Teaching WS 03/04
American Literature and Culture
"From the First English Settlements to the Closing of the Frontier"
VO, C302 [entspricht K 222], Thursday 15:00-17:00
This course will offer an introduction to American literature and culture from the foundation of the first British
settlements in North America to the closing of the frontier around 1890. A historical survey of the colonial and
federal periods will provide a framework for a reading of some classic documents from the 17 th to the 19 th
centuries. The course will consider the different regional origins and cultural traditions and the emergence of a
national culture in the 19 th century as mirrored in various texts (accounts of exploration, histories, poems). After
discussing texts reflecting the Puritan heritage or Southern plantation culture the problematic issues of the
treatment of the Aboriginals and the African-Americans will be dealt with in a reading of ‘ethnographic’
passages and slave narratives. The survey will be concluded by a consideration of the transformation of the
cultural landscape of the United States in the last third of the 19 th century.
Excerpts of texts to be dicussed are contained, for instance, in volumes 1 and 2 of the MacMillan Anthology of
American Literature, ed. George McMichael, and other current anthologies. Among the authors to be considered
will be William Bradford and John Smith, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Philip Freneau, Nathaniel
Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (The American Scholar) as well as Frederick
Douglass and Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain.
A mastercopy containing all the texts from which excerpts are taken will be provided.
Eden in Jeopardy: Ecological Concern in Literature and the English Language
North American Writing)
PS Wed 10-12, UR (ab 15.10.)
The course is intended to broaden the reading experience and the familiarity of students with various analytical
tools for a fruitful approach to a variety of texts chosen from the fields of British, US-American and Canadian
literature. This introductory seminar will consider poems from the 17th to the 20th century in which the
environmental imagination and the concern with the preservation of natural beauty is given expression. In
addition, essays and fictional texts reflecting an awareness of modern man’s encroachment upon natural scenes
will be analyzed, and the factors examined which prompted an increased awareness of the endangered natural
Among the poets to be considered will be some pre-Romantic writers (Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan),
Romantic, Victorian, and early 20 th -century poets (T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence and Robert Frost), and especially
Gary Snyder. Attention will also be paid to the tradition of essay writing which found a first major exponent in
H. D. Thoreau (‘Walking’ and Walden), and was continued by the Agrarians and Neo-Agrarians (I’ll Take My
Stand, 1930). The fictional representation of ecological concerns will be illustrated by a discussion of Sarah
Orne Jewett’s short story ‘White Heron’, of a short story like W. Faulkner’s ‘Delta Autumn’ and of narratives by
Malcolm Lowry. Ecological concerns, which also shape a drama like Earle Birney’s The Damnation of
Vancouver, will finally be linked to the unfolding of native literature in North America.
401: Introduction to Cultural and Regional Studies
VO Fri 10-12 UR (ab 10.10), every other week
The introductory course is to explore a number of problem areas especially relevant to a student interested in
getting intimately acquainted with another national culture and ready to prepare her/himself for the role of a
mediator between members of different language communities. Thus general questions concerning recent and
contemporary conceptions of culture will be raised. Focusing on the current debate on the wide range of
representations of culture the course will introduce some assumptions and terms and address the complex issue
of the tension between globalization and regionalization / tribalization apparent in the last decades of the 20 th
century. While touching upon various aspects of and approaches to culture (initiated by structuralists and
ethnographers, practitioners in the field of Discourse Analysis and New Historicism) the course will approach
relevant issues especially from the angle of Imagology.
The facts established by social psychologists and ethnologists concerning the construction of collective identities
and concepts of one’s own culture vis-à-vis the other/ alterity will provide access to the ongoing debate of
cultural power, the emergence of the related concepts of center and periphery, and of national and regional
cultures. The course will also consider contemporary phenomena distinctly visible in Anglophone countries: the
coexistence of ethnic groups and the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturality. Among the topics to be
illustrated with phenomena manifest in the USA and Canada and in the British Isles, will be (post)colonialism,
ethnicity, nationalisms in post-colonial countries in historical perspective, hegemony and transatlantic
differences, educational models in diachronic perspective, especially higher education in the Anglophone world,
gender construction and difference as reflected in literary representation (with a focus on Southern culture).
These and similar issues will also be dealt with in guided workshops (UE/VK; 402) in which issues and concepts
introduced in the lecture will be applied and related problems analyzed.
402: Introduction to Cultural and Regional Studies
UE + VK, Fri 10-12 UR 14-tägig (ab 17.10.)
Seminar: Veni, vidi - Venice and Vienna:
North American visitors respond to "Old Europe"
SE Tue 16-18 Room 5
The study of travel literature has come to be regarded as a particularly significant activity in the field of literary
and cultural studies. The seminar will consider various 19 th and 20 th century accounts by North American visitors
to ‘Old Europe’, both factual and fictional. It will focus on the representation of two sites which have appealed to
the imagination of North American writers: The ancient city on the Adriatic Sea and the imperial city on the
Danube, which in the 19 th century began to attract many North American visitors.
The seminar will examine a number of texts ranging from travel essays and vignettes to short stories and
segments from autobiographical and quasi-autobiographical fiction by Mark Twain and Henry James, William
Carlos Williams and Mary McCarthy, Ethel Wilson and John Irving. They will be read in the light of the insights
of Imagology. Thus the texts, some of which straddle the permeable borderline between factual and fictional
accounts, will be placed in traditions which reflect the contrasted factors shaping the depiction of ‘foreign’
societies and settings - on the one hand ‘ethnocentrism’ and the construction of heterostereotypes of European
culture, and, on the other hand, the appeal of ‘alterity’, the attraction of distant places removed from the trivial
and commonplace experiences at home.
The texts chosen from the 19 th century illustrate the tradition of the European ‘pilgrimage’ from a country largely
devoid of historical monuments and hierarchical social structures fostering the work of the imagination, which
led to the expatriation of several would-be writers. But some travelogues also exemplify a contrary trend, that of
impatience with and a readiness to debunk European cultural shrines. Texts from the 20 th century similarly reveal
the diverse reactions of North American visitors to the two cities and the inspiration they received from an
encounter with cultures seemingly alien to them and sometimes perceived through the lenses of ‘ethnocentrism’.
While the possibility of discovering ‘elective affinities’ to places visited was realized in some of the texts
chosen, other texts show that their authors used their experience of a ‘different’ culture to articulate their dissent
from a favorable autostereotype or as inspiration for ‘lexical playfields’.