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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