Course Details

Below you will find details and course descriptions of the summer term 2021 and the winter term 2021/22.

Please consult the official course catalog on E.L.V.I.S. for modules and regulations.

Winter term 2021/22

Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

“We’re going to Mars,” reiterates Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea” of 2002, listing dozens of reasons to explain that this all-inclusive, all black space mission is long overdue. We will take the cue from Giovanni’s techno-fantastic travelogue and Afrofuturist manifesto, to metaphorically embark on our part on a semester-long journey to survey the history of Afrofuturism by way of select music, literature and art. We will become familiar with Afrofuturism’s various modes, genres and themes to combine elements of speculative and science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. We will also learn to understand and critically interrogate Afrofuturism not just as an aesthetic practice but an innovative mode of political expression that is alive across the African Diaspora, simultaneously critiquing racial asymmetries past and present and imagining black futurity in visions of a better tomorrow.

Modules: Please see course catalog

Contemporary Narratives of Slavery

Contemporary Narratives of Slavery

Instructor: Luana de Souza Sutter

“Slavery wasn’t in the literature at all. Part of that, I think, because, on moving from bondage to freedom which has been our goal, we got away from slavery and also from the slaves” (Living Memory, 179). Although Morrison’s claim about the absence of slavery in American literature is not entirely true, as literary critic Arlene Keizer points out, it is not until the last third of the twentieth century that African American writers show a significant surge of interest in reconsidering the past of slavery. In this course, we will be reading together recent works of African American fiction about slavery published from the late twentieth into the early twenty-first century. We will be primarily concerned with mapping recurrent themes and tropes in contemporary fiction and discussing central issues and developments in the literary representation of central historical figures and events in the American history of slavery. Some of the works we will be looking into are Gayl Jones’s Corregidora (1976), the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979; 2017), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) and A Mercy (2008), as well as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer (2019).

Modules: Please see course catalog.

Introduction to American Literary History: Colonial to Antebellum Period

Introduction to American Literary History: Colonial to Antebellum Period

Instructor: Ilka Saal

This course offers a survey of North American literature written in English from, roughly, the period of exploration and colonialism to the antebellum period. Far from being a comprehensive survey, it focuses on a few significant texts and authors who have substantially shaped North American literature and culture. We will focus in particular on the various ways in which literature has participated and intervened in the various discussions over race, class, and gender that have been crucial to shaping and reshaping notions of American nationhood. One of the central questions guiding our investigation is whether these texts have produced a distinctive tradition of what we might call “American” writing and, if so, what the characteristics of this tradition might be.

During the winter term 2021/22 this lecture course is reserved for students who still need to fulfill the requirement according to the PO B Ang 2012 (Ha/Ne). Students enrolling in the new PO B Ang 2021 will take this course in the fall of 2022.

Introduction to Literary Studies

Introduction to Literary Studies

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

This lecture series is designed as a basic introduction to literary studies, with a particular focus on literatures in English. It aims to introduce you to key concepts, analytical terms and methods as well as to a number of theoretical approaches that are relevant to the field. You will be introduced to a set of tools for critical analysis and close examination of selected texts from the main literary genres poetry, prose, and drama as well as other media such as photography, film and television. Examples will be chosen from various periods to sketch important developments of literary studies.

Modules: Please see course catalog

Literature of 9/11

Literature of 9/11

Instructor: Ilka Saal

This fall we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. that took place on September 11, 2001 – an event engrained in the collective memory as 9/11. Taking its cue from this anniversary, this seminar sets out to map various reactions to this traumatic event in literature as well as visual and performance culture. It asks what collective narratives evolved from the ruins in Manhattan, Washington, and Pennsylvania – both in the event’s immediate aftermath as well as across the span of two decades. In what ways has our perception of events been shaped by entrenched tropes and narratives of U.S. nationhood; respectively, what fresh narratives of national and global belonging have emerged?And how have narratives of 9/11 changed over the past twenty years? 

Modules: Please see course catalog

Nineteenth-Century American Children's Classics

Nineteenth-Century American Children's Classics

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, published nine years before the American Civil War, has allegedly excited more attention than any book since the invention of printing. Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women has never been out of print and, to this day, is culturally ubiquitous with multiple film and television adaptations. “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn”, Ernest Hemingway maintained. In this seminar we will discuss a number of nineteenth-century classics which, having invented some of the most beloved child characters, continue to appeal to children and adult readers alike. We will pay particular attention to the late-nineteenth-century cult of the child, which inspired the so-called “Golden Age” of children’s literature in Britain and North America, the myth of childhood innocence, and its ensuing impact on family, labor, education, and sexuality.

