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.
Trauma's Continuum -- September 11th Reconsidered, Vol. 55, No. 3
Introduction: Trauma's Continuum -- September 11th Reconsidered
Why “9/11 is [not] unique,” or: Troping Trauma
Presenting a three-part argument, this essay explores the proliferation of the complex and controversial term trauma and its function in both current cultural analysis and identity politics. Why this desire to subsume historically distinct experiences under a dominant trope? And why, in particular, conceptualize the -- supposedly singular -- events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermaths as both 'illegible' and constitutive of 'new identities'? Interrogating trauma studies, which oscillate between theorizing the 'unrepresentability' of trauma, and spelling out its narratives, the essay reads such troping as a fundamental force of interdependent practices of memory and forgetting. Locating as one of its central urges a desire to override the distinction between collective experience and personal trauma, the essay turns to cultural practices that were 'inspired' by the events of 9/11 and often considered as ways of 'working through' their traumatic dimension. After revisiting the early construction site of Ground Zero and Daniel Libeskind's design for the reconstruction of the area, I turn to Art Spiegelman's serial art. Rather than offering narratives of trauma, Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers (2004) ironizes the notion that trauma can be appropriately narrated and instead foregrounds that, in the case of trauma, mediation and closure are hard to come by. In this way his comix resists the cultural matrix in which trauma works as a model of identity that is ultimately exclusionary and closed-off: a matrix in which post-9/11 politics could easily have its way.
It Might Have Happened Here: Real Anti-Semitism, Fake History, and Remembering the Present
Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (2004) adapts the Cold War conventions of counterfactual history to depict a post-historical moment when memory rather than history becomes the preferred mode for representing the past. The current commonplace in theory (trauma theory) and literature (the memoir) is that memories provide direct access to traumatic events. This assumption has dominated responses to 9/11. Roth's novel, however, approaches memory in a manner that is at once more skeptical and more literary, and in doing so it has polarized critics. Plot has been praised as an allegory of the Bush administration and criticized as a fake testimonial. Its politics are assumed to be either anti-authoritarian or pro-Jewish American or both. This paper disagrees with both extremes, arguing that Plot is best understood not as historical allegory or fake memory but as fictionalized memoir. Its politics are not partisan in the sense of criticizing a party or endorsing a minority group; rather, the novel explores the role memory has come to play in politics and culture generally. Roth goes to great lengths to show that memory is itself fictional, i.e. dependent on specific literary tropes and conventions. Memory, as it is represented in his novel, does not provide direct access to reality; it is the mother of the muses.
After the Fact: Mourning, Melancholy, and Nachträglichkeit in Novels of 9/11
This essay about two 9/11 novels argues that the possibilities of mourning -- in Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) -- or melancholia -- in Don DeLillo's Falling Man (2007) -- are opened or foreclosed by the author's deployment of a temporal framework that spans generations so as to allow for a period of latency before a new meaning can be made. The temporal deferral of meaning defines Nachträglichkeit, and Freud's linking of this notion to the biphasic nature of human sexuality indicates why the transgenerational narrative is an effective figuration of the transformation of traumatic effects and affects. The relations between the narrator and the characters in these two novels represent opposing possibilities of a transformative asymmetrical reciprocity, as in a successful analytic transference, or relations of domination and thwarted mutuality that perpetuate the compulsive repetitions of trauma. Foer's strategic use of multiple narrators and multiple generations plays out an alternative to the inevitable transmission of traumatic effects across generations by showing how a complex rearrangement of the roles that characters play for each other allows the work of mourning to progress.
Lost and Found Lives: The Portraits of Grief and the Work of September 11th Mourning
How do we mourn at the millennium? In her recent work, Sandra Gilbert has explored the ways in which new medial possibilities, on the one hand, and the particular media narratives and experiences of September 11, on the other, have shaped public response to a catastrophe repeatedly linked to a cultural paradigm shift: from postmodern modes to a renewed valorization of the 'real' and 'authentic.' This essay considers the New York Times series Portraits of Grief against this backdrop. The biographical profiles model themselves less on traditional obituaries than on the improvised memorial practices which emerged in the aftermath of the attacks and, in particular, the ideal of the snapshot. "Snapshots of their Lives" was the first headline of September 15, and it served as the compositional model for the series. I argue that the Portraits turn to the snapshot as a marker of the authentic in the supposedly post-photographic age of the digital. The argument explores this snapshot aesthetic through the lens of adaption: following the transformation of the missing person flyers from a means of search to a medium of memorialization, considering the Times's reworking of urban memorial forms into print remembrance, and finally, analyzing the Portraits within a wider adaptive frame. This frame includes Diane Schoemperlen's Names of the Dead: Elegy for the Victims of September 11 (2004), which uses the series as material for a new form of elegy and, as I further argue, a new form of mourning. In close readings attuned to shifting medial and response contexts surrounding the Portraits, my analysis aims to illuminate the dynamics modulating mourning and its constitution of national feeling post-9/11.
“Putting it into boxes”: Framing Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers
Hillary Chute argues that the "[g]raphic narrative has become central to the ways in which contemporary forms narrativize history" ("Ragtime" 268). She continues that "it is through the flexible architecture of their pages, with their stitching of absence and presence, that graphic narratives comment powerfully on the efficacy and the limitations of narrativizing history" (271). Against the backdrop of these reflections, I want to discuss Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers as an example of contemporary 9/11 comix that deal with the attacks of September 11, 2001. The following questions will guide my analysis and are, I would argue, relevant for other graphic texts as well: how are 'frames' and 'framings' functionalized, and what are the effects generated? What are frames and framings anyway? How does Spiegelman represent (or frame) the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? His and other artistic responses are cultural products that, taken together, form a (heterogeneous) community which negotiates not only the mediatization of 9/11, but also critically engages with the social (and political) transformations in the aftermath of 9/11 -- including the (renewed) discourses of nationalism, heroism, and community.
"Close Neighbors to the Unimaginable": Literary Projections of Terrorists' Perspectives (Martin Amis, John Updike, Don DeLillo)
In the years since two planes hit the World Trade Center, 9/11 has become firmly rooted in the American book market: literature is catching up with what Marianne Hirsch considered an "indescribable event." Over one hundred American novels deal more or less directly with the attacks -- providing the fictional re-enactments necessary for cultural catharsis and healing, and negotiating the contact zones of individual and collective identity. Whereas most of these literary texts approach the event from the victims', survivors', and observers' points of view, a few novels have also attempted imaginative constructions of the terrorists' perspectives. This paper will investigate three such fictional transgressions and examine the larger psychological, political, and cultural issues they engage. What is most striking about these imaginative explorations of terrorists' minds is the way they avoid traditional literary models for dealing with the Other as a threat, such as those employed in Gothic fiction; in fact, they resist the dichotomous logic of Self and Other. Using Julia Kristeva's concept of the abject, and locating these texts in a larger tradition of writing about political violence, I hope to show how Martin Amis's "Last Days of Muhammad Atta" (2006), John Updike's Terrorist (2006), and Don DeLillo's Falling Man (2007) cater to our need for stabilizing narratives in very different ways. Especially in times of increasing unilateralism and Manichaean political thinking, such literary approaches -- as diverse as they eventually are in method and effect -- seek more differentiated explanations for violence's origins and thus significantly contribute to a reconfiguration of both the literary history of evil and the larger cultural imaginary of the post-9/11 world.
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
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
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