Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp.
Aug31

Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp.

Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In Sex Ed, Segregated, Courtney Q. Shah examines the early twentieth-century sexual education movement in the United States by exposing the debates surrounding sex ed and curriculum development in schools; how messages pertaining to sexual education were tailored for specific populations (men/women, girls/boys, working/middle class, black/white); and how groups with political agendas (e.g., Progressives, the YMCA, the military, the media, girls’ schools) tried to shape mainstream sex ed. As Shah adeptly illustrates, sexual education was, and still is, contoured by social, cultural, political, economic, religious, and scientific forces, and is never simply about education. More often than not, it is part of the arsenal of props deployed by American society to promote a specific hegemonic racial, gender, moral, or medical discourse. A revised version of Shah’s PhD Dissertation (“‘This Loathsome Subject’: Sex Education in Progressive-Era America,” University of Houston, 2006), Sex Ed, Segregated builds on the existing early twentieth-century sexuality, social hygiene/purity, and reproduction literature by mining under-examined sources, particularly those illustrating how sexual education was modified based on its target audience. In the early twentieth century, sexual education included instruction on a range of topics such as courtship, marriage, sexual intercourse, human anatomy and development, health, wellness, procreation, contraception, and venereal diseases, usually combining practical knowledge with the scientific and morals ideas of the era.  As Shah explicates, sexual education was, and still is, a product of its time. Thus, the sexual education of the first few decades of the twentieth century reflects its social context: Jim Crow, xenophobia, eugenics, class tension, World War I, and rapid social change (urbanization, industrialization, Progressivism, and the rise of the “New Woman” and “New Negro”). As Shah illustrates, sexual education texts were often modified for specific populations (titles, introductions, and illustrations were changed for black and white readers), and such alterations were based on racial assumptions and an unquestioned acceptance of racial difference. For example, while chastity and respectability were emphasized in African American texts, books published for white audiences focused on political and social hierarchies (white racial superiority) and eugenics (improving the national stock by encouraging reproduction among the “fit” and discouraging it among the “unfit”). Such manuals, however, also had certain elements in common: their religious and moral undertones, their emphasis on education and reform, and their faith in science, medicine, and technology. Moreover, they “normalized white male (middle class) sexuality and pathologized any departures from the white male norm” (x). Americans were far more divided when it came to the...

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Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011),  344 pages.  Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages.  Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages.
Aug31

Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011), 344 pages. Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages. Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages.

Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011),  344 pages. Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages. Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Sovereignty and agency have advanced to become central terms in Native American and Indigenous Studies. With different emphases, both center Native people and peoples as agents in political, social, economic, cultural, and intellectual terms that value, defend, and enact a particular form of autonomy and self-determination in respect to colonial powers or the U.S. settler nation-state. At the same time, particularly the notion of agency draws attention to how Native American nations do not simply occupy positions of resistance, adaptation, or cooperation, but are active in deploying different and variable strategies in maneuvering colonial impositions as well as in shaping the histories of the Americas from first contact to present-day U.S. in ways that are easily effaced by narratives of Euro-American progress. While these foci on autonomy, on the one hand, and active participation in the making of American histories, on the other, suggest different approaches to Native American histories, cultures, and politics—also indicative of differences in disciplinary approaches, since sovereignty is more firmly situated in cultural and literary studies as well as social and political sciences, agency more prominent in history—there is also a significant overlap between these terms. Most importantly, both analytic perspectives share the concern of lifting colonially imposed misconceptions of Native American peoples as apolitical, ahistorical, passive victims of Euro-American progress or unwitting collaborators to their own demise. A look at four selected works in Native American history then not only indicates the varied relations and tensions between forms of sovereignty and agency in practice and thought, but also should help to illuminate the breadth of these concepts and their historical variability. Centering sovereignty and agency in this Native history review essay thus aims at illuminating both the diversity of Native peoplehood and selfhood as well as the complex relations to European colonial powers and the U.S. settler nation-state that these works explore. Reviewing these four books with this emphasis further aims to add new perspectives to their respective individual reception. At the same time, it seeks to show how these four studies can be seen as indicative of a wider spread focus in Native American histories on formations of sovereignty and agency in different contexts that further point to the diversity...

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Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp.
Aug31

Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp.

Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City untersucht Elizabeth Wollman eine Untergattung des amerikanischen Musicals, die Musicalkenner meistens nur von ihrem verruchten Ruf her kennen und die auch nur selten in Studien zum amerikanischen Musical betrachtet werden, obwohl es sich mittlerweile um eine dominierende Untergattung handelt. Die Autorin entführt den Leser auf eine unterhaltsame Zeitreise in die zügellosen 1970er Jahre und gibt einen historischen Abriss über das für Erwachsene komponierte Musical, das spätestens seit der Premiere von Hair (1968) am New Yorker Broadway floriert. Wollmans Studie ist geprägt von einer informativen, sehr detaillierten Darstellung der selten besprochenen Untergattung des Musicals, deren Kontext sie beleuchtet und dabei auf ihre Verdienste im amerikanischen Theater aufmerksam macht. Wollman versteht ihre Untersuchung als kulturhistorische Darstellung des amerikanischen Musicals in den 1970er Jahren, das geprägt war von sexueller Revolution, dem Emanzipationsbestreben der Frau und der Debatte über die Gleichstellung Homosexueller. Was aber das feministische Musical mit dem Adult Musical zu tun hat, bleibt unklar. In I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road geht es um die Gleichberechtigung der Frau in der Gesellschaft, und beide sind mit Sicherheit familientauglich und haben nichts mit den Musicals der anderen Unterkategorien zu tun, in denen sexuelle Zweideutigkeiten und Pornographie sowie leichtbekleidete oder nackte Akteure das erwachsene Publikum begeistern. Das feministische Musical hat nichts mit dem von Jonathan Ward geprägten Begriff „adult musicals” zu tun, den die Autorin in der Einleitung zu ihrem Buch aufgreift. Sie definiert „adult musicals“ als Musicals mit vollständig unbekleideten Akteuren, angedeuteten freizügigen Aktivitäten, sexuellen Anspielungen oder explizit freizügigen Dialogen bzw. Nummern oder ausdrücklich sexuellen Inhalten in der Handlung. Wollman beleuchtet das amerikanische „adult musical“ in seinem historischen, kulturellen und künstlerischen Zusammenhang durch die verschiedenen Dekaden von seinem goldenen Zeitalter bis zu seinen heutigen Ausprägungen. Dabei versucht sie das Adult Musical aus verschiedenen Perspektiven zu betrachten und auch diverse Vernetzungen aufzuzeigen, indem sie zwei Musicals, nämlich Oh! Calcutta! und Let My People Come, gewissermaßen als rote Fäden die gesamte Studie durchziehen lässt. Auf einer begleitenden Website werden dem Leser Hörbeispiele und zusätzliches Bildmaterial geboten, auf die auch im Buch hingewiesen wird. Wollman ist Lehrbeauftragte für Musik am Baruch College in New York und hat in ihrem Buch The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig (2006) eine weitere Untergattung des amerikanischen Musicals untersucht. Auch ihre vielen Besuche des New Yorker Broadway machen sie zu einer Expertin auf dem Gebiet. Das Buch gliedert sich in vier thematisch gegliederte...

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Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp.
Aug31

Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp.

Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Based on his award-winning dissertation, Daniel Stein’s book is a timely and innovative addition to the vast amount of scholarly literature on Louis Armstrong. It is a welcomed intervention into the discourses established by biographies and music or jazz histories: Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz revolves around the musician’s various forms and practices of life writing and situates them within larger socio-cultural constellations and historical contexts. At the same time, it constitutes a methodologically and theoretically ambitious study that presents an inspiring take on autobiography understood as “a writing practice” (12) and on intermediality. Stein discusses Armstrong’s “autobiographics” (17) not only on the basis of the musician’s two autobiographies (Swing That Music and Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans) but also with regard to Armstrong’s published and unpublished letters, essays, interviews, recordings, articles, and his performances in e.g. music, film, photography, and stage acting. Stein’s approach to this wealth of material from the Armstrong archive as well as secondary sources speaks to both his thorough research and his excellent analytical skills. Armstrong emerges as prolific writer, chronicler of his life, and maybe even “jazz’s most productive autobiographer” (8). Music Is My Life sets out to understand Armstrong as “transmedial artist” and to trace “the intermedial effects of [his] autobiographical performances” (23). Stein lays out four goals for his study: to assess Armstrong’s role in the creation of his public persona, to contribute to the scholarship on “jazz autobiography” (William Kenney), to analyze jazz as an intermedial phenomenon, and to understand the historical constructions of “blackness” from the minstrel stage into the civil rights era (cf. 26-27). Against the backdrop of these objectives, the six chapters cover different aspects of Armstrong’s autobiographics while documenting his career and life writing. Stein starts out (chap. 1) with close readings of Armstrong’s reflections on New Orleans jazz traditions and especially “musicking” (Christopher Small), i.e. music making as activity and practice. He reads Armstrong’s personal account of his New Orleans years as intervention into jazz history, as an assertion of his position as cultural icon, and as a template for the public construction of his life narrative. The following analyses (chap. 2 and 3) focus on the performativity of Armstrong’s writing practices and the stylistic features of his texts and musical performances. Stein traces the musician’s literary influences and references to various traditions and narratives (e.g. the rags-to-riches formula or African American autobiography). He interrogates the tensions between Armstrong’s vernacular style,...

