ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.
Jan04

ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.

ELIZABETH MADDOCK DILLON, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1949-1849 (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2014), 368 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   In New World Drama, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon aims at nothing less than a conceptual and methodological re-conceptualization of early American theatre and drama. Her study critically addresses, challenges, and revises the coordinates that have traditionally informed scholarly debates in this field. In fact, theatre and drama have been routinely exempted from most deliberations of early American literature. In contrast to the few critics who have focused on a performative tradition that simultaneously envisions and enacts “America” as concept and reality, Dillon works within a transatlantic framework which allows her to develop a new critical narrative “that is colonial and Atlantic in scope rather than solely national and one that focuses on scenes of representation, embodiment, and erasure in theatrical spaces as well as the layered and contrapuntal performances of colonial relations therein” (223). Published in Duke University Press’s prestigious New Americanists series edited by Donald E. Pease, Dillon’s book thus adds to the growing body of scholarship in transnational American studies. It is no surprise, then, that the chronological reach of Dillon’s study—which begins with the execution of King Charles I. in London in 1649 and concludes with the mid-nineteenth-century theatre riots in New York City—sits uneasily with common periodizations of early American literature that usually focus on a post-revolutionary struggle for cultural emancipation from British and European role models. Her choice to begin her study at the height of Puritan rule in England and to end it with the democratic clamor of antebellum theatre riots is an apt one since it allows her to illustrate what she perceives as the central developments in theatre and drama in a circum-Atlantic world.          Building on the recent transnational turn in American studies, Dillon’s introductory chapter outlines the methodological premises and core arguments of her study. It argues that the Atlantic world of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century saw the rise of a “performative commons.” This new way of imagining collective identities, Dillon claims, is the result of transforming an earlier collective form of ownership and access to limited public resources into the abstract notion of a collectivity that imagines itself as the carrier of “popular sovereignty” and fundamental political rights. For Dillon, this new “virtual body” has less a material than an aesthetic and figurative shape. Informed by Jacques Rancière’s theories of spectatorship and Erving Goffman’s notion of audience participation, Dillon locates the formation of this “performative commons” in scenes from playhouses around the Atlantic rim where audiences become actively involved in...

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CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.
Jan04

CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.

CLAUDIA HOLLER AND MARTIN KLEPPER, EDS., Re-Thinking Narrative Identity (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2013), 209 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1     The concept of narrative identity has made a remarkable career in the past few decades. Philosophers, psychologists, and literary scholars as diverse as Paul Ricoeur, Donald Polkinghorne, and Paul John Eakin have contributed to its wide transdisciplinary proliferation, and it is hard to imagine what literary and cultural studies would look like without it. One might even argue that “narrative identity” is by now so firmly established in contemporary narrative theorizing and analysis that many of its once innovative, provocative assumptions have turned into shopworn slogans—“life as narrative” (Jerome Bruner), “how our lives become stories” (Eakin), the “storied self” (Dan P. McAdams), and so forth. The present volume takes its departure from these interdisciplinary certainties and asks whether we have to revise and expand the concept in the wake of recent disciplinary approaches as well as far-reaching changes in our life-worlds that include matters of globalization and migration, bio-technological developments, and gender-related transformations. The volume thus sets out to reinvestigate and reframe narrative identity in the light of these issues as well as with regard to “new concerns in narrative literature, new arguments in philosophy and psychology and new approaches in narratological research” and asks how these may “add to our notion of narrative identity” (4). In short, the volume addresses the precariousness of the concept of narrative identity at a moment in time at which identities seem more fragmented, pluralized, relational, and de-essentialized than ever before. Rethinking Narrative Identity zeroes in on these questions by suggesting a conceptual framework that highlights the significance of perspective and persona in research on narrative identity. The volume’s ten chapters present contributions from a variety of (inter‑)disciplinary angles, from psychology (Mark Freeman, Gabriele Lucius-Hoene) through philosophy (Wolfgang Kraus, Norbert Meuter), and linguistics (Jarmila Mildorf), and has a strong foothold in literary and cultural studies (Martin Klepper, Rüdiger Heinze, Kim L. Worthington, Eveline Kilian, Eva Brunner, Nicole Frey Büchel). While the discussed material includes a number of non-fictional texts (e.g., narrative interviews), the majority of the articles are concerned with literary fiction and autobiography, very much in keeping with the Ricoeurian notion that literature often provides the aesthetic and ethical models for all other forms of identity construction through storytelling. The volume’s conceptual framework is laid out in Martin Klepper’s substantial introductory chapter on “Rethinking narrative identity: Persona and perspective,” which alone is worth getting the book. In it, Klepper outlines the crises that the notion of narrative identity has undergone as well as the challenges and aporias it has...

