literature, cultural studies, history, political science, linguistics, critical theory, teaching of American Studies
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Amerikastudien / American Studies is the journal of the German Association for American Studies. It started as the annual Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien in 1956 and has since developed into a quarterly with some 1200 subscriptions in Europe and the United States. The journal is dedicated to interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives and embraces the diversity and dynamics of a dialogic and comparatist understanding of American Studies. It covers all areas of American Studies from literary and cultural criticism, history, political science, and linguistics to the teaching of American Studies. Thematic issues alternate with regular ones. Reviews, forums, and annual bibliographies support the international circulation of German and European scholarship in American Studies.
Appropriating Vision(s): Visual Practices in American Women's Writing, Vol. 54, No. 1
Introduction: Appropriating Vision(s): Visual Practices in American Women’s Writing
"Death's Surprise, Stamped Visible": Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Civil War Photography
This essay explores the ways that U.S. Civil War photography affected perceptions of death registered in Northern literary expression. Comparing the essays of Oliver Wendell Holmes and the poems of Emily Dickinson, the study explores the divergent ways that two writers on the home front thought through the ramifications of distant violence. While enacted in the name of 'the people,' much Civil War violence could only be understood by individual persons remotely, through the mediation of emergent mass information networks. While Holmes celebrates the ways that technologies of photography and war can both expose and heal the illnesses of the nation, ultimately expanding American knowledge and power, Dickinson emphasizes the narrow singularity of any insight photography can provide. Photographs can transmit knowledge of death, but can do nothing to convey the living contexts that produce death. This narrow understanding emerges from a congruity between the photograph and the dead body: both register a place where life has been and is no longer. Dickinson suggests that war itself produces nothing more than this basic understanding, available to those who can make sense of the mediated transmission of information about mass death on the battlefronts. Her poetry articulates this process in order to enable that understanding. This argument seeks to demonstrate that, contrary to longstanding assumptions about Dickinson's isolation, she was as involved as the public figure Holmes in analyzing an emerging mass media's relation to total war. The differences in their perspectives may be attributed in part to differences in gendered social positions.
Visual Negotiations and Medical Discourses in Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Writing
According to Michel Foucault, a paradigmatic change in the visual organization of power marks the onset of modernity and turns Western societies from societies of the spectacle into societies of surveillance. This shift becomes particularly obvious in the organization of spaces in modern institutions―for example prisons, schools, military barracks, or clinics. Taking its cue from Foucault's argument, this article analyzes the role of vision in medical settings as presented by American female writers of the later nineteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth century, medical discourses present a highly charged field that reflects the gender and power relations at work in American society. Such discourses are shaped by essentializing notions of male and female 'nature' that present women as physically and psychologically fragile deviations from the male 'norm.' This article suggests that nineteenth-century women writers use vision as a metaphor for the gender and power relations that shape their society, thus demonstrating a remarkable insight into relations of power by questioning the epistemological implications of vision, by presenting female protagonists who appropriate the gaze, and by involving their readers in processes of visual education that aim at re-organizing the nation.
The Deep Surface of Lily Bart: Visual Economies and Commodity Culture in Wharton and Dreiser
Edith Wharton and Theodore Dreiser's literary portrayals of American culture at the turn of the twentieth century display a fascination with the visual. This essay is premised on a broader definition of visual culture that encompasses not only art or media but also the visual dimensions and perception of the urban landscape -- the crowds in the street, in stations, theaters or hotels as well as shop windows, department stores and conspicuous interiors. The House of Mirth (1905), which forms the focus of this essay, and Sister Carrie (1900) present public arenas that locate people in a dynamic field of vision -- a web of sights and looks that determines the subject's social place and defines personality as an assemblage of visual effects and attributes. Both novels are concerned with the impact the orientation towards the visual has on the psyche of their protagonists. They exemplify that commodity culture, especially modes of commercial display, serves as a model for modern subjectivity. Wharton draws the picture of a society that puts its stakes in appearances and whose assets and tastes are of value only when they are converted into a kind of visual currency. Her protagonist, Lily Bart, reflects these values not only in her accomplished self-fashioning, but also in her psychic make-up -- her deep surface.