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Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp.
Aug31

Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp.

Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   This book is the latest addition to Michael Rauhut’s series of publications on the topic of Blues and popular music in cold-war Germany. In contrast to most of the author’s previous works, Ein Klang – Zwei Welten sets out to examine the reception of Blues music not just in a specific area of Germany but seeks to compare the respective scenes in East and West Germany that formed around this music. After a brief introduction, Rauhut dedicates a short chapter to frequent misconceptions about Blues music and where these biases come from. The text’s main part is structured into four chapters, each of which is divided into five thematically linked subchapters, discussing and comparing key players of the German Blues scene, modes of interpretation and their political potential. Even though Rauhut makes clear from the beginning that his angle is very much that of a fan, he largely manages to convert his “subjective experience to scientific insight” (13). Except for the occasional romanticization of key figures like Günther Boas (54), he succeeds in not letting his fandom cloud his vision (13) but uses his exceptional knowledge of the German Blues scene to deliver an abundance of relevant information. The author excels when he compares different interpretations of Blues music; his assessment of the West German authenticity debates is especially interesting. By juxtaposing the various stances on what authentic Blues music is supposed to sound like (and how bizarrely they are intertwined with race) without explicitly voicing his own opinion, Rauhut’s bird’s eye view-style of writing cleverly exposes the absurdity of how a few white, privileged European music critics claimed absolute authority not just over the interpretation of Blues music but black experience as well. He does so by unearthing various Blues magazines and newsletters in order to shed light on the West German scene and by plowing through the vast amount of GDR-surveillance data available to him, thereby demonstrating how massively different and ideologically informed these individual networks of fans and musicians were. For example, the effort the intelligence agency of the Socialist Unity Party put into keeping such a marginal music at bay is quite impressive. Rauhut’s text, then, can be seen as a strong argument for the politically subversive potential of popular music, discarding the idea that it is too standardized and repetitive in order to have  any effect of the sort. However, the meticulous research that must have preceded this book is both its greatest quality and flaw, as it frequently...

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Anja Schäfers, “Mehr als Rock ‘n’ Roll: Der Radiosender AFN Mitte der Sechziger Jahre” Transatlantische Historische Studien 52. Ed. Hartmut Berghoff, Clelia Caruso, and Mischa Honeck. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014), 454 S.
Aug31

Anja Schäfers, “Mehr als Rock ‘n’ Roll: Der Radiosender AFN Mitte der Sechziger Jahre” Transatlantische Historische Studien 52. Ed. Hartmut Berghoff, Clelia Caruso, and Mischa Honeck. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014), 454 S.