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CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.
Jan04

CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.

CHRISTINE MARKS, “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), 234 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   In her study “I Am because You Are”: Relationality in the Works of Siri Hustvedt (2014), Christine Marks analyzes Hustvedt’s fictional and non-fictional works, including the latest novel The Blazing World (2014). Marks approaches Hustvedt’s works with an intersubjective focus which presupposes that Hustvedt “finds intersubjectivity to be the basis for a healthy development of the self and scrutinizes the detrimental effects of American society’s failure to promote relational identity formation” (2). Identity for Hustvedt, as Marks argues, is “relational, focusing on the interdependencies that shape identity and the physical connectedness between self and world” (3), thus she creates “relational models of identity” (3). Marks’s analysis of the relationship of self and other, that is, of the relationality of the characters in Siri Hustvedt’s fiction, is based on an extensive discussion of relevant philosophical theories as put forward by, for example, Friedrich Hegel, Martin Buber, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emanuel Levinas, Jacques Lacan, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Concepts such as the master-slave constellation, the mirror stage, the power of the gaze, and dialogism serve as starting points for an in-depth and well-versed discussion of Hustvedt’s fiction, which often also draws on selected essays by the author. The study, originally submitted as a dissertation in American Studies at the University of Mainz, proceeds from a detailed chapter on philosophies of intersubjectivity via a discussion of vision and the visual arts in Hustvedt’s work, to a systematic analysis of identity and the boundaries of the body that are questioned in cases of hysteria and anorexia nervosa, and finally to a discussion of attachment, loss, and grief and how characters in Hustvedt’s fiction deal with the sudden emptiness of place through the absence of the other. Photography is one of the media used in Hustvedt’s fiction to delineate the unstable positions and identifications of self and other. Although photography, just like the mirror image, might suggest an authentic and true representation of the self and then may potentially fill the hole in the self, it is used by Hustvedt to show how such images can contradict one’s own self-image and how they potentially distort the subject because of the subjective choice of “an isolated fragment” (91). Photographs, because they hardly ever correspond to people’s self-image, indicate “a feeling of absence, fragmentation, and disorientation” (93), as Marks observes with reference to Iris Vegan, the protagonist of Hustvedt’s debut novel The Blindfold (1992). The power of the self is given up in the moment of transition from being...

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BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.
Jan04

BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.

BIRGIT M. BAURIDL, Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? Negotiating Transformations from the Liminal Sphere of Contemporary Black Performance Poetry (Heidelberg: Winter, 2013), 326 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Representing the “first study of contemporary black performance poetry from the viewpoint of transnational American Studies” (back cover), Birgit Bauridl’s Betwixt, Between, or Beyond? pursues two overall goals: first, the study intends to demonstrate “the significance of performance poetry for the American cultural landscape” by discussing it in the light of key issues, terms, and concepts arising from cultural studies, such as memory, identity, and the emergence of communities across national boundaries, including a transnational American Studies framework; second, it aims to illuminate the reciprocal advantages of employing ideas from performance studies and transnational American Studies to understand performance poetry (273). Bauridl’s approach of viewing performance poetry through the double-lens of performative studies and transnational American studies, on the one hand, and her use of performance poetry as a platform to negotiate various ideas and concepts relevant to performance poetry, on the other hand, give it due critical weight to performance poetry and also show her extensive and detailed knowledge of theories and performance poetry as well as their respective historical developments. The first chapter, “Taking Notes: Roots, Perspectives, and Goals,” serves as a general introduction to her following chapters and covers a lot of ground. It touches upon diverse issues such as her definition of the term “contemporary performance poetry,” her quest for ‘material’ in rural and urban America and the difficulties of establishing a corpus of performance poetry, a short history of performance poetry (here: slam poetry) from its emergence in the 1980s to the present, and the ‘transnational turn’ in American Studies. Having established the necessity of looking at “contemporary black performance poetry from the vista point of the transnational” (49) and defining “the transnational” as a “‘category of analysis’” (49), Bauridl moves on to discuss and adapt concepts from performance studies to the needs of performance poetry, especially the concept of liminality. Chapter 2, “Rehearsal: Fine-Tuning the Concept,” first provides the readers with an overview of the multifaceted ‘discipline’ of performance studies, its emergence, the major figures and their theories, and important critical debates. It then presents a heterogeneous group of concepts that are relevant to her discussion of performance poetry, including Erika Fischer-Lichte’s concept of Aufführung, and the concepts of ritual, liminality, and social drama, which were primarily developed by Victor Turner and Richard Schechner. “Fine-tuning” these concepts to fit performance poetry in the subchapter entitled “Approaching Performance Poetry,” she argues, for instance, that performance poetry displays characteristics of the ritual and, most importantly, occurs...

