interdisciplinary american studies scholarship
aspeers: emerging voices in american studies
The editors at aspeers recognize the quality and importance of work being done at the graduate level in European American Studies Institutions.
Therefore, aspeers seeks to give emerging scholars a voice: A platform to showcase their work beyond the graduate classroom and a forum for discussion and exchange. We believe that such wider circulation of graduate scholarship has great potential to further energize the field of American Studies. At the same time, aspeers offers emerging scholars the unique opportunity to publish and get recognition for their research at an early point in their careers.
Because we believe that profound discourse on transatlantic matters is also occurring on less traditional levels and through mediums other than the scholarly essay, aspeers will include two separate sections. The first will feature the year’s selected academic essays, and the second will be open to less traditional or less formalized modes of exchange and expression.
For more information please reference our call for papers (www.aspeers.com/cfp), or visit our website at www.aspeers.com.
aspeers is a project within the American Studies MA Program at the University of Leipzig, Germany. With most members of the reviewing editorial staff being MA candidates, it currently is the only peer-reviewed publication channel for graduate students in European American Studies programs.
aspeers 4 (2011) - Nature and Technology, Revisited, 4
Drawing on the studies by Leo Marx and Henry Nash Smith, this paper analyzes the 1999 Western comedy Wild Wild West as negotiating the boundaries of nature and technology. Set in 1869 and taking place mostly in the American West, the film depicts a clash of civilization/technology and wilderness/nature and, with its resolution of the conflict, attests to the ideal of the 'American Garden.' Furthermore, Wild Wild West is infused with ideas related to westward expansion and Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis. By partially revising and thereby affirming and refitting the frontier myth for the twenty-first century, the film can be interpreted to reimagine the American nation. In terms of terrorist threats and the fear of weapons technology possibly falling into 'wrong' hands, the beginning of this century presents the United States with hazards very similar to the ones which Jim West and Artemus Gordon, the film's protagonists, have to face as they set out to defend the nation.
"Something Extraordinary Hovering Just Outside Our Touch": The Technological Sublime in Don DeLillo's White Noise
This paper discusses how the forces of postmodernity and technology combine to create a contemporary version of the romantic sublime, and how this new 'technological sublime' figures in Don DeLillo's novel White Noise. The novel simultaneously depicts and satirizes a postmodern world in which the forces of capitalism, consumer culture, and technology determine people's existences to the extent that they even invade formerly personal spheres like spirituality, dreams, and self-images. I argue that, in such a world, technology has replaced nature as the primary source of the sublime experience. Moreover, the overwhelming power of natural phenomena has been dwarfed by the complexity and scale of today's technological networks and globalized system. For theoretical background I draw on the classic accounts of the sublime by Immanuel Kant and Edmund Burke, accounts of postmodernity and contemporary sublimity by Frederic Jameson, Joseph Tabbi, and Jean-François Lyotard, as well as scholarship on DeLillo in general and White Noise in particular.
In this essay, I argue that there is a valuable aspect in Freudian psychoanalysis that does not so much relate to its discourse of therapy and healing but to its specific approach to trauma. It is epitomized in its method of the talking cure, and is best explained by Freud's interpretation of dreams. Challenging contemporary trauma theory and its emphasis on the 'excesses of the Real,' I claim that Freudian psychoanalysis is concerned with the 'how' instead of the 'what': Its object of analysis is the construction of trauma in the (Lacanian) Symbolic rather than its inscription in the Real. Demonstrating that Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, one of the first novels to deal directly with the trauma of September 11, can function as a Freudian talking cure, I argue that a psychoanalytic perception of trauma can reinforce the value we attach to language and literature in the process of handling traumatic events. It is Extremely Loud's experimental form that exposes the complexity of trauma and engages the reader in the process of understanding traumatic experiences such as September 11. The active participation of the reader in 'connecting the dots' of the novel and the novel's temporal form can open up a space for (indirect) witnessing. Extremely Loud, the bestselling novel by one of the main representatives of a new generation of American fiction writers, thus serves to illustrate the value of a psychoanalytic notion of trauma for the process and problem of the representation of trauma in the Symbolic.
The paper examines the relationship between power, knowledge, and language in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight from the vantage point of discourses on vampirism. Based on Michel Foucault's notion of power as a localized, ubiquitous, and heterogeneous set of social strategies, it discusses the constitutive role of language in the construction of power relationships, focusing on gender and sexual relationships in both novels. In Dracula, the patriarchal system functions as a dominant discourse which prescribes legitimate sexual relations for women, while vampirism threatens this order by pointing out its gaps and inconsistencies. Revealing the 'in-between' of this order's dichotomous relations, the rupture of its supposed coherence and 'naturalness' manifests itself through the notion of desire. Desire shares important features with language, as it is characterized by difference and deferral. Despite its appearance as an alternative social order, the interplay between power, knowledge, and language in Twilight suggests similar restrictions to female sexuality. This discourse on vampirism and sexuality is constructed by Edward and Bella, but is decisively mediated through Bella's narrative voice. Their collaboration establishes a relationship of power which casts Bella in a state of weakness and submissiveness but also shows how language and knowledge may transform power relationships.
Into the Vertical: Basketball, Urbanization, and African American Culture in Early-Twentieth-Century America
Verticality was an important aspect of urban African American life in the early twentieth century. In this paper, the term stands for three different but entangled concepts of verticality: vertical city planning, vertical social mobility, and vertical movement. Basketball, as an expression of urban African American culture, serves as a connecting link between these three different notions of verticality, incorporating facets of all of them. Firstly, due to its spatial adaptability and upright dimension, basketball thrived in the confined space of the inner city where traditional American team sports like baseball or football faded. Secondly, the founding of athletic clubs and the organization of basketball-and-dance events did not only strengthen African American communities by instilling black pride and a new urban identity, but also promoted hope for upward social mobility. Thirdly, basketball quickly became entwined with other aspects of African American culture, primarily dances that, like the Lindy Hop with its jumping motions, also involved a vertical aspect.
Other Issuesaspeers 3 (2010) - Crime and America, 3
aspeers 2 (2009), 2
aspeers 1 (2008), 1