Anja Schäfers, “Mehr als Rock ‘n’ Roll: Der Radiosender AFN Mitte der Sechziger Jahre” Transatlantische Historische Studien 52. Ed. Hartmut Berghoff, Clelia Caruso, and Mischa Honeck. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014), 454 S. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In ihrem Buch über den US-amerikanischen Radiosender AFN (American Forces Network) untersucht Anja Schäfers dessen Geschichte überaus gründlich und präzise, indem sie den Forschungsgegenstand aus den verschiedensten Perspektiven betrachtet. Ihre Studie schreibt nicht nur frühere Arbeiten fort, sondern darf vielmehr zu Recht als weiterführend angesehen werden. Die Historikerin beschäftigt sich mit der Gründung von AFN noch während des Zweiten Weltkriegs, im Jahr 1943 in Großbritannien, sowie mit der Inbetriebnahme des Senders in Deutschland mit der Sendeanlage in Ismaning bei München im Jahr 1945. Ferner setzt sie sich mit den sich wandelnden Programminhalten und der Wirkungsgeschichte der frühen Jahre des Senders auseinander. Schäfers betrachtet 1965 als ein Wendejahr, indem sie darlegt, dass der Sender danach seine nicht US-amerikanische Zuhörerschaft, darunter ein beträchtlicher Anteil von Deutschen, verlor. Die Gründe hierfür lagen erstens in den Servicewellen, die sukzessive in der ganzen Bundesrepublik eingeführt wurden und mit einer standardisierten Stundenstruktur ausgestattet waren. Hinzu kam die Aufnahme anglo-amerikanischer Popmusik in die Sender. Drittens wurden die Programme zunehmend in narrativer Form moderiert. Und schließlich wurden die Programme mit formatierten Kurzbeiträgen versehen. Daher ist es sinnvoll, dass Schäfers ihre Studie mit dem Jahr 1965 abschließt, gehört der US-amerikanische Radiosender ab diesem Zeitpunkt doch mehr und mehr der Geschichte an.  Zweifelsohne hatte AFN positive (Spät-)Folgen. Am deutlichsten ist dies an der „AFN-Generation“ der nach 1945 Geborenen zu sehen. Denn sie waren der Grund für die Richtungsänderung, die der Verbund der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten (ARD) der Bundesrepublik Deutschland weg von einem auf Bildung ausgerichteten Radio mit anspruchsvollen, stündlich alternierenden Inhalten hin zu einem „Populär-Radio“ und auf schnellen Service ausgerichteten Magazin vollzog. Geprägt wurde der neue, „frische“ Stil eines modernen Radios von einer Generation jüngerer, aufstrebender Hörfunkjournalisten, die allesamt über AFN-Hörerfahrungen verfügten und nunmehr begannen die Funkhäuser der ARD zu „infiltrieren“. Als prominentes Beispiel sei der deutsch-US-Amerikaner William McCreery Ramsey genannt, besser bekannt als Bill Ramsey. Er war ein Aushängeschild von AFN, begann als Discjockey, arbeitete nebenbei als Jazzsänger in diversen Clubs in Frankfurt und stieg schließlich zum landesweit populären Schlagerstar, TV-Entertainer und Schauspieler auf. Dass alle von Schäfers befragten Zeitzeugen, Publizisten und Literaten, darunter Günter Kunert und Wolfram Schütte, von AFN als Radiosender und dem völlig neuen Sound, den er spielte, noch heute begeistert sind, ist daher auch nicht verwunderlich. Und so kann es auch nicht überraschen, dass sie die von AFN verkörperte Mischung aus cool-lässigem Lebensstil, Modernität, dekretierter Lockerheit und Populärmusik—von Country über Rock ‘n’ Roll bis Swing und Soul,...

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Stefan Pavenzinger, The Voice of America. Die gesellschaftspolitische Vermittlerfunktion Johnny Cashs 1963-1972. (Trier: WVT, 2012), 408 pages.
Aug31

Stefan Pavenzinger, The Voice of America. Die gesellschaftspolitische Vermittlerfunktion Johnny Cashs 1963-1972. (Trier: WVT, 2012), 408 pages.

