Summer Term 2014

In the summer term 2014 NamLitCult will offer the following courses:

Prof. Dr. Astrid M. FELLNER

VL "Go West! Expansion, Myth, and the Frontier in North American Cultures"

Tue 12-2 p.m.

First session: April 22nd, 2014

The North American West is an extremely powerful concept that has evolved over several centuries in the imaginations of countless people in the US, Canada and abroad. It is an idea (re)produced in books, movies, and paintings which invokes a whole array of abstractions such as frontier, adventure, manifest destiny, opportunity, honor, individualism, and justice. It is often recognized by visual cues such as the cowboy, the horse, the gun, vast streches of open range, the prairies, and desert mesas. "Going west" usually refers to the act of transcending boundaries and is associated with hopes of self-realization and fulfillment. It is also connected to the urge of expansion and the reaching of one's limits, which, as Frederich Jackson Turner has maintained in his famous "frontier thesis," is a key dominant of the American imagination.

This lecture course will offer a broad overview over the American and Canadian West from a variety of perspectives, relying on literature, art, film, and history in order to raise a series of key questions concerning the development of the idea of the West and the concept of "going west." It will focus on the different myths and representations which have played a significant part in the formation of national identities. Our course readings will not only focus on renowned writers of the American West (Bret Harte, Hamlin Garland, Mark Twain, and Larry McMurtry), but will also include Canadian prairie literature, Native American voices, Chicano/a writers, and women writers. It will also present the work of painters (George Caleb Bingham, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederic Remington), look at popular culture ("cowboy" movies) as well as present figures of the popular mythology (Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and Buffalo Bill).

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

Requirements: There will be a written exam in the final session of this lecture course.


VL CS USA "What is America?" Introduction to Cultural Studies North America

Thu 12-2 p.m.B 3 1
Lecture Hall I

First session: April 17th, 2014

In this survey course of North American cultural history wsocial and cultural evolution of the first peoples of the Americas, colonial encounters, the development of myths and ideals of American society, the making of the U.S. and Canadian nations, Hispano/a-American and African-American histories, the history of Asians in the U.S. and Canada, and the history of women. Furthermore, we will look at the emergence of consumer culture and the globalization of American culture.

Readings: A course reader including theoretical and secondary texts will be made available for purchase.

Course requirements: There will be a final written exam.

Exam Colloquium

Tue 4-6 p.m.
C 5 3, 1.20

This workshop-like colloquium allows written- and oral-exam candidates (BA-students, MA-students and Stex-students) to talk about the topics of their theses and the topics for their oral and written exams. 

This colloquium consists of two parts:

1)      May 2014. All topics can be presented and discussed. Please bring handouts for your brief presentation.


Please sign up for the Blockkolloquium via email by April 1, 2014 (amerikanistik(at)

2)      Work-shop for those students who will write/or are working on their Magister-, BA- or Staatsexamensarbeit or those who will take a written or oral exam. A major goal of this course is also to guide students through the process of writing a research paper. All exam candidates are therefore encouraged to attend regularly.

This colloquium starts in May 2014. The exact dates will be published on our website and on the notice board of the department. 

Please sign up via email by April 10, 2014 (amerikanistik(at)


Research Colloquium

Tue 6-8 p.m.
C 5 3, 1.19

This research colloquium offers Ph.D. students a forum for presentation of their work-in-progress. We will also read and discuss critical texts and talk about the thesis-writing process.

Jennifer J* MOOS, M.A.

PS "Road Movies Reloaded: From Thelma & Louise to The Most Fun I've Ever Had with My Pants On"[auch anrechenbar als Ü Introduction to Media Studies]

Wed 12-2 p.m.
C5 3, 1.20

This seminar introduces students to one of the most popular and 'most American' of film genres: the road movie. Before starting our discussion of feminist adaptations of and alterations to classical definitions of the road movie genre since the early 1990s, we will make ourselves familiar with the history of the American road movie since the 1960s. What characterizes the road movie genre? How can it be defined in terms of its iconography, subject matter, style, and possible endings? Why is the road movie an explicitly American type of film?

Although the road movie genre tends to be read as a "masculine" film genre, this seminar focuses four feminist films: Thelma & Louise (1991), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Cloudburst (2011), and The Most Fun I've Ever Had with My Pants On (2012). We will critically examine in how far the movies address issues like, for example, (the overcoming of) gender stereotypes, female self-empowerment, (the rejection of) hegemonic beauty standards, (non-)heteronormative sexualities, (national) border-crossings, aging, and generationality.  

