Winter Term 2014/15

In the winter term 2014/15 NamLitCult will offer the following courses:

Prof. Dr. Astrid M. FELLNER

VL "Cultural Diversity and the Transformations of North American Literatures"(auch anrechenbar als VL TAS)

Tue 12 - 2 p.m.

First session: 28 Oct. 2014

This lecture course attempts to capture the rich cultural diversity of U.S. American and Canadian writings since WW II. Reading a variety of genres, we will examine works by authors from various geographical regions and ethnic backgrounds. We will place the discussion of literary texts in specific historical and cultural contexts through units that focus on the experiences of North America's diverse groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/as, and Native Americans as well as Americans of European descent (in particular Irish Americans). Our readings will also explore cultural difference in contemporary Canadian literature.

Course Readings: There will be a course reader, which you can order through NamLitCult and pick up at our offices.

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


HS "Paris Was a Woman: Bohemian Women Writers of the Left Bank"

Wed. 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
C 5 3, room 120
First session: 29 Oct. 2014

In this seminar we will study American expatriate women writers who lived in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. "Paris," Gertrude Stein said, "was the twentieth century. It was the place to be." In the years following the turn of the century, writers including Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Djuna Barnes, Janet Flanner, Colette, Edith Wharton, H.D., Mina Loy, and others forged new and distinctly modern identities in their works. We will explore these women's contributions to both the literary history and the literature of the Modernist period. In particular, we will focus on the construction of female identity and sexual difference in their works. A central theme of our course will be Paris as a sight of inspiration for these bohemian female modernists, and the various alternative and emancipatory literary communities they created.

Required Texts:

Djuna Barnes. Nightwood. 1936. Faber Fiction Classics 2007.
ISBN-13: 978-0571-23528-5

Gertrude Stein. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. 1933. Penguin Classics 2012.
ISBN-13: 978-0141-18536-1

Janet Flanner. Paris Was Yesterday, ed. Irving Drutman. 1940. Virago 2003.
ISBN-13: 978-1844-08026-7


Paris Was a Woman. Dir. Greta Schiller. Written by Andrea Weiss. 1996.

As part of this seminar we plan to organize a one-day excursion to Paris which will take place on Saturday, 17 January 2015. Click here for further information.


Exam Colloquium

Tue 4-6 p.m.
C 5 3, 1.19

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) "Blockkolloquium" in early October for those students who will participate in the oral state exam (LAG, LAR, LAB) in November 2014. All topics can be presented and discussed. Please bring handouts for your brief presentation.

The "Blockkoloquium" will take place on
Thursday, 16 Oct. 2014: 5-8 p.m.
Friday, 17 Oct. 2014: 11 a.m - 3  p.m.

Please sign up for the Blockkolloquium via email by October 1, 2014 (amerikanistik[at]

2) Workshop 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 November 2014. The exact dates will be published on our website and on the notice board of the department.

Please sign up via email by October 15, 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.

Jennifer J* MOOS, M.A.

PS "19th- and 20th-Century American Short Stories"

Mon. 4-6 p.m.

According to Alfred Bendixen, the short story is "an American invention, and arguably the most important literary genre to have emerged in the United States." In this seminar, we will trace the emergence of the American short story in the 19th century and its development throughout the 20th century. Our primary focus will be on works produced by canonical writers such as Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

In our analyses, we will put special emphasis on the discussion of generic questions, literary and theoretical movements (local color, realism, eco-criticism, gender theory etc.), and recurring themes - all of which will be examined in connection to the social, historical, cultural, and political circumstances under which the relevant short stories were produced.

Please note:
We will have one longer extra session on Sat., 29 November 2014, 10 am - 4 pm.

Selected Short Stories:
- Washington Irving: "Rip van Winkle" (1819/20)
- Edgar Allan Poe: "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1845)

- Sarah Orne Jewett: "The White Heron" (1886)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman: "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (1892)

- Kate Chopin: "The Story of an Hour" (1894)

- William Faulkner: "That Evening Sun" (1931)
- Sandra Cisneros: "Woman Hollering Creek" (1991)

A course reader will be made available for purchase.

Course requirements:
Regular attendance, active participation, reading and writing assignments, short oral presentation, graded term paper.


PS "Wandering through the Night: North American Sleep-Walking Narratives"

Wed. 2-4 p.m.

This seminar focuses literary texts whose protagonists are characterized by their wanderings through the night: they are sleepwalkers, somnambulists, or just restless insomniacs. In each text, we encounter protagonists whose sleep is troubled; protagonists who do not find a place to rest at night; protagonists who cannot lie down but who have to restlessly keep on walking; protagonists who even become murderers in their somnambulic condition.

Far from presenting sleep as an unquestioned anthropological constant, the literary texts written by Charles Brockden Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Djuna Barnes, Heidi Julavits and others employ the trope of sleepwalking as a marker of "placelessness" or "displacement."