Stefan Pavenzinger, The Voice of America. Die gesellschaftspolitische Vermittlerfunktion Johnny Cashs 1963-1972. (Trier: WVT, 2012), 408 pages. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Johnny Cash ist eine der herausragenden Künstlerpersönlichkeiten des 20. Jahrhunderts. Seine Jahrhundertstimme, der unverwechselbare Sound und ein Songrepertoire, das die Geschichten des Lebens und des Landes erzählt, haben den 2003 verstorbenen Country-Sänger zu einem Klassiker der populären Musik gemacht. Klassiker erleiden bekanntlich häufig das Schicksal, dass sie in Vergessenheit zu geraten drohen. Bei Cash kann davon keine Rede sein. Wie groß sein Einfluss auf die US-amerikanische und weltweite Popkultur eingeschätzt wird, lässt sich an den zahlreichen Büchern und Artikeln ablesen, die mittlerweile über ihn publiziert wurden. 2013 etwa erschien eine 700 Seiten starke Biographie aus der Feder des bekannten Musikjournalisten Robert Hilburn, die Cashs bewegtes Leben minutiös nachzeichnet und sein künstlerisches Schaffen bilanziert. Längst ist Johnny Cash auch zu einem Gegenstand der Wissenschaft geworden. In den meisten Arbeiten stehen die künstlerischen Aspekte, also die Musik, im Vordergrund. Cash, der 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, auf die Welt kam und seine Kindheit und Jugendzeit auf den Baumwollfeldern seiner ländlichen Heimat verbrachte, hat sich selbst als Country-Sänger bezeichnet, wollte aber niemals ausschließlich auf diese Richtung festgelegt werden. Tatsächlich wird Cash in den Plattenläden jedoch bis heute fast immer unter Country, oder wie es früher hieß: Country & Western, einsortiert. Unter allen Preisen, die er im Laufe seiner Karriere gewann, bedeutete ihm die Aufnahme in die Ruhmeshalle der Country-Musik 1980 laut eigener Auskunft am meisten. Cashs Bandbreite wies aber von jeher über die engen Grenzen des Genres hinaus. Nahm er zu Beginn seiner Karriere bei Sun-Records in Memphis Mitte der fünfziger Jahre die Einflüsse des Rock and Roll musikalisch auf, wurde er in den sechziger Jahren von der aufkommenden Folkbewegung inspiriert. Sein grandioses Spätwerk, das ihm ab 1994 ein triumphales Comeback bescherte, entzieht sich der Kategorisierung noch stärker. So wurde Cashs 1996 aufgenommenes, zweites American-Album Unchained mit einem Grammy für die beste Country-Platte ausgezeichnet, während die zwei Jahre zuvor erschienenen American Recordings denselben Preis in der Rubrik „Best Contemporary Folk“ erhielten. Eine andere, weniger intensiv bearbeitete Forschungsrichtung nimmt die gesellschaftspolitische Wirkung des Künstlers in den Blick. Sie fokussiert naturgemäß stärker auf Textrepertoire, Auftreten und Äußerungen in der Öffentlichkeit sowie das soziale und politische Engagement. Mit Stefan Pavenzingers Münchener Dissertation liegt jetzt eine Arbeit vor, die diesen Aspekt in Johnny Cashs Leben und Werk zum ersten Mal systematisch und umfassend beleuchtet. Der Autor sieht die gesellschaftspolitische Bedeutung Cashs vor allem in seiner Vermittlerfunktion zwischen dem ländlich-konservativen und urban-liberalen Amerika. In den turbulenten sechziger Jahren habe es Cash geschafft, die beiden auseinanderstrebenden Seiten der US-Gesellschaft gleichermaßen anzusprechen und für sich einzunehmen. Die Arbeit...

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Barry Shank, The Political Force of Musical Beauty. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 344 pp.
Aug31

Barry Shank, The Political Force of Musical Beauty. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 344 pp.

Barry Shank, The Political Force of Musical Beauty. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 344 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   The intricate relationship between popular music and politics has been the subject of much scholarship since the 1960s. Civil rights songs, Riot Grrrl punk music and conscious rap, among many others, have been the focus of a vast body of research, documenting the significance of music in social movements throughout U.S. history and beyond. Rock and pop music has been hailed as a “weapon of cultural revolution” and as a means to social transformation,[1] while more nuanced arguments have acknowledged the music’s intrinsic nature as a mass commodity meant to be sold and consumed as part of the culture industry.[2] A negotiation of conflicting needs guides many of the questions that have been raised: How does music exert political influence? How do pop songs shape political thought and represent political ideas? How does music foster political belonging? Or, put another way: Can sound subvert? In The Political Force of Musical Beauty, Barry Shank approaches these questions in a strikingly new and refreshing way. Shank steers clear of the popular yet somewhat simplistic notion that music serves as vehicle for political actors to communicate shared political ideas and forward an agenda. He showcases the agency of music itself, the ways in which it “enacts its own force, creating shared senses of the world” (2), as he suggests in an introductory chapter titled, tongue-in-cheek, “Prelude.” The experience of musical listening, Shank purports, forms communities characterized by difference, not unity – and this pleasurable experience has both aesthetic and political implications. Putting aside the intentions of the artists and the identity of the listeners, he highlights how music’s political force pertains to its “capacity to combine relations of difference into experiences of beauty” (16). The experience of beauty, according to Shank, is an experience that allows the listener to recognize the possibility of change, a change for a “better future”: “a truly aesthetic musical act,” he claims, “is one that reveals the political significance of sounds previously heard as nothing but noise” (3). Shank uses case studies to illustrate how the power of music is located in beauty, and how musical beauty comes to life in the act of listening. The chosen examples – ranging from Moby’s sampling of Vera Hall’s version of “Trouble So Hard” on his track “Natural Blues” to the civil rights movement’s prominent “We Shall Overcome,” the sounds of Takemitsu Toro and Yoko Ono, the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” poet-rock star Patti Smith, Alarm Will Sound’s concert collage 1969, and TV on the Radio’s musical encounter with Tinariwen,...