Please note: This seminar includes a 'mini-conference' at which students will have to give oral presentations. Students must attend this mini-conference:
Monday, 7th July 2014: 2-7 p.m. (C 5 3, room E 20)
Monday, 14th July 2014: 2-7 p.m. (C 5 3, room E 20)

A course reader including theoretical and secondary texts will be made available for purchase.

Course requirements: Regular attendance, active participation, reading and writing assignments, oral project presentation at our mini conference, graded term paper or final written exam or graded oral presentation (depending on your Studienordnung).


PS "Literary Representations of San Francisco and Los Angeles at the Turn of the 21st Century"

Tue 2-4 p.m.
C5 3, U 13

In terms of their socio-cultural and political history as well as their geographical location, San Francisco and Los Angeles are two of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. In this seminar, we will analyze how both cities are constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed at the turn to the 21st century. Relying on written texts, painted maps, photographs, and documentary film, some of the key questions addressed in this seminar will center on historical and political transformations, ethnic and sexual diversity, poverty, and the perseverance (or loss?) of the American Dream. 


Please buy the following books and read them before the start of the semester:

Frey, Jamie. Bright Shiny Morning [2008]. London: John Murray, 2009. (ISBN-13 978-1848540477) 

Solnit, Rebecca. Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010. (ISBN-13 978-0520262508)

Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. The End of San Francisco. San Francisco: City Lights, 2013. (ISBN-13 978-0872865723)

Yamashita, Karen Tei. Tropic of Orange. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1997. (ISBN-13 978-1566890649)

Additionally, a course reader including texts on the history, geography, and culture of SF and LA will be made available for purchase.

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

Prof. Paul D. MORRIS

HS "Anglophone Canadian Literature and the Representation of Francophone Canada"

Blockseminar, Monday June 2 until Wednesday June 25
Monday,        June 2, 2014:           10 - 11 a.m. (introductory session)
Tuesday,       June 3, 2014:            4 - 8 p.m.
Thursday,      June 5, 2014:            4 - 8 p.m.
Tuesday,       June 10, 2014:           4 - 8 p.m.
Thursday,      June 12, 2014:           4 - 8 p.m.
Monday,        June 16, 2014:          10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Tuesday,       June 17, 2014:           4 - 8 p.m.
Monday,        June 23, 2014:          10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Tuesday,        June 24, 2014:          4 - 8 p.m.

Canada is famously a country comprised of two founding cultures: French and English. The dual nature of Canada's national patrimony has been the source of undoubted cultural enrichment, but also of socio-political tension. Canada's national identity has been profoundly influenced by the presence of two linguistic and cultural heritages. Indeed, the evolving conceptions of national identity that have marked Canada's national development have derived from alterations in the changing state of mutual perceptions by the two cultures. For each founding culture, the national identity is intimately related to understanding of the character and role of the other.

This Hauptseminar proposes to provide an historical survey of changing perceptions of Francophone Canada through an analysis of the representation of Canada's Francophone community in English Canadian literature. The course will begin in the colonial age and conclude in the present time. This survey of influential texts will provide the opportunity, not only to examine the core subject at hand, but also to investigate the changing state of relations between French and English in Canada, to review the evolution of the Canadian literary institution and perhaps even to hazard hypotheses concerning the likely course of relations between Canada's Francophone and Anglophone communities.


Brooke, Frances. The History of Emily Montague. (excerpts will be provided)

Leprohon, Rosanna. Antoinette de Mirecourt or Secret Marrying and Secret Sorrowing.

MacLennan, Hugh. Two Solitudes.

Cohen, Leonard. Beautiful Losers.

Glover, Douglas. Elle.

A selections of poetry to be made available by the instructor.


HS "William Faulkner and Ernest Gaines"

Wed 12-2 p.m.
C 5 3, 1.20

William Faulkner is usually identified as the greatest American novelist of the twentieth century, or simply as the greatest American novelist. He was born in 1897, and died in 1962. Among his most-read and best-known novels are The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom Absalom, Go Down Moses, and The Hamlet. 

