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.
Poverty and the Culturalization of Class , Vol. 55, No. 1
Introduction: Poverty and the Culturalization of Class
More Trouble with Diversity: Re-Dressing Poverty, Masking Class in Middlebrow Success Fiction
This essay considers an unlikely group of texts through which to explore poverty: middlebrow success fiction. Revolving centrally around middle-class characters' desire for material and social advancement, these texts displace poverty by rendering economic inequality as cultural difference. The essay focuses on one particular form of what may be called a denial of poverty and class: It looks at instances of success stories in which poorer characters are literally dressed up and visually -- but not economically -- integrated into the comfortable middle class. While these texts may not necessarily allow us to explore historically contingent causes and conditions of poverty, a focus on the ways in which the texts eschew a discussion of poverty as a form of socio-economic suffering can (i) alert us to such texts' contribution to the creation and consolidation of poverty, (ii) warn us that such masking of socio-economic suffering takes place on all levels of middle-class discursive production about class: in plots, in fictional narrative as such, in practical scholarship, and in theory, but can (iii) remind us that any dynamic of ideological re-dressing always also exposes, in Radway's sense, "ideological seams."
The Embarrassment of Naturalism: Feeling Structure in Frank Norrisís McTeague
This essay explores the relevance of aesthetic experience to the understanding of poverty and social inequality through a reading of Frank Norris's naturalist novel McTeague (1899), which treats a petite bourgeois world that is both socially insecure and structurally mixed in its relations to the means of production. McTeague represents the emotional trauma of lower-middle-class identity but more significantly it performs this trauma in its shaping of character, plot, symbolism, tone, perspective, and genre. By scripting status anxiety and hybrid class structure as formal devices, McTeague encodes the lived experience of class in the very moments of aesthetic self-consciousness that seem to resist social relevance. Norris's novel thus helps us to understand the dynamic and indeterminate qualities of class, which make it a powerful tool of critical inquiry. McTeague also establishes the special power of literary discourse to make us feel, through structure, the emotive life of class relations.
Poor like Us: Poverty and Recognition in American Photography
Following James Agee, the 'objective' documentary mode of FSA photographs by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange has been contrasted with 'aesthetic distortions' by photographers like Margaret Bourke-White. This widely accepted argument has prevented critics from seeing that an 'objective' documentary mode possesses an aesthetics of its own which presents merely another way of transforming the poor into aesthetic objects. Evans and Lange have not found a way to avoid turning the poor into aesthetic objects; rather, they have developed a new way of doing it -- one that has the advantage of looking 'objective' and therefore 'truthful.' Although Agee was sensitive to the danger of appropriating the other for one's own artistic ambitions and although he insisted on seeing the other 'in his terms,' the search for transcendence in 'objective representation' does not leave the object of representation unaffected. The essay ends by discussing two of the main analytical strategies critics have suggested to work against the dangers of an aestheticization of poverty: the insistence on particularity (A. Trachtenberg) and on "complex social reference" (M. Stange).
Facing Poverty: Towards a Theory of Articulation
This article has four parts. The first part reviews the newly emerging field of poverty studies and highlights the divergence between the social sciences and philology. It surveys the existent research on representations of poverty conducted in American Studies before exploring visual representations of poverty. A study of the transformations of poverty portraiture in the history of American documentary photography starts with a close reading of Dorothea Lange's iconic Migrant Mother. The third part elaborates the paradox of poverty portraiture via Jacob Holdt's American Pictures. A contrastive analysis of two of his photos published thirty years apart reveals the challenge of mediating between aesthetic and documentary impulses. The article also identifies a middle-class gaze as a conceptual counterpart to Laura Mulvey's male gaze. The final section integrates Stuart Hall's theory of cultural representation. Since his notion of articulation acknowledges both relations of dominance and the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, this article finishes by sketching the contours of a theory of articulation.
New World Poor through an Old World Lens: Charlie Chaplinís Engagement with Poverty
Charlie Chaplin, or rather his figure of the Tramp, is an icon in the public representation of poverty. Chaplin created depictions of class inequality in a new, highly popular medium that reached large, cross-class audiences not only in the United States but internationally. What makes Chaplin particularly interesting, it will be argued here, is his affiliation to two countries with distinctly different outlooks on class and social inequality. Chaplin made his films in a country which did not understand itself as a class society, never warmed to socialism, and had a basically accepting attitude towards wealth. But Chaplin's personal outlook and social sensibility were shaped by a class society of long standing. Personal experiences in London's poor districts and a British cultural background made Chaplin a keen critic of the class differences he portrayed in his American-made films. The article pays special attention to the treatment of Poverty in The Kid (1921) and City Lights (1931).
Why Trash? Thirteen Ways of Looking at Poor (White) Folks
Walter Benn Michaels's attempt at de-culturalizing inequality can be loved or hated for both its political implications and its philosophical sophistry. Yet even if we wanted to go along with his suggestions, there is a segment of the poor so heavily charged with cultural ascriptions that any call not to mix class issues with questions of identity will inevitably face severe problems: 'white trash' projects a poor white segment of society that appears so dramatically different from us that a reciprocal relation seems inconceivable. The slur is a problematic phenomenon of hate speech, giving way to a dehumanizing dynamic. But 'white trash' is also part of a (pop)modern aesthetics of transgression. Moreover, it has become a scholarly concern within whiteness studies. This essay traces the connotations of the troublesome label, tracks down the academic attention to abject forms of whiteness, and analyzes a number of recent (aesthetic) attempts to adopt the label in less hurtful manners. As these attempts cannot be neatly summed up by too narrow a notion of "cultural work" or the "boundary maintenance" of the social decorum, the essay implicitly criticizes Cultural Studies practices, especially the omission of aesthetic considerations.
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
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
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