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Amato, Viola (†). Intersex Narratives: Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in Northern American Literature and Popular Culture. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2016. 304pp.
Aug31

Amato, Viola (†). Intersex Narratives: Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in Northern American Literature and Popular Culture. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2016. 304pp.

Amato, Viola (†). Intersex Narratives: Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in Northern American Literature and Popular Culture. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2016. 304pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   The success of Jeffrey Eugenides’s 2003 novel Middlesex directed attention to intersex as a topic in American Studies. At the time of its publication, this coming of age narrative of the Greek-American intersex protagonist Cal_lie was received against the background of poststructuralist approaches to gender and sexuality that had gained prominence within American Cultural Studies since the publication of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity in 1990. At the time of its publication, Middlesex was the first American novel with an intersex protagonist, and even today, 14 years later, there are still only few fictional narratives with intersex characters. Prior to the success of Middlesex, the emerging intersex movement of the 1990s paved the way for fictional representations of intersex and the academic debates that followed. Viola Amato’s insightful monograph Intersex Narratives: Shifts in the Representation of Intersex Lives in North American Literature and Popular Culture (2016) deserves credit for honoring and emphasizing the importance of the pioneering intersex movement. In her study, she contextualizes Eugenides’s representation of intersex with other texts of different media and genres that negotiate “intersex persons, intersex communities, and intersex as a cultural concept and epistemological category” (13); she includes memoirs, novels, and TV-series that came out between 1993 and 2014. In addition to an extensive reading of Middlesex, she provides analyses of the following shorter autobiographical texts from the intersex movement, Thea Hillman’s memoir Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) (2008), Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel (2010), and four episodes from the TV-series Chicago Hope, Emergency Room, House, and Grey’s Anatomy. Amato classifies her diverse corpus of texts as belonging to both “hegemonic intersex discourses and ‘counternarratives’” (14), but she does not claim that both stand in monolithic opposition to each other. To the contrary, she convincingly demonstrates how hegemonic discourses and counternarratives influence each other or to what degree they are interrelated.  Her thorough contextualization of these different realms of intersex discourses will necessarily lead to more nuanced academic readings of intersex representations in the future. Amato’s study builds on the observation that the year 1993 marks a paradigm shift in discourses on intersex. This shift occurred because persons with intersex variation started to organize politically and publish their writings in small publications. Next to chronology, the important reason for Amato to begin with these intersex voices is to put first-person-narratives of intersex writers at the center rather than to set the tone with analyses of texts by non-intersex writers....

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Jonathan Kirshner, Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2012), 280 pp.
Aug31

Jonathan Kirshner, Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2012), 280 pp.

