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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