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MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.
Jan04

MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.

MATTHEW STRATTON, The Politics of Irony in American Modernism (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 304 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   We live in a post-ironic age, or so much contemporary criticism would have us believe. Ironically enough, however, as Matthew Stratton points out in The Politics of Irony in American Modernism, the discourse on the obsolescence and end of irony is hardly new. Its repeated pronouncement must be understood, he argues, as “recurrent symptoms of a chronic disease within the body politic” (3) that has seen irony invoked in lieu of the issues that are actually under debate. Stratton’s book argues that an analysis of the uses of the term “cast as much light upon the values of the user […] as it does upon the object of the characterization” (8). The Politics of Irony in American Modernism is thus precisely about the question of what the various uses of the term irony really meant and which politics were mobilized or obscured through invoking it. To speak about irony all too often involves exclusive definitions of irony, and indeed the study of modernist irony is no exception. A prime example of this may be Franco Moretti’s suggestion that though irony is an “indispensible component of any critical, democratic and progressive culture, its modernist version has a dark side with which we are not familiar enough.”[1] It is precisely these attempts to say what irony “had” or “was” that Stratton’s study counteracts by its insistence on reading irony in its specific usages. Modernism in Stratton’s reading is a “particularly influential period where ‘irony’ exploded as a term to describe features not only of life and art of the possibilities for aesthetics to orient the lives of social individuals toward political goals” (5). Stratton is not interested in defining the highly complex term “irony” and looking for it in modernist novels; rather, his—let it be said straight away, excellent—study traces the “particular ways in which writers in both canonical modernism and mass culture (with no particular divide adduced between them) used the term ‘irony’ to describe themselves, their texts, and their world” (10). The term irony is used, as Stratton points out, by different authors and critics in different ways for different ends, but in all of these individual manifestations of modernist irony, “the concept […] came to represent intersections between politics and aesthetic practices” (13). In other words, it is a form of mobilizing literature’s integral potential as a praxis “to bring about, affect, and effect the field of ‘the political’” (14). Stratton’s four chapters span forty years from the 1910s to the 1950s. The first chapter, “The...

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JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.
Jan04

JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.

JAMES NAGEL, Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson & George Washington Cable (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014), 208 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.1   James Nagel, a prolific scholar with many books on nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction to his credit, among them a monograph on contemporary short story cycles, has turned his attention to collections of short stories published in the Deep South between the late 1870s and 1900. Focusing on four collections of stories reflecting the very complex social reality of New Orleans, he provides close readings of more than fifty stories by one male and three women writers. Their fiction, in complementary fashion, captures the unique blend of ethnic and linguistic diversity shaping this city and its hinterland in Louisiana. His analyses of the first story cycles of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin and the early New Orleans story circle of Alice Dunbar-Nelson are preceded by a detailed explication of the historical context, with special emphasis on the social regulations concerning racial divides and conventional arrangements like plaçage, which fostered the originally frequent disregard of these barriers in the rigid social caste system there. Nagel explains how the Code Noir observed in the French colony remained in effect under American rule and persisted after 1865 when the racial stratification was disregarded and collapsed into two classes even prior to the adoption of the Jim Crow laws. Nagel also clarifies the different uses of the ambiguous term “Creole” in nineteenth-century texts, referring either to the descendants of French and Spanish colonials or to “Creoles of color,” and provides many instructive comments on and corrections of readings by earlier interpreters (of the stories by the four writers) which have overlooked specific social conventions. One of his primary concerns seems to be to demonstrate the cohesion of the four volumes chosen, and his argument for each book thus includes observations on the recurrence of types and characters, of constellations of figures and their preoccupations, on themes and motifs, and the functional use of the perspective of characters in whom the individual authors are primarily interested. In his appreciation of the narrative art of the four writers, Nagel illuminates the problems and often tragic consequences of social restrictions, including the prohibition of interracial relationships in the most private sphere of life. The sequence of the names of the authors in the subtitle of the book does not correspond to the order in which they are treated, as Nagel first considers Old Creole Days, Cable’s first collection, which apparently “initiated the use of the Crescent City as a subject for cyclic...

