Courses

Summer Term 2012

Prof. Dr. Astrid Fellner

VL: "Moonlight and Magnolias: Literatures of the American South"

Tue, 12-2pm, B 2.1, room 0.02

This lecture course attempts to capture the rich cultural diversity of the literatures of the American South. Reading a variety of texts, we will survey Southern literature from colonial times to the present. We will examine how American writers have imagined and constructed the notion of the South as a distinct region and of Southern literature as a distinct body of writing. Using African American music, slave narratives, short stories, novels, poetry, essays, and documentaries, we will examine the development of Southern literature in relation to historical events and cultural contexts. Readings will include works by Margaret Mitchell, Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Anne Porter, and Carson McCullers among others.  

Course Readings: A course reader will be made available for purchase.      

 

UE/VL: "Foundations of Cultural Studies"

Wed 10am-12pm, B 2.1, room 0.02  

This course is intended to make students familiar with the various theoretical approaches and practices common to the study of culture. It should introduce students to the intellectual roots and contemporary applications of Cultural Studies, focusing on the theoretical bases for the analyses of meaning and power in the production and reception of texts. While this class will offer various approaches to the study of cultures in the English-speaking world, it should also provide students with an opportunity to do Cultural Studies. In our analyses we will therefore draw on a wide range of cultural material (literature, television, films, and commercials) and explore the ways in which questions of representation are interrelated with issues of identity, in particular racial/ethnic, sexual, class, and regional differences.  

Texts: A course reader will be made available for purchase.  

 

Examenskolloquium

Tue, 4-6pm, C 5 3, room 1.19 Research Kolloquium

Tue, 6-8pm, C 5 3, room 1.19  

Jennifer Moos, M.A.

PS: "The Literary Politics of Sleep: Walt Whitman, Djuna Barnes, Shelley Jackson"

Mon 4-6pm, C5 2, room U 2

"Sleep (�) is political," Simon J. Williams, Professor of Sociology, argues in his most recent book The Politics of Sleep (2011). "Sleep Is the New Sex," ABC News headlines after the results of an investigation published by Forbes magazine were made public in 2006. Sleep clearly is something we all "know;" something that dominates roughly one third of our lives; something we all need; and something we all lack (at times). Sleep therefore is a very common human activity.

Over the past decades, "sleep studies" have become a major field of interdisciplinary research. Via an analysis of literary representations of sleep and the sleeping body, this seminar tries to offer an approach to "sleep studies" from the perspective of literary and cultural studies. Walt Whitman's poetry, Djuna Barnes's and Shelley Jackson's novels, as well as some shorter fictional pieces will serve as points of reference to ask ourselves some of the following questions: What is sleep? What can literature tell us about sleep? Which metaphors are used in connection to sleep? How can we deal with what Nathaniel Wallace has called the "fundamental antagonism between sleep and narrative"? What can we learn about sleeping habits and conditions? How is sleep controlled by external forces? Which social and cultural (sleep) norms are depicted in our texts? How are these norms constructed, deconstructed, questioned, and reconstructed in literature? Is there a transgressive potential to sleep? What do literary representations of sleep tell us about culturally and politically important categories like, e.g. the nation, the body, and sexuality? How do these meanings change from 19th-century early capitalism to 21st-century neo-liberalism?

Please buy and read the following books before the semester starts:

Further readings:

A course reader including Walt Whitman's poem "The Sleepers," shorter fiction, and theoretical texts on sleep and sleeplessness will be made available for purchase.

Course requirements: Regular attendance, active participation, reading and writing assignments, short oral presentation, graded term paper/ final written exam (depending on your Studienordnung).

Heike Mißler

PS: "Bad Romance? Gender in Postfeminist Fiction and Film"

Tue 10am-12pm, C 5 2, room 128

Since the publication of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones Diary and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City in the mid-nineties, the terms "Chick lit" and "Chick flicks" have been introduced to describe light-hearted and humorous novels and films addressed to and marketed at young women. The storylines of these fictions revolve around the heroine's everyday trials and tribulations in juggling work, love, family and friends. Despite its formulaic quality, Chick lit as well as its film adaptations have experienced tremendous success, and Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw have become cult figures of postmodern femininity.

Generically, Chick Lit inscribes itself into the tradition of the popular romance, but it clearly deviates from its Mills & Boon or Harlequin predecessors in its portrayal of gender identities. Although termed "the new woman's fiction" by Suzanne Ferris and Mallory Young (2006), and established as the quintessential genre of postfeminism by Stephanie Harzewski (2011), the debates about Chick lit in- and outside academia have shown that there is little consensus about the actual feminist potential of these texts.

