

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Nicole Eustace, 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism; Andrew Lambert, The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812; Paul Gilje, Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights in the War of 1812. Reviewed by Jasper Trautsch
Nov09

Nicole Eustace, 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism; Andrew Lambert, The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812; Paul Gilje, Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights in the War of 1812. Reviewed by Jasper Trautsch

NICOLE EUSTACE, 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2012), xvii + 315 pp. ANDREW LAMBERT, The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812 (London: Faber and Faber, 2012), 538 pp. PAUL GILJE, Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights in the War of 1812 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 437 pp. Reviewed by Jasper M. Trautsch Amerikastudien / American Studies 59.4 (2014) The traditional American narrative of the War of 1812 emphasizes that British maritime practices—mainly interferences with American neutral trade and the impressment of seamen from American merchant ships on the high seas—caused severe Anglo-American tensions in the early nineteenth century such that Republicans—in power in the United States since 1801—felt the need to declare war against the former mother country in 1812 in order to defend the nation’s honor. In the following so called ‘Second War of Independence,’ the U.S. Navy was able to win some impressive naval battles against the hitherto undefeated Royal Navy, the traditional story continues, and thus made Great Britain acknowledge American sovereignty in the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. The War of 1812 produced military heroes such as James Lawrence, David Porter, Stephen Decatur, and Andrew Jackson and thus promoted American nationalism, such that the initially divisive war ushered in the so-called Era of Good Feelings, the classical American interpretation concludes.   On the occasion of the bicentennial of the conflict, three works appeared that fundamentally call the assumptions of this narrative into question. Nicole Eustace, Associate Professor of History at New York University, called the war “a grave American embarrassment” (31), in which diplomatically and militarily the United States achieved nothing and which was marked by disastrous military failures on the American side. Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London, found that “after a litany of defeats all along the Canadian border, the capture and destruction of Washington, bankruptcy and the loss of several warships, including the national flagship; the peace settlement had been a fortunate escape” for the American government (1-2). As both authors concur that America did not ‘win’ the War of 1812, they seek to understand—yet in different ways—why it boosted American patriotism and why it has been publicly remembered as an American success story. Paul Gilje, Professor of United States History at the University of Oklahoma, in the third book under review in this article, by contrast, seems at first glance to keep up the traditional American narrative of the War of 1812 when emphasizing Britain’s violations of American neutral rights and impressment on the high seas as the causes for America’s declaration of war. Possibly without intending to...

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Alison Clark Efford, German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era. Reviewed by Frank Baron
Nov02

Alison Clark Efford, German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era. Reviewed by Frank Baron

ALISON CLARK EFFORD, German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), 267 pp. Reviewed by Frank Baron  Amerikastudien / American Studies 59.4 (2014)   With persistent attention to the role of German-Americans before and during the Civil War, it is refreshing to see a study that encompasses this important era but also explores the decade that followed. Efford undertakes the critical examination of the German-American commitment to African American suffrage and citizenship. Her thoroughly documented research takes advantage of the entire range of published and archival resources and delineates an era that begins with the 1848 revolution and concludes with the contested presidential election of 1876. The study highlights the ‘German Triangle,’ Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin and, in particular, the metropolitan centers: Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. Efford considers this segment of the Midwest worthy of special attention because of a prevalent view that here German-Americans held the power of swing voters. The German newspapers of the Midwest, published in the cities of the ‘Triangle,’ provide valuable evidence of representative political positions and their evolution. Efford identifies an unexpected shift in what she considers the captivating image of the ‘freedom-loving’ German-American, “an immigrant man who asserted the value of cultural diversity while he took on slavery” (54). In the 1850s, the outspoken radicals were the major spokesmen for their ethnic community. They went beyond Abraham Lincoln’s moderate position on race; they demanded the abolition of slavery and advocated citizenship and voting rights for freed African Americans. Nationally, German-American Midwesterners had reshaped the party that brought Lincoln to power. During the Civil War, the reputation of Germans as ‘freedom loving’ increased. The momentum of such reputation advanced the voting rights for freed slaves, contributing in 1870 to the passage of the fifteenth amendment, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.   Ironically, the year 1870 can also be seen as a significant turning point in the German-American support for voting rights. It was the year of the Franco-Prussian War, in which Bismarck could claim a decisive victory over France. The Iron Chancellor took steps to unite Germany and thereby achieved one of the goals for which the Forty-Eighters had fought. A nationalistic fervor pervaded German immigrant communities throughout the United States. The strong empathy for the fatherland had consequences for the immigrants’ attitudes toward African Americans. Influenced by Germany’s successful unification, German-Americans retreated from their support of black voting rights and reframed the debate in favor of national reconciliation. The shift also involved a movement away from the focus on equality to a view of ethnic superiority. In Efford’s view, this shift relegates the popular image of...

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