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.
African American Literary Studies: New Texts, New Approaches, New Challenges , Vol. 55, No. 4
Five Harlem Short Stories by Zora Neale Hurston
The Book of Harlem, Monkey Junk, and The Back Room
The Country in the Woman and She Rock
Defending Hurston against Her Legend: Two Unpublished Letters - Letter to Robert Redfield, 17 Sept. 1936, and Letter to Alan Lomax, 4 June 1937
Sister, Can You Line It Out?: Zora Neale Hurston and the Sound of Angular Black Womanhood
This essay aims to recuperate and examine the work of Zora Neale Hurston's long overlooked sonic performances, and it rehearses several ways in which to read the socio-political aesthetics of Hurston's vocal recordings as archival and ethnographic endeavors. For Hurston, singing not only operates as a mode of embodied cultural documentation, but it also upsets the putative boundaries between scholar and cultural informant, individual and community, folk culture and modernity, and gendered spaces of work and play. Above all else, it encourages readers to listen (again) to Hurston's vocals so as to recognize the centrality of sound as an epistemic tool in her rich, lively, and diverse career as a cultural worker.
The Visual Harlem Renaissance; or, Winold Reiss in Mexico
The German American artist Winold Reiss (1886-1953) first collaborated with the African American philosopher and writer Alain Locke on the Survey Graphic special edition Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro (March 1925). Afterwards, he provided the complex visual illustrations (including portraits, 'fantasies,' lettering, and graphic design) for the quintessential anthology of what came to be known the Harlem Renaissance: The New Negro: An Interpretation (1925). In the following article, I argue that Reiss arrived at a new understanding of African American culture and developed a remarkable appreciation regarding the complexity of non-European traditions via a detour. After entering the United States, Reiss quickly became disillusioned with life in American metropolitan cities. The reasons were manifold. The vision of a democratic union of people from all corners of the world proved to be merely a chimera. Ethnic ghettos, intolerance, racial disrespect, chauvinism, and a general sense of cultural hierarchies ran counter to his expectations of equality American style. After World War I, Reiss's frustrations with American culture reached a low point. In this context it is interesting to ask why, of all people, Alain Locke asked the German immigrant to provide the visual narrative of the New Negro Movement. The answer can be found in an unpublished diary, which Winold Reiss wrote in Mexico. After a creative and personal crisis in New York, the three-month trip to Mexico from October 5 to December 10, 1920, became an epiphany for Reiss. The discovery of the "Mexico Diary" helps us to better understand the function of Mexican art, folklore, religiosity, and the history of mestizaje in the context of the stylizations of what James Weldon Johnson called 'Black Manhattan.'
“Black Renaissance”: A Brief History of the Concept
The phrase "Harlem Renaissance" has captured the popular and scholarly imagination. Evoking a burst of black creativity in 1920s Manhattan, the term enjoys almost unchallenged acceptance today. Yet the term did not originate in the era it claims to describe; "Harlem Renaissance" did not appear in print before 1940, and it only gained widespread appeal in the 1960s. During the four preceding decades, writers had mostly referred to a "Negro Renaissance." The present essay tracks this shift in terminology from 1919 through the early 1970s, contending that this was not a change in name only. The "Negro Renaissance," as conceived by Alain Locke, was to be international in scope, interracial in character, and intergenerational in duration. The transformation of the "Negro Renaissance" into the "Harlem Renaissance" restricted the movement to black artists in the 1920s. The notion that the "Harlem Renaissance" was an historical era (rather than an ongoing event) has led critics of varying persuasions to claim that the Renaissance "failed." In the face of such failure narratives, this essay traces a more optimistic history and proposes that the short "Harlem Renaissance" be reconceived as a long "Black Renaissance" that was both international and interracial.
Guilty Children: Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday and Fredric Wertham’s Dark Legend
Richard Wright criticism assumes that Wright, in the course of his fictional publications, moved from a sociological to a psychological explanation for human violence. Accordingly, his novel Savage Holiday, published 1954, is dismissed as a simple Freudian tale. This assumption, however, denies the complexities of Wright's later works. Savage Holiday evolved from his collaborations with and readings of the social psychiatrist Fredric Wertham. Wertham's approach to psychoanalysis stressed the interdependence of individual and environmental, of psychological and sociological determinants for human conduct. A consideration of the close intertextual relationship between Wertham's Dark Legend, a psychoanalytical case study of matricide, and Savage Holiday, a novel on symbolic matricide, reveals that Wright, like Wertham, did not portray the sociological and the psychological as two separate entities. In Savage Holiday, Wright shows that, in the act of murder, individual and social forces are at work simultaneously.
