This course combines an introduction to major discussions and themes in the Environmental Humanities with a self-reflective view of this thriving intellectual field. We will discuss a broad variety of topics, including theoretical debates, artistic responses/inspirations, and ethical/political negotiations, all of which are intrinsically linked to notions of power, agency, and resistance. We will examine a) the emergence and institutionalization of the Environmental Humanities as a field, b) theoretical, literary, artistic contributions to environmental justice issues (animal rights, vulnerable communities, ecological imperialism), and the critical power of words, images, and other forms of expression. Complicating overly simplistic divisions between ”developed” and ”developing” countries, the course takes the multifaceted and troubled societies and environments of the United States and Europe as its starting point and connects this with transformation processes on a global scale.
Thinking of war conjures up images of battlefields and life in a military camp, but it also reminds us of those ”dear ones at home,” who live through a military conflict without being considered active participants. This seminar focuses on the lives at the ‘home front,’ and the culture that surrounds them. Starting with the American Civil War and ending with a few select glimpses into 20th and 21st-century home fronts, we will examine the complex and emotionally charged relations and cultural connections between the ones who fight and those who are left behind. Originally considered a ”family quarrel,” the 1861-1865 sectional conflict deeply affected family constellations and emotional ties. But what exactly does that mean? How, through what media, and what cultural artifacts did the Civil War enter American living rooms, churches, and town halls? How was the issue of war communicated among civilians right before it began and then later, when it continued for an unexpected four years? How did it change the lives and self-perceptions of those many women and children who were tossed into roles that challenged the very norms and conventions they had trusted to be just and morally right? How did it reach beyond American home fronts when it affected relatives and friends in some far-away European homeland? How was the Civil War negotiated and discussed among civilians and in the media on the other side of the Atlantic? What was its impact on immigrant families who had escaped revolution and conflict in Europe only to find themselves forced to take sides in a war that was not theirs? Were there new icons of togetherness and community that alleviated the daily sorrow at the sight of that not so metaphorical ”vacant chair”? What were the activities, rituals and objects of remembrance that civilians resorted to? How did these cultural items and practices bind them to wartime ideologies, government institutions and to religious and/or universal concepts of what it meant to be a citizen, an American, a human being? How did the home front intrude into soldiers’ lives; how did overlaps between home front and army life change the perception of the war itself? In the second half of the semester we will shift our attention to how the Civil War and other home fronts were remembered in monuments, literature, and film. What is the cultural work of these forms of remembrance? What is kept alive in those forms of cultural expression, what is lost, and why does that matter? How have historians and scholars of popular culture framed the home front in recent publications? How did the Cold War, that many American soldiers experienced in West Germany or South Korea, change the concept of home front? How did soldiers make sense of the home fronts they experienced abroad and how did these foreign home fronts influence their views of their native country? How are established notions of the home front challenged by those who, especially during the Cold War, found a home in the country they were stationed in? And how have the series of wars that Americans have fought in since 9/11 changed the concept of the home front as a singular and exceptional situation?
This lecture discusses modernism as an era of cultural innovation and change, taking into account various social, political, philosophical, and technological factors that contributed to the emergence of new forms of cultural expression. Taking the 1913 Armory Show as a starting point, the lecture identifies the movement as a transnational phenomenon that worked across both the Atlantic and the Pacific in complex ways, negotiating and appropriating rather than imitating ideas, artistic strategies, and forms of expression. Rather than comparing American and European forms of modernism, this lecture traces the complex, and highly productive interactions between artists and writers from both sides of the Atlantic and examines how the American racial and cultural mix contributed to a version of modernism that is both transnational and local, innovative and preserving, nostalgic and progressive.
From 1860 to 1940, the United States underwent deep social, legal, and cultural transformations as a consequence of war, economic, social, and legal changes, and also technological innovation. This lecture course discusses those changes with a particular focus on the hopeful developments during that era, but also on the nightmarish experiences that marked those decades. Topics include, but are not limited to: Reconstruction culture and the idea of a “Second Founding”; the Reservation Era and the entertainment industry surrounding it; the “Gilded Age,” and the self-fashioning of the leisure class; progressivism, the “New Woman” and “eugenic feminism,” Chinese exclusion and the marketing of the San Francisco Chinatown; the New Imperialism and the expansion of national tourism; immigration, urbanization, and the cultural negotiations surrounding those phenomena; American cultural reactions to modernization, and the role of race, class, and gender in the transformation processes during the Great Depression.