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GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.
Jan04

GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.

GARY SCHARNHORST ED., Twain in His Own Time (Iowa City, U of Iowa P, 2010), 348 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   The anthology Twain in His Own Time is the first volume of a series called Writers in Their Own Time edited by the eminent scholar Joel Myerson. The series has so far anthologized the memories of the contemporaries of sixteen American authors—among them Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson and Abraham Lincoln. According to Myerson, the goal of the series is to foster a holistic understanding of “the lives of American writers” by “[p]roviding the best first-hand accounts—published and unpublished, adulatory and critical—written by both famous and forgotten contemporaries.”[1] Gary Scharnhorst, the editor of Twain in His Own Time, is a distinguished scholar of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and a leading Twain scholar, who has published four volumes about the prominent American writer. Among these publications is an authoritative collection of Twain’s interviews that was printed by the University of Alabama Press in 2006. Twain in His Own Time features an introduction by Gary Scharnhorst, a detailed chronology of Twain’s life and a bibliography as well as an index. The heart of the anthology is the ninety-four anecdotes that contemporaries of Twain remembered about their encounters with the American writer. The memories span over a time of several decades and are organized chronologically. They voice the recollections of such gravitational figures of Twain’s life like his mother, his daughters, fellow pilots of the Mississippi River, his illustrators E.M. Kemble and Dan Beard, as well as politicians and coeval literary figures. The lengths of the memories range from one to six pages. For every recollection, Scharnhorst provides a short introduction, which situates the anecdote in the fitting historical moment of Twain’s life. With the anthology Twain in His Own Time, Scharnhorst wants to cut through the veil of Mark Twain’s carefully constructed public persona. Like almost every successful artist, Twain was a marketing genius and meticulously controlled the materialization of his artistic self. Scharnhorst postulates that the selected ninety-four recollections of Twain’s contemporaries pierce through his public mask. He argues that the assembled voices of diverse contemporaries will enable readers to see Mark Twain in a new, much more sophisticated light. He states further that this collaborative biographical method will capture the complex personality of Mark Twain in a way no single biography can. The mosaic pictures that the diverse anecdotes provide expand the limited perception of any biographer. In this sense, one of the implicit goals of the anthology Twain in His Own Time, as well as the series Writers in Their Own Time,is...

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BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.
Jan04

BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.

BABETTE BÄRBEL TISCHLEDER, The Literary Life of Things. Case Studies in American Fiction (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014), 292 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Of the current scholarship driving the material turn in literary studies, Babette Tischleder’s The Literary Life of Things is a major contribution to critical efforts intent on disentangling the complicated relationship between American fiction and material culture. Using a dual narrative trajectory, the study not only expands current theories informing thing studies and material culture but demonstrates the pervasiveness with which object-oriented ontologies informed American fiction from the mid-nineteenth- to the twenty-first century. In the first trajectory, the introduction offers a précis of current criticism discussing what is at stake when we as humans claim that the very things that are not human impact our lives but also have a life of their own. In a refreshing move that foregrounds the semantics of “life” over that of “things,” Tischleder calls attention to the psychological implications that inform the fictional representation of subject/object relationships as they unfold in both space and time.Positioned this way, the studytakes measure of the mostly Marxist driven field of thing theories and their various object-centered arguments. Moving deftly from Arjan Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff’s take on commodification and the social life of things to Marcel Mauss and John Frow’s competing notions of gift economies, the author’s argument for the importance of matter’s agency is motivated by two thinkers in particular. On the one hand, The Literary Life of Things gains much of its momentum from Bruno Latour’s almost giddy praise of literary studies in Reassembling the Social (2005), where he argues that unlike empirical data, literature provides a “freer” environment for exploring material life. On the other hand, Tischleder also takes a page from Hannah Arendt’s classic The Human Condition (1958) and its postulation that the tangibility of experience is a key feature of world-making just as the material process of reification is crucial for turning actions into the stuff of future memories. Calling on an array of theorists, ranging from D. W. Winnicott to Gaston Bachelard to Pierre Bourdieu, the book asks readers not only to find new ways that include nonhuman objects into our interpretive calculus of knowledge production but to consider the question of how fiction enables objects to come alive in rather than around us. The study’s second trajectory consists of five case studies in which the author puts her working questions into action by tracking the nexus between the human and the material in select works of American fiction. The application of contextual sources and interdisciplinary methodologies cannot hide the influence of Bill Brown’s seminal...