Jonathan Kirshner, Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2012), 280 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   The 1970s are a truly legendary time in US history. Hardly any other period is so richly filled with the political and social changes that are crucial to the formation of both the era of the seventies and the country of the USA. The assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the economic crisis, and of course the US involvement in the Vietnam War as well as the unsuccessful Nixon presidency turned American social norms upside down. The emergence of the new socio-political turns had a dramatic impact on the cultural forms created during the era, particularly on cinema. This is the subject that Jonathan Kirshner’s Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America brings to our attention. The book intelligently combines social and political history of the period with an analysis of the films created during the time and, in doing so, displays the relation between the two, arguing that the cinema of the 1970s was greatly influenced by the socio-political changes that were taking place in the US. Kirshner divides his account into eight parts, each of which in a relative chronology peels off the shell from the decade, revealing the innovations, tendencies, and themes characteristic of the seventies cinema. At the beginning of the book, however, the author clarifies that the seventies film was born in 1967 and lasted till 1976; therefore, the films he analyzes in the course of the book were created and released during that decade. The first chapter, “Before the Flood,” provides a historical overview of the time that preceded 1967. The author singles out three conditions that confined Hollywood: first, state censorship; second, the Great Depression that influenced the film production economically as Americans could not afford going to the movies; third, McCarthyism, i.e., the censorship provoked by Senator McCarthy who claimed that nobody and nothing should have put the values of the USA into question, including films. The chapter proceeds with a general overview of the decade when cinema was finally free from censorship, briefly noting the key socio-political events that took place and claiming that they found their reflection in the films. The greater examination is, however, scrupulously provided in the following seven chapters. Thus, in his second chapter, “Talkin’ ‘bout My Generation,” Kirshner draws parallels between the French New Wave and the New Hollywood, arguing that the latter was greatly influenced by the works of such young but talented directors as...

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Wieland Schwanebeck, Der flexible Mr. Ripley. Männlichkeit und Hochstapelei in Literatur und Film (Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2014), 391 pp.
Aug31

Wieland Schwanebeck, Der flexible Mr. Ripley. Männlichkeit und Hochstapelei in Literatur und Film (Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2014), 391 pp.

Wieland Schwanebeck, Der flexible Mr. Ripley. Männlichkeit und Hochstapelei in Literatur und Film (Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2014), 391 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Forgeries and fakes, Martin Doll observes, do not imitate originals but the attributions and attribution systems that define what counts as an original in a given historical and discursive context.[1] The same holds for impostors and con-men who play social roles in order to deceive. Real and fictional impostors therefore instructively foreground implicit and often overlooked social conventions, such as masculinity codes. This is the key argument Wieland Schwanebeck develops in eight densely argued but highly readable chapters on Patricia Highsmith’s most popular character: Tom Ripley. He features in five of her novels and in numerous adaptations for film, the stage and radio. The five Ripley novels, from The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) to Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley’s Game (1974) and The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980) to Ripley Under Water (1991), are exemplary for Highsmith’s subtle but profound interrogation of literary and cultural conventions (in particular gender-related ones) under the guise of bland realism. Schwanebeck’s study draws on recent approaches in masculinity studies and on narratology to address their presentation of gender, their interrogation of a dichotomy of original and copy, and their angle on concepts of conventional masculinity. The study opens with a brief cultural history of the conman and the impostor and an outline of the theoretical approach. Unlike the German Hochstapler, whose lasting literary fame Thomas Mann established with Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (1922), the American con(fidence) man has turned into an ambivalent cultural icon for an egalitarian, competitive society: He violates the code of honesty and mutual trust yet embodies the ideal of the successful self-made man. Schwanebeck opts for the German term in order to put Tom Ripley into a larger intertextual and cultural context, one that includes, among many others, the picaresque tradition (chapter four), Thomas Mann’s novel, French, British and German screen adaptations of Highsmith, and art forgery (chapter five). Impostors and conmen outside fiction are, first and foremost, performers: Their success rests on the mastery of conventionalized social roles and the “scripts” of interaction, as Schwanebeck observes with reference to the sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman’s theory of social interaction as role play points to the fundamentally narrative, performative and often literally textual nature of confidence tricks—playacting, forged documents and biographies, and confessional autobiographical narratives are essential components of successful imposture. The expertise of literary studies can therefore be brought to bear on this phenomenon with some justification, the study argues (53-55). This argument could have been developed with more confidence—no pun intended—since...

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Vanessa Künnemann, Middlebrow Mission: Pearl Buck’s American China (Bielefield: transcript, 2015), 283 pp.
Aug31

Vanessa Künnemann, Middlebrow Mission: Pearl Buck’s American China (Bielefield: transcript, 2015), 283 pp.