Modules: Please see course catalog

Post-Millennial Fiction

Post-Millennial Fiction

Instructor: Teresa Teklić

In this class, we will read four innovative, exciting examples of post-millennial (i.e. 21st century) fiction: Mohsin Hamid’sThe Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007); Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010); Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2001), and Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station (2011). We will then turn to a fundamental question of literary studies: How should we read these books? How should one read literature in general? We will take our first cue from writer Virginia Woolf, who said that “to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions” was the best advice, if any, she could offer. The second cue comes from literary critic Terry Eagleton, who reminds us that literary texts “demand a peculiarly vigilant kind of reading, one which is alert to tone, mood, pace, genre, syntax, grammar, texture, rhythm, narrative structure, punctuation, ambiguity – in fact to everything that comes under the heading of ‘form’.” Put simply, in this class you can learn how to develop an informed critical opinion of literary texts by paying close attention to their form.

Modules: Please see course catalog.

Seeing Whiteness

Seeing Whiteness

Instructors: Ilka Saal

When we talk about race, we tend to do so almost exclusively in terms of non-whiteness, so that whiteness largely remains invisible, unnoticed, unspoken as a racial category. Put differently, race is treated as something that ‘belongs’ to people of color only. Precisely this is one of the privileges of whiteness: its presumption to operate as the invisible, universal standard against which all other races are measured. This seminar seeks to make whiteness visible, to interrogate its meanings and functions, to train us in seeing whiteness. The goal is to become (more) aware of how whiteness operates within a racial formation that structures social, economic, and representational systems of inequality. For this purpose, we will ask a number of questions: Who is white? What does it mean to be white? What is white privilege? How does whiteness operate as a category of thought and perception as well as a category of power? How have the boundaries of whiteness shifted in the course of US history? How does whiteness intersect with class and gender and to what effect? And how does it operate in terms of aesthetic representation? We will approach these and other questions by studying a variety of materials, including scholarly essays, works of fiction and non-fiction, examples from the performing arts and visual culture.

Modules: Please see course catalog.

Stufu: Climate Change Theatre Action

Stufu: Climate Change Theatre Action

Instructors: Verena Laschinger, Ilka Saal

In this hands-on workshop, students are asked to take collaborative action in the fight against climate change. Chiming in with numerous international events for our planet’s environmental future, our initiative articulates the urgent need for a climate conscious cultural movement within and beyond the academy. More specifically, we will join the Climate Change Theatre Action series of readings and performances of five-minute plays (http://www.climatechangetheatreaction.com/about/) that is scheduled to take place around the globe between September 19 to December 18, 2021. The participatory project offers an opportunity to rally your creative energies on behalf of raising public awareness of one of today’s biggest challenges: saving our planet.This is a hands-on workshop. Be prepared to actively participate in the conceptualization, preparation, and performance of climate change theatre action.

Travelogues

Travelogues

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

This seminar explores the rich tradition of American travel literature, surveying both the historical development and shifting definitions of the genre. Students will learn to identify terms and concepts central to the genre such as ‘the exotic’, ‘the picturesque’, ‘the grand tour’, ‘the international theme’, ‘the middle passage’, etc. Further students will be introduced to the sustained critical analysis of travel literature with a special focus on colonialization, formation of national identity, globalization, and ecocriticism.

Modules: Please see course catalog

Summer Term 2021

19th-Century American Children's Classics

19th-Century American Children's Classics

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, published nine years before the American Civil War, has allegedly excited more attention than any book since the invention of printing. Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women has never been out of print and, to this day, is culturally ubiquitous with multiple film and television adaptations. “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn”, Ernest Hemingway maintained. In this seminar we will discuss a number of nineteenth-century classics which, having invented some of the most beloved child characters, continue to appeal to children and adult readers alike. We will pay particular attention to the late-nineteenth-century cult of the child, which inspired the so-called “Golden Age” of children’s literature in Britain and North America, the myth of childhood innocence, and its ensuing impact on family, labor, education, and sexuality.

Modules: Please see course catalog.

Academic Writing in English

Academic Writing in English

Instructors: Ilka Saal and Verena Laschinger

This hands-on workshop is designed for students, who are intent on improving their academic writing skills in English for term papers and theses in the field of literary or cultural studies. We particularly invite students in the B Anglistik who plan to write their BA theses this or next semester. The workshop offers a set of concrete tools with regard to the development, structuring, and formula­tion of arguments as well as a number of exercises regarding writing techniques, in-text citation, and bibliographical requirements. The workshop is offered as a combination of blocked seminars and individual meetings. Since this is a hands-on workshop, attendance during the blocked sessions is indispensable.

Modules: Please see official course catalog.

Anti-Racism and Diversity Awareness

Anti-Racism and Diversity Awareness

Instructors: Ilka Saal and Verena Laschinger

In this workshop, we will collaboratively put together a tool-kit for students and (emerging) teachers to increase their awareness of discriminatory structures and practices in everyday life and in the classroom and to enhance sensitivity for engaging various forms of Otherness related to issues of race, class, gender & sexuality, disability or other categories of difference. To do so we will engage in group project work as well as study various writings and listen to guest lectures on these issues. 

Module: StuFu, please see official course catalog.