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KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.
Jan04

KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.

KRISTEN CASE, American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012), xv + 160 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   In her study of “the seeds” (xi and xii) and “the echoes of pragmatist thinking” (xiii) in American poetry, Kristen Case traces parallels in the ways that a number of pragmatist thinkers and five famous American poets have understood the relationship between writing and reality (the “picture of mind and world” xiv). Over the course of six chapters, she relates the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and Henry David Thoreau to poetic texts by Marianne Moore, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Susan Howe. Thereby, in texts from pragmatism’s (pre)history to contemporary poetic production, she traces “a particular epistemology […] in which mind and world are understood as inseparable, and the human being is regarded as, in Thoreau’s terms [in his essay “Walking”], ‘an inhabitant, or part and parcel of Nature’” (Case xi). Case is by no means the first scholar to devote attention to the nexus between pragmatism and poetry. As she duly notes, Richard Poirier’s Poetry and Pragmatism (1992), Jonathan Levin’s The Poetics of Transition: Emerson, Pragmatism and Literary Modernism (1999), and Joan Richardson’s more recent A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein (2007) are important explorations of the subject. American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice builds on the groundwork laid by these and comparable studies and fills in some of their gaps by including “philosophers who have received less attention from literary critics (Dewey, Peirce, and Thoreau) and poets who are not generally considered among the inheritors of this tradition (Moore, Olson, and Howe)” (xii).  The first chapter functions as an introduction to the subsequent analyses and presents an ingenious study of starting points of pragmatist thought in Matthew 7:16-20: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.   Titled “‘By Their Fruits’: Words and Action in American Writing” (1-20), the chapter traces metamorphoses of the biblical metaphor over the course of more than 170 years. Case introduces basic tenets of pragmatism by following the emergence of a philosophical “turn to practice (variously defined) as...

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SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.
Jan04

SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.

SABINA MATTER-SEIBEL, Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900, Mainzer Studien zur Amerikanistik 61 (Frankfurt et. al: Peter land, 2013), 622 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Mit Contending Forces: Romantraditionen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen 1850-1900 hat Sabina Matter-Seibel einen längst fälligen Beitrag zur Erforschung des sentimentalen Genre in der Frauenliteratur vorgelegt. Im Fokus ihrer Untersuchung stehen nicht mehr allein Subversion und Widerstand in einer Vielzahl von Romanen weißer und afroamerikanischer Autorinnen, sondern auch das komplexe Zusammenspiel sowohl hegemonial-dominanter als auch subversiv-marginalisierter Konventionen, Sprachen und Lesarten. Matter-Seibel baut auf der feministischen, genderorientierten und revisionistischen Forschung der 1990er Jahre auf, die zu einer kontinuierlichen Neubewertung der Frauenliteratur und in Vergessenheit geratener Autorinnen und ihrer Werke beigetragen hat. Es mag zu Zeiten des transnational turn überraschen, dass der Fokus ausschließlich auf amerikanischen Texten und nationalen Belangen liegt. Es ist jedoch eine der besonderen Leistungen der Studie, einen äußerst dynamischen, erhellenden und sinnfälligen Dialog zwischen kanonisierten, erforschten Romanen amerikanischer Schriftstellerinnen und weniger bekannten Autorinnen zu entfachen. Die Studie beeindruckt außerdem durch ihre große Breite und die Detailliertheit der Textinterpretationen der ausgewählten Romane, wobei sich Herangehensweisen des New Historicism und der Rezeptionsästhetik gelungen ergänzen. Indem sich Schriftstellerinnen der Tradition des sentimentalen Romans bedienen, argumentiert Matter-Seibel, schreiben sie gegen androzentrische Machtpositionen an, partizipieren daran aber zugleich, was unweigerlich zu ideologischer Verstrickung und zu einem Schwanken der Autorinnen „[z]wischen Ohnmacht und Ermächtigung“ (41) führe. Wie Matter-Seibel betont, ist die auktoriale Partizipation eine zweifache: sie umfasst weibliche Körper und Ideen bzw. Werte. So entstehen vielschichtige Texte, deren Gesellschaftsentwürfe und Gesellschaftskritik gleichermaßen auf materiellen und ideellen Aspekten basieren. Trotz der Hybridität der Romane ist für Matter-Seibel letztendlich die sentimentale Tradition bestimmend, wodurch ihre Studie stark durch Genre und Periodisierung geprägt ist. Diese methodische Ausrichtung birgt trotz der Betonung der ideologischen Ambiguität und dialogischen Verflochtenheit der ausgewählten Romane die Gefahr einer gewissen Homogenisierung, die den produktionsästhetischen – ganz besonders den intellektuellen und philosophischen – Ansprüchen und Leistungen der Schriftstellerinnen nicht immer gerecht wird. Ferner impliziert diese Herangehensweise eine nicht unproblematische linear-teleologische Sicht auf die untersuchten Romane innerhalb der Zeitspanne von 1850 bis 1900, wenn Matter-Seibel etwa konstatiert, dass die nachlassende Autorität des sentimentalen Romans mit einer zunehmenden Ablösung der Schriftstellerinnen von „herrschenden literarischen Konventionen und den Erwartungen des Lesepublikums“ (571) einhergeht.           Auf das einleitende Kapitel, welches neben Forschungsstand, Fragestellung und Methode die Auswahl des Textkorpus erläutert, folgen vier Interpretationskapitel mit den Themenkomplexen „Frauenfrage,“ Wirtschaft und Arbeit, Reformliteratur als moralische Instanz und „Afroamerikanische Variationen.“ Jeder Themenbereich wird durch jeweils relevante sozio-historische Kontexte eingeführt, wobei Kapitel 2 zur „Frauenfrage“ grundlegende (hetero)normative Begrifflichkeiten, Ideologien und weibliche (Mittelschichts-)Ideale, wie etwa die der separate spheres, true womanhood, Ehe und Mutterschaft, self-possession, das „natürliche“ Wesen der...

