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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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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