Colonizing Consciousness: “Race,” Pictorial Epistemology, and Toni Morrison’s “Jazz”
Toni Morrison's "Jazz" is a book of pictures -- portraits, moving pictures, imagined images. This article explores 'seeing' as epistemology, as a way of making meaning, especially of the gendered and raced self. At times an empty signifier, the female image signifies not a 'meaning' beyond itself but instead only the logic of its gazers' preoccupations; at other times, 'seeing' makes meaning by colonizing s/he who is seen. Morrison also offers a version of femininity not tied to the visual, femininity 'beneath' it. Finally, "Jazz's" narrator emerges as unreliable precisely because she thinks she is immune to the gaze. Through the narrator's delusion, Morrison in effect forces the reader to examine her own position vis-à-vis the text; she uses the narrator's imagined space outside the text to reveal the reader's position outside the text as just that -- imagined.
"There's a Shock in This Seeing": The Problem of the Image in "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Oryx and Crake"
Throughout her long career, Margaret Atwood has written only two speculative novels, The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake. In both, Atwood traces ideas and practices already present in contemporary culture to their logical conclusions, and a comparison of the novels reveals the evolution of Atwood's perspective on a number of recurring topics, visual culture being chief among them. The context for Atwood's evolving concern about visual culture is the rise to dominance of the image in contemporary culture. In the nearly two decades that followed the publication of The Handmaid's Tale, the use of visual culture to aestheticize political and social life accelerated to the point that image and reality became nearly impossible to distinguish. Similarly, the stakes of visual representation are much higher in Oryx and Crake than in The Handmaid's Tale, and Atwood suggests that not only civil liberties but humanity itself is threatened by an increasingly degraded and dehumanizing visual culture. Nevertheless, despite changing conditions of visuality, Atwood continues to recommend literature as a viable space within which to develop a critical response to visual culture.
'Can the Squaw Bluff?': Negotiations of Vision and Gazes in Tracks and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Theories concerned with the abstract, larger structures that influence the distribution of power in a visual regime -- negotiations of social life facilitated through modes of seeing and the exchange of gazes -- have quite importantly established that whiteness as well as maleness constitute positions of privilege. Non-white women, according to such theories, are mostly considered as objects of the look and relegated to the margins. In the encounter between raced and gendered persons, however, the ability to gaze and exert power might be distributed differently. This essay suggests an expansion on Jean-Paul Sartre's concept of the essential and subjectivity-constituting exchanges of looks between 'me' and 'the Other' so as to accommodate the structural differences inherent in hierarchically organized societies. The theoretical gains of this approach are then illustrated in a reading that focuses on the negotiations of the gaze as well as of the visual in the very particular situations of three female characters in two novels by Anishinaabe-German-American literary writer Louise Erdrich. Her texts illustrate that agency and power are not necessarily assigned exclusively to those advantageously positioned within a Western scopic regime and that being structurally privileged by hegemonic culture might carry with it some drawbacks.
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, 57.3
Conceptions of Collectivity in Contemporary American Literature, Vol. 57, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, Vol. 57, Vol. 1
American Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Vol. 56, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, Vol. 56, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 1
African American Literary Studies: New Texts, New Approaches, New Challenges , Vol. 55, No. 4
Trauma's Continuum -- September 11th Reconsidered, Vol. 55, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010, Vol. 55, No. 2
Poverty and the Culturalization of Class , Vol. 55, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 4
American History/ies in Germany: Assessments, Transformations, Perspectives, Vol. 54, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008, Vol. 53, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008 - Die Bush-Administration: Eine erste Bilanz, Vol. 53, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008, Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008 Vol. 53, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008 - Inter-American Studies and Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 53, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007, Vol. 52, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007 - Teaching American Studies in the Twenty-First Century, Vol. 52, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007, Vol. 52, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007 - Transatlantic Perspectives on American Visual Culture, Vol. 52, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006, Vol. 51, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Asian American Studies in Europe, Vol. 51, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006, Vol. 51, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Multilingualism and American Studies , Vol. 51, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005, Vol. 50, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005 - Early American Visual Culture, Vol. 50, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2005 - American Studies at 50, Vol. 50, Nos. 1/2