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LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp.
Jan04

LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp.

LAWRENCE BUELL, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014), xii + 567 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   Debates around the Great American Novel (GAN) have been going on for a century and a half, with periods of greater or lesser efflorescence. We are now in a time of heightened and, one suspects, enduring interest in the topic, given a number of factors: ongoing identitarian debates around the novelistic canon; contestations of the very legitimacy of universalizing constructs like the GAN; an inveterate American fixation with lists and rankings; and, not unrelated to these factors, the internet’s maieutic role in the proliferation of all manner of discourse and data—websites, wikis, blogs, surveys, etc.—and advanced information technology’s growing capacity to quantify literary reception as we see, for example, in the “computational criticism” being developed at the Stanford  Literary Lab but also in social media.   For the record, the inaugural formal intervention into the politics of the GAN occurs in 1868, when novelist John W. De Forest, in an essay in The Nation, offers a brief prescription of what such a singular work might entail. Not surprisingly, he comes up with an essentialistic model. Such a work must be a “tableau” that depicts “the American soul” and, after briefly dismissing works by Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, settles his nomination on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), though not before flagging its idealized characterizations and flawed plot (qtd. in Buell 24).   Lawrence Buell’s views on the GAN owe little to the essentialization of De Forest and likeminded others who have contributed to GAN discussions. Indeed, his considerable breadth of reference and the exegetical nuance of his readings confirm what he announces in his title: though notionally a project that will yield a category containing precisely one work, the GAN critical enterprise is actually rather different; the objective of revealing the GAN is a kind of “dream” to be pursued, but not one that will yield any sort of apodictic result. As Buell acknowledges in his introduction, the whole “GAN idea” is “absurdly oxymoronic if taken too solemnly,” if it attempts to discern “the one single once-and-for-all supernovel” (5).   Strangely, The Dream of the Great American Novel is the first monograph-length study of this complex field of literary production and reception and, given this complexity but also the extraordinary richness of the tradition, any fulsome first treatment of the topic will be long, and Buell’s is long and intricate. Studies in the GAN are of course studies of canon (de)formation and reception aesthetics, but Buell resolutely ties The Dream of...

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THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.
Jan04

THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.