Climate Fi/action

Climate Fi/action

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

When then-U.S. president Trump withdrew on June 1, 2017 from the Paris Agreement forged to combat climate change, he confirmed that even “the new conservative revolution is registering - in the worst possible way - the transformation of the earth system”, Bruno Latour states in his 2018 anthropocene lecture at the HKW Berlin. Taking climate change for a fact, this American Studies seminar introduces students to some of the most prominent scientific, political, journalistic, artistic and literary voices in the discourse on climate change. We will engage with seminal theoretical texts, debate controversial political positions, and explore together the aesthetic responses of contemporary artist and fiction writers, grappling to fathom the end of the earth (as we know it).

Reading List:

  • Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood, 2009.
  • Sarah M. Broom. The Yellow House. A Memoir, 2019.
  • Octavia Butler. Parable of the Sower, 1993.
  • Omar El-Akkad. American War, 2017.
  • Barbara Kingsolver. Flight Behavior, 2012.
  • Emily St. John Mandel. Station Eleven, 2014.
  • Cormac McCarthy. The Road, 2006.
  • Richard Powers. The Overstory, 2018.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson. New York 2140, 2017.

Module: Please see official course catalog.

Introduction to Literatures in English

Introduction to Literatures in English

Instructors: Ilka Saal, Verena Laschinger, Teresa Tekli´c

This seminar is designed as an introduction to the study of literatures in English, with a particular focus on North American literatures. It highlights the specificities of the medium of literary communication and provides you with an overview of what the study of literature is about. It, furthermore, aims to introduce you to key concepts and analytical terms in the genres of poetry, prose, and drama as well as to a few, selected theoretical approaches.

Modules: B Ang 2012 AA02#03 // S 3LP, B Lit 2012 LOL#02 // S 3LP, B Lit 2012 LOL#03 // S 6LP 

Jewish American Literature

Jewish American Literature between Henry Roth and Jonathan Safran Foer

Instructor: Max Rosenzweig

In 1977, literary critic Irving Howe declared  Jewish American literature a thing of the past, a phenomenon that had “moved past its high point” and lost its significance as a distinct regional literature rooted in the immigrant experience. In Howe’s view, the linked processes of assimilation and upward social mobility that characterized the experience of second and third generation Jewish Americans were accompanied by a loss of communal identity and shared religious as well as secular cultural practices. However, contrarily to Howe’s assessment, Jewish American literature flourished way past the 1970s, arguably reaching a new high point in the late 90s and early aughts with the emergence and success of a new generation of authors like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, and Nathan Englander, who tackled the issue of what it means to be Jewish and write about “Jewish themes” as a Jewish American writer in the 21st century. In this seminar, we will attempt to retrace the trajectory of Jewish American literature from its beginnings in Jewish immigrant fiction to the emergence of “middle class” Jewish American literature in the aftermath of WW2 up to contemporary literary examinations of the Jewish American experience in regard to questions of identity, assimilation, and the holocaust.

Module: Please see official course catalog.

Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

Instructor: Ilka Saal

The term Harlem Renaissance refers to the period of the 1920s in African American culture – a period of extraordinary artistic productivity. Witnessing an unprecedented degree, variety, and quality of cultural production, this decade has been generally considered a flourishing of African American culture in various cities of the U.S. – not just in Harlem, even as this New York neighborhood lent this period its name as the geographic epicenter of this renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance laid the foundation for the future development of African American literature, from the modern to the contemporary period. In this seminar, we will examine a small but representative selection of important works produced in this time, along with the various discourses on race, memory, and art that fueled these productions. At the center of our inquiry is the question in what ways these various artistic practices and debates contributed to the formation of a distinctive sense of African American culture and identity.

Module: Please see official course catalog.

Theater of Race

Theater of Race

Instructor: Ilka Saal

In this course, we will investigate a series of dramatic scripts and theatrical productions that foreground the staging of race. Theater has traditionally been conceived as a place for looking and watching as well as performing; it has hence also played a crucial role in the visual and performative construction and deconstruction of race. Drawing on various theories of the nexus of race, visuality , and performance, this seminar investigates a series of works by (mostly) contemporary American playwrights that foreground the scopic and performative mechanisms at work in the production and refiguration of racial meanings, including works by Suzan-Lori Parks, Kara Walker, Young Jean Lee, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Jackie Sibblies Drury, and Pope L.

Module: Please see official course catalog.

The City in American Literature

Lecture: The City in American Literature

Instructor: Verena Laschinger

This lecture introduces students to American urban fiction alongside seminal theory from the field of urban studies. We will study representations of cities in American literature diachronically from the 17th century to the 21st century as well as venture into related media such as film, television, and photography. Students will get acquainted with the various ways, in which American cities were simultaneously fictionally imagined as well as materially engineered against the backdrop of both European capitals and the American wilderness. To conceptualize our readings, we will draw on the critical discourse regarding e.g. globalization, postcolonialism, and transnational urbanism.

Modules: Please see course catalog.