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.
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 4
The City as Liminal Space: Urban Visuality and Aesthetic Experience in Postmodern U.S. Literature and Cinema
This article suggests that the postmodern city as represented in recent U.S. literature and cinema is constructed as a symbolic place based on visions of liminality -- a term I borrow from social anthropology. The fictional metropolis, I argue, is negotiated as a quasi-organic agglomeration of signs and references, engaging the reader by means of what can be termed an 'aesthetics of the body.' At first glance, the postmodern city seems to figure as a closed space -- a labyrinth that leaves protagonists and readers in a state of disorientation, fragmentation, and constant decentering. At second glance, however, the maze-like organization of the 'postmetropolis' also offers numerous opportunities, making aesthetic experience, and movement in particular, a central motor of the production of meaning. The protagonists as well as the readers become involved in a 'rhetoric of the body' -- or, more specifically, a "walking rhetorics" (de Certeau 131) -- that turns the fictional city into a tactile, almost visceral event. The cityscape in postmodern literature and film seems at once empowering and claustrophobic, conveying to the intrepid flâneur an aura of mysteriousness and bottomless enigma. By privileging abstract space over historical space, postmodern urban fiction creates an eerie field of alienation and potential deconstruction, in which the center becomes periphery and vice versa. The notion of closure is further abandoned in this liminal space in favor of the concepts of transition and ambiguity.
Architecture, Writing, and Vulnerable Signification in Herman Melville’s “I and My Chimney”
The following essay discusses Herman Melville's "I and My Chimney" (1856) as a text that engages architecture and writing as interrelated systems of signification. Fueled by a variety of historical developments, domestic architecture emerges as a powerful purveyor of meaning in the antebellum decades. Architecture, in this cultural context, is construed in analogy to writing (and, to some extent, vice versa), as creating houses-as-texts that tell stories about their inhabitants in terms of their individual, familial, and national identities. Thus conceived, domestic architecture is characteristically enlisted in the articulation and stabilization of hegemonic narratives of, e.g., gender and nationhood. Melville's text invokes this cultural convention to cast the signifying function that architecture and writing perform as being vulnerable and in crisis. This crisis is narrated by an idiosyncratic narrator for whom the semiotic instability documented by his narrative resonates with the social and cultural vulnerability that he experiences -- his authority as master of his house and family is challenged in the course of the tale, along with the structural integrity of his chimney with which he wants to symbolically reinforce his authority. I argue that this crisis of signification performs double work in the text. On the one hand, it serves to articulate the anxiety of mid-nineteenth-century cultural elites about what they perceive as a cultural decline. On the other hand, allegedly dysfunctional signification unfolds a critical potential, bringing to light things which 'functional' signification had worked to conceal and thereby unlocking hermetic narratives of self, family, and nation.
The Birth of the Modern Pícaro out of the Spirit of Self- Reliance: Herman Melville’s The Confidence
Melville's The Confidence-Man can be read both as a modification of the classic picaresque tradition and as a precursor of the modern American picaresque mode as it emerged in the twentieth century. This essay focuses on the latter and argues that Melville enacts a dramaturgy of social trust and distrust akin to more recent explorations of the genre. The novel is read against two backdrops -- its socio-economic context, the antebellum crisis, and its philosophical underpinnings, Emerson's transcendentalism. Melville's satire ridicules American society on the threshold between the Puritan legacy and industrial modernity and at the same time attacks Emerson's universal optimism, thus creating the confidence man as a quintessentially American picaresque type -- self-reliant, not because he buys into Emerson's pathos of self-reliance, but because the social currency of this very philosophy allows him to exploit others in their relentless pursuit of happiness.
Dominance, Resistance, and Cooperation in the Tanforan Assembly Center
From May through September 1942 the Tanforan racetrack served as a temporary detention camp for Japanese Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area. Taking a microhistoric perspective, this essay explores how the inmates dealt with the detrimental living conditions and the loss of freedom and analyzes how they responded to the various means of control employed by the camp administration. Dominance, resistance, and cooperation were the most widespread manifestations of power relations between prisoners and keepers, but concepts such as assistance, compliance, and accommodation also had their place in everyday dealings. This study demonstrates that detainees generally sought cooperation but protested against conditions they deemed intolerable, against incompetent keepers, against arbitrary treatment, and against paternalism. The overall goals were improvement of the facilities and self-determination. In the final analysis, the violation of basic democratic rights by the United States government confirmed to the inmates that it was necessary to hold on to these principles. Thus, Tanforan's detainees stand for the dialectical relationship between external oppression and internal emancipation, and for the lasting effect of the myth of the 'American Dream.'
Adaptation as Reception: How a Transnational Analysis of Hollywood Films Can Renew the Literature-to-Film Debates
This article contends that scholarly approaches to the relationship between literature and film, ranging from the traditional focus upon fidelity to more recent issues of intertextuality, all contain a significant blind spot: their lack of theoretical and methodological attention to adaptation as an historical and transnational phenomenon. Herein I argue for a historically informed approach to American popular culture that reconfigures the classically defined adaptation phenomenon as a form of transnational reception. I focus on two Hollywood blockbusters, both produced by Columbia Pictures: Sense and Sensibility (1995) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Analyzed through the prism of transnational reception, these films allow us to see how the process of adaptation itself reveals the material nature of heretofore ahistorically defined intertextual phenomena. Exploring the transnational reception of American-made films can reinvigorate the literature-to-film debates by highlighting the ways in which intertextual dynamics are material dynamics; they operate in cultural force fields that are tangible and confrontational and carry with them concrete material effects.
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
American History/ies in Germany: Assessments, Transformations, Perspectives, Vol. 54, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 2
Appropriating Vision(s): Visual Practices in American Women's Writing, Vol. 54, No. 1
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