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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