American Transnationalism and the Romance of Race
American Studies and African and African American Studies scholarship have been much interested for the past fifteen to twenty years in questioning the importance of nationality, emphasizing transnationalism, internationalism, and diasporic identities. Yet approaches to black transnationalism, from early in the twentieth century to today, have been profoundly shaped by specifically North American assumptions about race and by American economic and institutional power. Issues of racial identity as understood in the United States dominate the semantic field of what we call 'black internationalism,' obscuring other forms of internationalism as experienced and practiced by black people. Attempts to delegitimize any 'national' framing of culture, even in the study of earlier periods, may be producing their own blind spots, obscuring the leverage of national racial formations in our very notions of identity and of which forms of internationalism 'count.' This article examines Claude McKay's Banjo, a recent special issue of Callaloo on "Afromestizos," shifts in Cape Verdean-American identity and their effects in Cape Verde, the emergence of Afro-Deutsch identity in the late twentieth century, and a memoir by Anita Reynolds (on whom Nella Larsen based her character Audrey Denny), who spent the years 1928-1940 in Europe and Morocco.
A Blue Note on Black American Literary Criticism and the Blues
This essay offers a series of objections to the tendency in post-civil rights criticism of black American Literature, and in the field of race and cultural studies in general, to employ the blues as a grounding discourse that connects the cultural productions of intellectuals, including novels, poems, and drama, to a folk-based black vernacular. It argues most fundamentally that the vast and internally contradictory blues tradition makes such grounding gestures impossible as it questions the wisdom of attempting to provide black American literature with any sort of foundation, vernacular or otherwise.
Contemporary Black? Performance Poetry
Taking as its starting point Staceyann Chin's poem "All Oppression Is Connected," this essay studies the development and current state of contemporary black performance poetry. Highlighting the vanguard position of black artists, it traces the history of the poetry slam and of contemporary performance poetry and argues that both form(at)s are closely intertwined. It critically sheds light on the connection between contemporary black performance poetry and black culture and discusses its major themes. The survey comes to the conclusion that the term 'black' in contemporary black performance poetry is by no means an expression of homogeneity but a proxy for a diverse group of artists that presents similarly diverse narratives. Black performance poetry is not an independent art form; on the contrary, it participates in a heterogeneous artistic community that transcends national and cultural borders.
Flight to Germany: Paul Beatty, the Color Line, and the Berlin Wall
This essay is an interpretation of Paul Beatty's fiction in light of recent commentary on the 'end of African American literature.' I consider Beatty's brand of alternately generative and degenerative satire alongside recent scholarship on African American humor, before turning to his most recent novel, Slumberland (2008), which grafts the familiar arcs of African American history onto Germany before and after reunification. Slumberland centers on a collaboration between two black expatriate musicians of different generations; one a free jazz saxophonist who has defected into East Berlin, the other a disc jockey committed to the proposition that blackness is "passé." The novel's central riddle is the analogy it draws between two distant historical fault lines, the color line and the Berlin Wall, the formal end of Jim Crow and the "end of history." The internationalization of jazz forms another background to this inquiry, and I examine the novel's portrait of the avant-garde within jazz's polemical historiography. I conclude with a consideration of the structural affinities between Kenneth W. Warren's question, "what was African American literature?" and another: "what was American literature?"
On What Was African American Literature?
African American literature emerged in response to the disfranchisement of blacks in the south, which set the stage for the consolidation of Jim Crow segregation. As a cultural accommodation to segregation, writers of African American literature, most of whom were located in the north, sought to speak on behalf of the race, most of which was still located in the south. With the end of Jim Crow and southern disfranchisement African American literature has likewise come to an end.
Ethnic Studies in the Age of the Tea Party
This essay provides an account of the origins of Black Studies and of Ethnic Studies in the United States. It includes the author's reflections on his own education at a time predating the establishment of these fields as well as his involvement in their institutionalization and his recent correspondence with leading Black Studies figures. Finally, the essay considers the recent attacks against Ethnic Studies by members of the Tea Party.
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 1
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
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