Most of Faulkner's novels are set in his mythic Yoknapatawpha County, in northern Mississippi, during the early years of the twentieth century. Slavery was a thing of the not too distant past, legally, but racial segregation was still very much a part of the American way of life. Faulkner's novels are often called "Southern," because they are set in the South. Faulkner insisted, however, that they weren't "Southern" novels. He wrote about the South, he said, because that was the only world he knew well enough to write about. But his novels were about the human situation, not just the Southern situation. A Lesson Before Dying is Ernest J. Gaines' eighth novel. He was born in Louisiana in 1933, on land where his ancestors were once slaves. His family moved to California during World War II, and Gaines attended university there. Throughout much of his writing career he split his time between San Francisco and northern Louisiana. He now lives and writes in a home he built where he was born. His other novels include Of Love and Dust, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and A Gathering of Old Men.

Requirements for this seminar are good, careful, serious reading of our two novels, regular class attendance and participation, weekly in-class "scribbles," and a seminar paper examining some topic in one or the other of our novels.

We will use the Vintage International Edition (1985 corrected text) of Faulkner's Light in August, and the Alfred Knopf Edition (1993) of Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. You will need these editions so that we are all on the same page during our discussions.

Dr. Arlette WARKEN

PS Nordamerikanische Literaturen und Kulturen: Environmental Literature

Thu 2-4 p.m.
C5 2, Room 1.28

In this course, we will examine examples of North American environmental writing. Beginning with early aspects of nature writing, we will explore how a more thoughtful and ecologically sensitive relationship to nature has increasingly been advocated. This concern is also exemplified by so-called Ecocriticism, which, according to Greg Garrard, "explores the ways in which we imagine and portray the relationship between humans and the environment in all areas of cultural production". We will look at seminal texts and discuss aspects as diverse as frontier life, utopias, pollution, apocalypse, land reform, protest, recycling, sustainability, vegetarianism, animal rights, and a gendered take on environmentalism as represented in various works. The course reading list, which will include Margaret Atwood's novel The Year of the Flood, will be made available at the beginning of term.


UE "Media Studies: Culture / Media / Images: Analyzing Media Visuality in Contemporary Culture"

Friday,           May 16, 2014:        4 - 8 p.m.
Saturday,       May 17, 2014:        9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Thursday,       June 12, 2014:       4 - 8 p.m.
Friday,           June 13, 2014:       10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Friday,           July 4, 2014:          4 - 8 p.m.
Saturday,       July 5, 2014:          9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

In this course, we will focus on visual media (film, TV, music videos, visual art, digital media) to explore standard critical tools which can help us analyze how these produce the meanings that their viewers find pleasurable, interesting, convincing, repulsive, compelling, etc.

Our framework will be the "visual turn", which since the late 20th century has signaled a shift in critical theories that sought to tackle a culture and media landscape that was becoming ever more visual: The omnipresence of visual images across a variety of media (from art to mass media to "new" media) and the key position of visuality in increasingly global cultural settings suggests the importance of critical concepts that are rather specific to visual culture. We will therefore investigate critical work on the characteristics of specific types of visual media; on acts of "looking" in and at the media; on social practices of looking; and on theories of spectators, gazers, observers, viewers, etc.

Against this theoretical background, the bulk of the coursework will consist of putting such concepts to practical use: Working on a topic of your choice in a team, you will be able to practice working with a specific set of critical tools, present an analysis of specific examples, and test your analyses in guided group discussions. Topics will include, for example:

Visuality and "genre" in film (e.g. road movies)Visuality vs. "narrative" in film (e.g. classical vs. post-classical Hollywood films)Visual "language" of film-making: framing, diegesis, shots, editing, etc.The (male?) "gaze": From Hollywood film (e.g. Hitchcock) to casting shows (e.g. Germany's Next Topmodel)Practices of looking: Similarities and differences across different media (film, advertising, digital visuality)Gazes and looks in the new media, esp. Web 2.0 / social media

Our emphasis will be on practicing practical analysis using appropriate and specific sets of tools, while raising awareness of and reflecting on how such tools and the respective analytical models are embedded in histories of visual culture and the academic, critical theoretical reflection thereof. At the end of the course, we will therefore discuss questions such as, what "happens to" cultural practices when we look at them through the different lenses of these different approaches? What changes in our critical analysis and assessment, depending on the approach chosen? And equally important, in each case, what can we not say about the respective media image depending on our choice of approach, i.e. what is left out of the analysis, why, and which effects may this have?

Readings/materials: A selection of relevant essays and excerpts from books will be made available via Clix, and video samples will be provided online.

Course requirements: attendance, active participation, completion of reading assignments, group presentation, and an individual essay and/or test at the end of the course.