Vanessa Künnemann, Middlebrow Mission: Pearl Buck’s American China (Bielefield: transcript, 2015), 283 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In an age when academic research suffers from information overload and attention deficit, we welcome studies that offer bird’s-eye-view perspectives of the present moment, or that make bold theoretical interventions. Yet we cannot do without projects that are the result of prolonged attention focused on a carefully chosen subject. Neither can we do without projects that revisit cultural phenomena that once held the attention of millions, yet are ignored by today’s scholars—often for ideological reasons. Vanessa Künnemann’s Middlebrow Mission: Pearl Buck’s American China is just such a project. Vanessa Künnemann has given her full attention to two overlapping cultural phenomena: the China mission movement at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century (supported by millions of people in the entire English-speaking world at a time when women’s suffrage drew mere thousands) and the fiction of Pearl Buck (which, read by millions, reassessed the mission movement). Continuing the tradition of feminist scholarship that once shifted Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin out of the academic freezer and into the nineteenth-century canon, alongside Melville’s Moby Dick, Künnemann in her meticulously researched new historicist project carves out a place for Buck in the expanded canon of twentieth-century American literature. The reinstatement of Buck, dismissed by critics as an unambitious writer of middlebrow women’s fiction, is no easy task. Künnemann has examined a wide range of aesthetic, ideological, and geopolitical factors that might explain Buck’s phenomenal success as well as the reasons for her dwindling popularity after she received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. Künnemann’s book is not a literary biography; it critically examines only those works by Buck (fictional biographies, articles, novels, short stories, and an autobiography) that foreground various religious and secular notions of the word “mission” in a trans-Pacific context, and that involve Americans and Chinese as both agents and objects of missions. The book’s overarching thesis is that Buck’s literary project was a secular extension of the religious mission to China embraced by her parents—a mission she challenged as fundamentally misguided and imperialist. Refusing to follow in her parents’ footsteps, Buck returned to the U.S. where she enacted the role of a self-appointed cultural go-between. Her mission was to convert the American reading public to a vision of China that did not need to be Christianized in order to enter modernity on a par with other nations. In order to be accepted in this role, Künnemann argues, Buck had to build her authority as a cultural insider in China and, at the same time, as thoroughly American. Responding...

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Judith Kohlenberger, The New Formula For Cool: Science, Technology, and the Popular in the American Imagination (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 345pp.
Aug31

Judith Kohlenberger, The New Formula For Cool: Science, Technology, and the Popular in the American Imagination (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 345pp.

Judith Kohlenberger, The New Formula For Cool: Science, Technology, and the Popular in the American Imagination (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 345pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In American Cool, Peter Stearns famously calls “cool” a “distinctly American” concept, which “permeates almost every aspect of contemporary American culture” and has “seized a central place in the American imagination” in its many manifestations.[1] If one takes Stearns’s argument at face value, then investigations into the many permutations of “coolness” should also hold a central place in American Studies. The only catch is, however, that pinning down the precise Americanness of “cool” is as difficult a task as defining “cool” itself, as the term has proven too elusive and vague to be easily compartmentalized. As Dick Pountain and David Robins have pointed out, “cool” may be “a philosophy, a sensibility, a religion, and ideology, a personality type, a behavior pattern, an attitude, a zeitgeist, a worldview” (17-18). Cultural artifacts are not inherently “cool,” but we certainly recognize their coolness when we see it; therefore, coolness is not a durable quality, but rather the product of attitudes, affective reactions, and aesthetic sensibilities. A popular sense as to what is “cool” and what not so much will change “from place to place, from time to time, from generation to generation” (Pountain/Robins 21). Judith Kohlenberger’s monograph The New Formula For Cool: Science, Technology, and the Popular in the American Imagination explores one of the most recent changes in the meaning of “cool,” a paradigm shift that has decisively shaped the landscape of American popular culture in the last two decades. While “coolness” has been extensively analyzed in relation to advertisement, fashion, music, and other expressions of youth and counterculture, it has now, the author argues, invaded the world of (techno)science and digital cultures. Rather than merely add new manifestations of “cool” in American popular culture to the vast archive of previously studied permutations of “coolness,” Kohlenberger wants to demonstrate that “recent popular cultural representations of (techno)science in mainstream American film and television are increasingly informed by a prominent focus on cool as an aesthetic and affective, rather than a cognitive or ethical form of scientific legitimation” (13). The aim of her study is thus twofold: on the one hand, it analyzes the use and effects of “cool” beyond its conventional, and well-studied, realms of thematic application, so as to contribute to the “ongoing dialogue between the scientific and the popular in contemporary American society” (15). At the same time, this book understands “cool” as a response to former discourses and sources of scientific legitimation and argues that “cool” challenges, or even replaces, traditional cognitive and ethical...

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