In this seminar we are going to discuss the socio-cultural contexts of the rise of Chick lit and Chick flicks, their narrative features and their representations of gender, based on two novels - Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada and Jennifer WeinerÄs Good in Bed ; and two films - I Don't Know How She Does It (2011) and Bridesmaids (2011).  You are expected to have read Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada before the start of term, there will be a test in the second session. You must own the following editions:

Course requirements: Regular attendance, active participation, reading and writing assignments, graded term paper/ final written exam (depending on your Studienordnung).

Mag. Klaus Heissenberger

PS: "Who Does the Cool Belong to? The transatlantic origins and unforeseen journeys of an 'American' concept"

Blockseminar:

Thursday, April 19: 4-8pm, C 5 2, 519

Saturday, April 21: 2-7pm, C5 3, R120

Thursday, May 3: 4-8pm

Saturday, May 5: 2-7pm, C5 3, R120

Thursday, June 28: 4-8pm, 

Saturday, June 30: 2-7pm, C5 3, R120

What do James Dean and the iPod have in common? They are considered to be "cool", and they have traveled to Europe across the Atlantic to profoundly influence and even reshape e.g. German culture due to their perceived "coolness." This course aims at providing critical approaches to the construction of "coolness" and the "Cool" as dominant cultural discourses in the 20th (and possibly the 21st) century, via exploring questions such as these: What, or who, "is cool", and what does it mean when we say, "hey, cool"? Where do notions of "coolness" come from, and how have they traveled across different cultures? How have they been adopted, and how have they changed in the course of their adoption outside of the U.S.? Why have cultural historians made the claim that the "Cool" is a key cultural notion or concept of the 20th century, a sensibility or cultural practice that helps us understand 20th-century history? And does this still hold true in the 21st century, or is the "Cool" dead, as some commentators have claimed?

We will look at the historical origins of "Cool" both "outside" and "inside" the U.S.A. and follow esp. its transatlantic journeys to Germany and Austria through the import of American popular and mass culture: Hollywood film and jazz music, as well as the blues and their roots in African American culture in general in particular provide starting points for this investigation. In exploring what happened when "Cool" crossed the Atlantic, we will look at the reception of e.g. early rock 'n' roll music and American film icons such as James Dean as proponents of "Cool" in Europe: how they influenced audiences'  behavior (teenage rebellion, eg.), style (e.g. blue jeans as an iconic piece of clothing), and bodily comportment (dance styles, ways of moving) will give us some ideas how to approach "Cool" as a traveling concept methodologically. In addition, we will encounter some pop art, some MTV, some punk, some Silicon Valley, some fashion styles, and some other trends that embody versions of the "Cool" and will therefore help deepen our understanding of the complex shades "Cool" has taken on historically.

In the final part of the course we will ask whether e.g. in contemporary German and Austrian culture, the "Cool" lives on, is revived, or is in fact "dead." On this open question, you will be able to do some analytic work of your own by studying recent trends in your own culture, investigating audiences and consumers and arriving at your own conclusions about the journeys of "Cool" and its destinations in specific examples of your choice.

NOTE: The course will be organized as a "Blockveranstaltung" on five to six days.

Readings: A selection of relevant essays and excerpts from books will be made available either in a reader or on CLIX.

Course requirements: attendance, active participation, completion of reading and writing assignments, short oral presentation, and a term paper (Hausarbeit).

 

Prof. Bert Hornback

HS: "William Faulkner:  Light in August"

Wed, 4-6pm, B 3 1, Lecture Theatre II

William Faulkner was the greatest and one of the most prolific of American novelists.  Between 1928 and 1962, he wrote seventeen novels and numerous short stories. Faulkner was born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1897, and died there in 1962.  Most of his novels are set in his mythical "Yoknapatawphna County" in northern Mississippi. He published his first novel in 1928.  Our novel is his sixth, published in 1932.  It is a beautiful, moving, and yet  sometimes brutal novel set in the American South. We will spend the term reading and discussing Light in August  So that we can discuss the novel intelligently, all on the same page, we will all need to purchase the Vintage Classics  edition. If we have time, at the end of the term, we will also read and discuss A Lesson Before Dying, a short novel by Ernest J. Gaines (1993).  It is a novel similar to Light in August in some ways, but by a black American.  We will use the Vintage Contemporaries edition.

Requirements for the course are close reading, intelligent class participation, weekly "scribbles," and a seminar paper.

