Universität Erfurt

American Literature


European Study Group of Nineteenth-Century American Literature

The European Study Group of Nineteenth-Century American Literature was established at the 2006 conference of the European Association of American Studies (EAAS) in Cyprus by a group of European Americanists. Our initiative has received enthusiastic support of academics from all over Europe. In the course of a three day long get-together the group focuses on lesser-known texts by American women writers of the nineteenth century. Click here for more ...

Collusions of Fact and Fiction: A Historiopoetic Approach to Transatlantic Slavery in the Works of Kara Walker and Suzan-Lori Parks

Taking its cue from novelist Fred D’Aguiar’s assertion that each generation of African Americans “need their own version of the past, to see the past in their own images, words. To have slavery nuanced their way,” this project by Prof. Dr. Ilka Saal aims to examine some of the ways in which one particular generation of African American artists, those born in the post-Civil Rights era and emerging on the artistic scene in the 1990s, has attempted “to nuance” the enduring legacy of transatlantic slavery in word, performance, and image. Concretely, it focuses on the works of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and visual artist Kara Walker for case studies. It attempts to identify a poetic shift in the engagement with slavery from the neo-slave narratives of the 1970s and 80s to the postmodern works of the 1990s and 2000s. In comparison with their predecessors, the younger artists’ works evince a heightened imaginative investment in the past, marked by a liberal collusion of fact and fiction, a high degree of ludic (and frequently iconoclastic) signifying on established tropes, iconographies, and narrative structures of black memory culture, and a prevalent and pointed (at times, irritating) sense of humour. To stress the radically performative dimension of their approach to slavery and to distinguish it from more conventionally mimetic historiographic praxis, this project introduces the concept of historiopoiesis – the making of history in literature through poetic means. The difference in poetic approach also bespeaks a different attitude toward the past. Unlike the authors of neo-slave narratives, Parks and Walker deploy their imagination not in order to reconstruct or recuperate the experience of African Americans under slavery, to fill in the blind spots, or to set the record straight, but to lay bare the discursive dimension of slavery, to address the fraught history and legacy of its various verbal and visual signs, and, in this manner, to clear a discursive space for fresh approaches to thinking about the past and its meanings for contemporary black identities.

Jamaica Kincaid's Historiopoiesis: Writing Presences

Antonia Purk is currently working on her dissertation project on literary engagements with history in the works of Jamaica Kincaid. The project investigates how both Kincaid's fictional and non-fictional works not only attend to the personal pasts of the author and her literary figures, but how they also perform memory work with regard to a collective Afro-Caribbean history. Focusing on the interplay of the media text, photography, and the human body, the project intends to highlight the poetic aspects of Kincaid's works in producing new knowledges of the past where previously there were none, as predominant forms of historiography were (and still are) dominated by the mechanisms of colonialism which eclipsed all other versions of history but that of the West, and to respond to the continuing effects of traumatic history on contemporary lives.

Turkish-American Literary Encounters

Dr. Verena Laschinger is currently working on a book project entitled Turkish-American Literary Encounters 1854 - 2015.

Mapping Black Atlantic Memories: The Contemporary Poetical Space of Narratives of Slavery

Luana de Souza Sutter is currently working on her dissertation project on the poetics of memory and mediality in contemporary novels about slavery published in the transatlantic space of the Black Diaspora. Her project investigates how textual and literary devices employed in recent slavery novels published in Brazil, Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom engage with the history of slavery from a contemporary postcolonial perspective. With special focus on the novel’s concern with spatiality and mediality, I hope to map out the poetics of slavery in the contemporary production of the extended Black Atlantic space (including Brazil) and investigate to which extent recent literary articulations of slavery narrative bespeak ongoing political and ethical concerns of postcolonial and African Diasporic critical thought.



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