It is against this framework that we will examine literary phenomena such as the utopian novel, literary realism and modern poetry, but also postbellum entertainment industries from Barnum’s Museum during the Civil War to the reconstruction minstrel show, and from late nineteenth-century magazine culture to early Hollywood film. The course will pay particular attention to the role that Europe, and European cultures, played during those decades—we will talk about the impact of the 1848 revolution in Germany on the American Civil War, German medical discourse and how it influenced medical reform in the United States, European immigrant cultures, including religious cultures, in the New World, the role of American expatriates in Europe, and about the complex exchange of ideas and aesthetic concepts across the Atlantic.
Credit requirements: final exam (90 mins) on Thu, Feb 7, 2019, 10-12 am, s.t. All course materials will be available on GRIPS.
The lecture course surveys the academic discipline of American Studies and provides an overview of materials, resources, issues, areas of study, and theories in the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Individual sessions will give introductory accounts of North American geography, demographic developments and U.S. immigration history, major issues and coordinates of North American and U.S. history, the political system of the U.S., American ideologies and identity constructions, the religious landscape of the U.S., multilingualism and language politics in North America.
Credit requirement: final exam on Wed., 6. Feb. 2019, 9:00-10:00 am, s.t.
Course texts: Hebel, Udo. Einführung in die Amerikanistik/American Studies. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2008. Print; Bronner, Simon J., ed. Encyclopedia of American Studies. Johns Hopkins UP, 2014. Web.
The debate about the state of the environment has been charged with passion, sentimentality, and fear, but also with a deep-seated distrust of scientific authorities, a hatred against intellectual elites, denial, and forms of distress and depression that have been called a “psychoterratic condition.”
Taking these emotional responses as a starting point, we will examine how nature, or the “end of nature,” moves us when we read, see, listen to, or participate in, the broad spectrum of stories that have been told about a changing planet. Could it be that representations of nature can move us beyond the merely metaphorical dimension of the term?
If emotions are a mode of attachment to the world we must take into consideration that the implied division between the human and the non-human is itself a cultural concept: theory’s views of the divide between humanity and nature have been unstable, shifting, and subject to influences from other than U.S. culture. In order to better comprehend humans’ emotional involvement in ethical questions relating to the environment, we will discuss representations of nature in American mainstream and minority cultures, investigate the relationship between the local and the global in contemporary environmentalist thought, address the role of cultural difference in debates about climate change and other environmental concerns, and discuss the role of gender, class, and religion in connection with the stories that we tell of planet earth.
We will look at literature, art, film, graphic novels, online entertainment, and at contemporary philosophical debates to explore this topic. In preparation to the first session please read Cary Funk, “The Politics of Climate Change” at http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/the-politics-of-climate/
Course requirement: oral presentation or group moderation. Credit requirement: presentation handout and/or PowerPoint presentation; advanced academic writings in English (of a total of 15-20 pages.
As Diaspora Studies have shown, the concepts of home and homeland that are held by diasporic individuals and communities, vary greatly. While diasporic subjects often imagine a “shared homeland” as a homogenous place of belonging, there are also other, more complex conceptions that think of the homeland as incomplete, separate, fragmented, lost, a haunting presence that ignores geographical borders, or a point of refuge that is always in the making. This seminar will look at various concepts of the imagined homeland, examine acts of homeland orientation, ask about the role of the internet in contemporary constructions of the imagined homeland, and look at various forms of cultural expression to learn about the many ways in which diasporic people respond to the question most would like to avoid: “where do you come from, originally?” Our primary sources will be novels and short stories, films and artwork. We are also going to meet an artist who works on this topic of remembering, coping, and negotiating, taking her personal experience as a starting point. In preparation please obtain and read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2003).
Course requirement: oral presentation or group moderation. Credit requirement: an 8 to 10-page (3,500 to 4,500-word) research paper in English.
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