Prof. Paul Morris

HS: "Changing Identities: Postethnic Literature in Canada"

This Seminar will be organized as a Blockseminar on the following dates:

Wednesday, May 30: 6-7 pm, C 5 3, U 13
Friday, June 1: 12-4 pm, C 5 3, 120
Monday, June 4: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20
Wednesday, June 6: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20
No class on Friday, June 8, re-scheduled for June 16!
Monday, June 11: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20
Wednesday, June 13: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20
Friday, June 15: 12-4 pm, C 5 3, 120
New: Saturday, June 16: 10-3 pm (exact time to be announced), C 5 3, 408
Monday, June 18: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20
Wednesday, June 20: 4-7 pm, C 5 3, E 20

There will be one short additional meeting within the first weeks of the semester to provide you with further information (readings, presentations, organizational issues etc.). Details to be announced soon.

Throughout Canada's history, the literature of immigrant experience has shaped and reflected Canadian society, including the development of Canada's shifting paradigms of national identity. Literature has consistently played a role in determining the Canadian national identity. It was with the advent of multiculturalism in the early 1970s, however, that immigrant contributions to the shaping of the national culture began to receive greater acknowledgement. Many, if not most, Canadians identify multiculturalism as Canada's defining cultural characteristic; Canada's "multicultural literature" has been key in both reflecting and shaping this national sense of self-understanding.

In recent years, however, the Canadian model of multiculturalism has been increasingly subjected to criticism, from various perspectives. It would seem that although the social reality of ethnic pluralism in Canada has not changed, the willingness to retain multiculturalism as a model of Canadian society has. The literary dimensions of this perceived shift will provide the focus of our course.

In this course, we will investigate the extent to which literary depictions of immigrant and "ethnic" experience are heralding a further, yet to be acknowledged, evolution in Canada's national identity. We will explore whether Canadian literature is not in fact signalling a national transformation from a "multicultural" to a "postethnic" society. To probe this possibility, we will examine a range of texts for evidence of forms and categories of identification. We will discuss the degree to which the fixed categories of "belonging" validated by multiculturalism-such as nation, race and ethnicity-are being supplanted by the more fluid notions of "affiliation" and "association" attendant to sexuality, professional status, educational attainment, personal politics and self identification. In brief, we will discuss the ways in which selected texts of Canadian literature treat issues of "identity" and "belonging" at the individual and communal level and what that portends for the national identity.

The works to be discussed in class will be drawn from the following texts:

Michael Ondaatje  In the Skin of a Lion (1987)

M.G. Vassanji  No New Land (1991)

Dionne Brand  In Another Place, Not Here (1996)

David Bezmozgis  Natasha and Other Stories (2004)

Neil Bissoondath  (selected stories from) Digging Up the Mountains (1985)

Rohinton Mistry  (selected stories from) Tales from Firozasha Baag (1987)

David Hollinger "Introduction." Post-ethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism

The last three will probably be made available as mastercopies.

 

Mag. Payman Rezwan

"UE Cultural Studies II: M(TV) Studies: Analyzing and Decoding American Music and Music Videos"

Blockseminar:

Friday, April 20: 1-7pm, C5 3, U13

Saturday, April 21: 9am-2pm, C5 3, U13

Friday, May 4: 1-7pm C5 3, U13

Saturday, May 5: 9am-2pm C5 3, U13

Friday, June 29: 9am-1pm C5 3, 4.08

This course deals with issues of identity, gender, race and ethnicity in the United States, and how they are represented in contemporary music forms, with a strong focus on the three most popular genres in the U.S., those being R&B/Soul, Country and (Modern) Rock. Based on their cultural studies 'tool set', students will have a closer look at the lyrics and analyze music videos, in an attempt to find out how  (and why) American society is portrayed in popular, mainstream music.

 

Dr. Arlette Warken

PS: "Canadian Short Fiction"

Thurs 2-4pm, C5 2, room 4.08

According to Reingard M. Nischik, the short story has become the genre of Canadian literature. In order to understand the particular appeal of the genre for Canadian writers, we will explore general aspects of the short story genre and the history of Canadian short fiction before turning to a variety of texts by authors such as Charles G.D. Roberts, Stephen Leacock, Frederick Philip Grove, Morley Callaghan, Sinclair Ross, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Margaret Atwood, Clark Blaise, Thomas King, and Neil Bissoondath. Emphasis will also be put on the Canadian short story cycle. Texts will be made available on CLIX.

Course requirements: attendance, active participation, completion of reading and writing assignments, short oral presentation, and a term paper.