Drawing on philosophical, anthropological, historical, and medical writings, we will ask ourselves in how far the representations of sleepwalking encountered in the literary texts reflect the political, social, economic, and cultural insecurities and "disorders" of the times in which they were produced.

Please note:
We will have one longer extra session on Sat., 29 November 2014, 10 am - 4 pm.

Selected Texts:
- Charles Brockden Brown, "Somnambulism" (1805)
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown" (1835)

- Walt Whitman, "The Sleepers" (1855/1891)

- Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)
- Heidi Julavits, "Restlessness" (2013)

Please buy Djuna Barnes' Nightwood at your local bookstore (ISBN-13: 978-0571-23528-5, features an introduction by Jeanette Winterson).
A course reader with additional texts will be made available for purchase.

Course requirements:
Regular attendance, active participation, reading and writing assignments, short oral presentation, graded term paper.


Sorry, the seminar by Prof. Hornback had to be canceled.

Dr. Saskia SCHABIO

HS "Radical Sensibility"

[auch anrechenbar als HS TAS]

Fri 2-4 p.m.

"Gothic and seduction narratives of ruin and captivity" have lastingly shaped cultural imagination, the myth of a "native," "virtuous," and "freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon people" (Laura Doyle, Freedom's Empire). Arguably, a myth that even nowadays draws large audiences in contemporary cinema productions. In the time of revolutionary upheaval such literature had come to particular prominence. When it crossed the Atlantic in the 1790s the gothic and the literature of sensibility became a powerful tool for the exploration of radical political ideas in the American context, including the "dark underside" of the young American republic. In this course we examine the rise of the American gothic. At the same time, we trace repercussions in recent Hollywood productions. 

Required Texts:

William Hill Brown, The Power of Sympathy.
ISBN-10: 0140434682.

Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland.
ISBN-10: 0199538778

Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker.
ISBN-10: 0140390626.

Olaudha Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: Revised Edition.
ISBN-10: 0142437166.

Dr. Arlette WARKEN

PS "'Lives of Girls and Women': The Fiction of Alice Munro"

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

This course will be dedicated to Alice Munro, winner, among many other prizes, of the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in 2009 and the Nobel Prize in 2013. Munro is the first Canadian and one of very few women to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature (which says more about the Swedish Academy than about women writers, of course). The Academy lauded her as the "master of the contemporary short story". Let us explore Munro's mastery as she creates Canadian small-town settings and characters of great psychological depth, and above all, let us appreciate her versatile style in a number of her stories. The course readings will be announced at the beginning of term.

Course requirements: Regular attendance, active participation, reading, oral and written assignments, graded term paper.

Mag. Payman REZWAN

UE CS II "From Hawaii Five-O to Hawaii Five-0"

04 Dec. 14:    1 - 7 p.m.           (E 2 5, seminar room 3)
05 Dec. 14:    1 - 7 p.m.           (C 5 3, room 408)
06 Dec. 14:    9 a.m. - 3 p.m.   (C 5 3, room 408)
10 Jan. 15:     9 a.m. - 3 p.m.  (C 5 3, room 408)

On September 20, 1968, the first episode of Hawaii Five-O was broadcast on the CBS network, and the show ran for an astounding 12 seasons. On September 20, 2010, CBS revamped and relaunched the program, sticking to the main principles of the original, but adapting it for the current audience. With a gap of 42 years between the two pilots, aspects of pace, storylines, new genre conventions and changes in American culture and society had to be considered, in order to make it as successful to the contemporary society.

This course will examine the development of American TV over the past 40 years. The aim of our sessions will be threefold: first of all, we will take a look at how the American TV landscape changed over the past decades, starting with the dominance of the big three networks in the 1970s, to the current state, in which online content has become the biggest threat to traditional TV broadcasting. Furthermore, we will also study the major genres of TV, including drama and comedy, and analyze how their conventions transformed and intertwined in order to adapt to current audience demands. Finally, we will also look at aspects of American history, culture and society and see how they have been represented "on the air." All in all, a general introduction to TV studies will be offered, combined with a look at key issues in American society and culture.


UE "Media Studies: Media, Culture, Images: Analyzing Contemporary Visual Culture"

24 Oct. 14:    6 - 8 p.m.              (C 5 3, room 120)
25 Oct. 14:    9 a.m. - 1 p.m.      (C 5 3, room 120)
04 Dec. 14:    2 - 6 p.m.              (E 2 5, Zeichensaal)

05 Dec. 14:   10 a.m. - 3 p.m.    (C 5 2, room 537)
06 Feb. 15:    4 - 8 p.m.                (C 5 3, room 120)
07 Feb. 15:    9 a.m. - 1 p.m.      (C 5 3, room 408)

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 Moodle, 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.