THOMAS DIKANT, Landschaft und Territorium: Amerikanische Literatur, Expansion und die Krise der Nation, 1784-1866 (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2014), 250 pp.   Amerikastudien/ American Studies 61.1   “The geographic fantasies pursued in U.S. literature,” Jennifer Rae Greeson has written in Our South, “have not been simply ‘superstructural’ window dressing for the real operation of power in the United States.”[1] This idea—namely, that “geographic fantasies” or aesthetic discourses of landscapes on the one hand, and discourses of territorial politics on the other hand, are inextricably linked in U.S. literature—also lies at the heart of Thomas Dikant’s Landschaft und Territorium. For such a double focus on aesthetic and juridico-political aspects of representations of the land in U.S. writings, perhaps no other time period in American literature furnishes as many fruitful examples from different genres as that of the massive territorial expansion of the United States during the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Dikant thus situates his study between the Ordinance of 1874 and the publication of Melville’s Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War in 1866, dedicating each of his altogether four analytical chapters to texts from one canonical writer of that time span: Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Cooper’s The Pioneers, Emerson’s “Nature” and his Poems, as well as Melville’s aforementioned poetry collection. The introductory chapter employs Petrarch’s famous “Ascent of Mount Ventoux” as a starting point for an informed discussion of the two central concepts of the book, “landscape” (representing an aesthetic approach to the land) and “territory” (as a shorthand for a political interpretation of the land). Especially in the case of the former term, however, such a heuristic separation of the aesthetic and the political dimensions of “the land” is not unproblematic, as the author himself acknowledges when he points out “[d]ass es sich bei der Repräsentation der Landschaft um keine unpolitische Darstellungsform handelt und dass das Betrachten der Landschaft eine Praktik ist, der politische Implikationen innewohnen” (22). Likewise, drawing on Robert David Sack’s concept of territoriality, Dikant establishes that the “territory” is the result of various practices of control over a geographic area—prominent among which are, amongst others, aesthetic representations of landscape (cf. 27). Rather than mutually exclusive categories, then, “landscape” and “territory” constitute concepts that feed into each other. Perhaps the best arguments against an oversimplified juxtaposition of “landscape” and “territory,” though, are Dikant’s illuminating readings of Jefferson’s, Cooper’s, Emerson’s, and Melville’s texts, which, individually, show how exactly the aesthetic and the juridico-political are intertwined in the case of each writer and, collectively, trace shifting emphases of landscape depiction in U.S. literature from the Early Republic to the Civil War. One of the...

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HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.
Jan04

HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.

HEINZ TSCHACHLER, The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 230 pp.   Amerikastudien/American Studies 61.1   In order to prove “that the writings and career of Edgar Allan Poe cannot be separated from the world of banking and finance in antebellum America” and “that to talk about Poe’s genius as producing nothing but unearthly visions is to diminish his hold of the language of banking and finance” (165), Heinz Tschachler provides five chapters of historical description, analysis, and discussion, accompanied by a Prologue and an Epilogue, Endnotes, an Index, and a Bibliographic Essay. With passion for the subject, Tschachler sheds light on the discourse of money and currency in the U.S. in the first half of the nineteenth century and on the use of a monetary discourse and of financial metaphors in Poe’s writings from several perspectives. Those are 1) the disregard for a relation of Poe’s stories and poems to monetary discourse in the critical reception of his work, with the exception of biographical attention to Poe’s poverty; 2) a gold standard or a gold-backed paper currency in relation to paper money as a fiduciary system based on trust and the inscription of both of these systems in Poe’s writings; 3) the relations between banks and politics in the U.S. from the early nineteenth century to the Civil War and how they affected Poe’s life and writings; 4) counterfeiting, fraudulent bank practices and the lack of a national currency in the Jacksonian Era and the resulting sense of economic insecurity among the people; and 5) the eventual realization by Abraham Lincoln with the Legal Tender Act of 1862 of a trust-based paper money system, along with the discussion of the question whether Poe, by then deceased, might have supported the establishment of this system—which again only lasted until the re-introduction of the gold standard in the 1880s.   In terms of politics and monetary economy, the main event in Poe’s life and writings as well as throughout Tschachler’s historical analysis is Andrew Jackson’s so-called ‘bank war’ in favor of hard money, that is, a currency based on gold coins and a gold standard. Jackson attempted to settle the many controversies on the question of American money in 1832 with a veto against the re-charter of the Second Bank of the United States that would have become a national—or federal—institution issuing paper money for all of the states. Tschachler shows how the depression following Jackson’s veto, culminating in the Panic of 1837 and lingering well through the 1840s, influenced the daily life of the people, Poe’s...

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