Studying American literature and culture would be incomplete without considering the wealth of African American perspectives. In this class, we will discuss literary texts and cultural artefacts by African Americans and phenomena that are closely linked to their specific historical experiences.

Our classroom material will include mostly literary texts, but also music, film, and examples from the fine arts. Since we will deal with one of the key issues of American Studies, the reading list of this class will be rather extensive and students are expected to come to class prepared for lively and critical discussions.

Required Texts (in print or as e-book – preferably Norton Critical Edition or Penguin Modern Classics):

  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
  • Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
  • Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
  • Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy. A Novel (1990)

Further material will be available here in the beginning of the semester!

Additional/Recommended Reading:

  • Kai Wright (ed.): The African American Experience: Black History and Culture Through Speeches, Letters, Editorials, Poems, Songs, and Stories. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2009.
  • Neil Irvin Painter: Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present. New York: OUP, 2007.

Course Dates (Winter Semester 2019/20):

  • Friday, October 25 (10:15 am – 3:45 pm)
  • Friday, November 08 (10:15 am – 3:45 pm)
  • Friday, November 22 (10:15 am – 3:45 pm)
  • Friday, December 06 (10:15 am – 3:45 pm)
  • Friday, January 10 (10:15 am – 3:45 pm)

In our rapidly changing world, the United States continues to be a key player in world events. As an economic power whose historical and current cultural formations have contributed strongly to our increasingly globalized world, the various manifestations of U.S. literature and culture call for in-depth investigation. This introductory class has three major goals. (1) It provides a survey of American literary and cultural history from the 17th to the 21st century, giving particular emphasis to the diversity of (ethnic) voices and to the diversity of media and genres that have shaped it. (2) It introduces basic theoretical and methodological categories and concepts that have defined the field of American Studies since its emergence in the 1930s. (3) It introduces participants to the systematic analysis of literary texts and contemporary media.

All material will be made available on the e-learning platform

In our rapidly changing world, the United States continues to be a key player in world events. As an economic power whose historical and current cultural formations have contributed strongly to our increasingly globalized world, the various manifestations of U.S. literature and culture call for in-depth investigation. This introductory class has three major goals. (1) It provides a survey of American literary and cultural history from the 17th to the 21st century, giving particular emphasis to the diversity of (ethnic) voices and to the diversity of media and genres that have shaped it. (2) It introduces basic theoretical and methodological concepts that have defined the field of American Studies since its emergence in the 1930s. (3) It introduces participants to the systematic analysis of literary texts and of films (the film we will study is the environmental blockbuster movie The Day After Tomorrow).

Text to be purchased: Neil Campbell and Alasdair Kean. American Cultural Studies. An Introduction to American Culture. [latest edition]

Requirements: regular participation, written exam

First class meeting: October 15, 2019

This seminar explores a representative selection of Arthur Miller’s “social plays” – All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (1955).Throughout his rich career spanning over six decades, Miller made sure to address controversial issues of wide social relevance including anti-Semitism, the Red Scare and McCarthy’s investigation of communist subversions in the United States capitalist exploitation of the “common man”, the notorious Salem witch trial. The seminar will focus on developing skills of drama analysis, and it will discuss the plays within their literary, cultural and historical contexts. We shall find out what qualifies Miller as a “social dramatist” and why he is widely acknowledged as one of the most important twentieth-century American playwrights.

Texts to be purchased:

Arthur Miller. All My Sons. New York: Penguin Books, 2016. [ISBN 978-0-14-311581-6 ]
___. Death of a Salesman. London: Penguin Books, 2000. [ISBN 978-0-141-18274-2 ]
__. The Crucible. London: Penguin Books, 2015 [ISBN 978-0-141-18255-1 ]
___. A View from the Bridge. London: Penguin Books, 2009 [ISBN 978-0-141-18996-3 ]


Further reading material will be made available on the UBT E-Learning platform.

First class meeting: October 15, 2019


This class offers a survey of the United States’ major cultural narratives—those “agreed principles, values and myths that give the country a coherent sense of identity” (Kean/Campbell 2), such as American Exceptionalism, American Dream, Frontier, or Manifest Destiny. Familiarity with these key narratives is indispensable for the study of American literature and culture and will allow us to address fundamental questions such as: What is the role of narrative in processes of shaping a culture? What is a myth? How are ideologies formed? How are discourse and culture connected? We will focus on literary texts and historical documents from the 19th century, the period when most of these cultural narratives emerged or were consolidated—as the United States was imagining its independent nationhood. Overall, the class will enable students to critically engage with such texts and to recognize and analyze the ways in which cultural narratives are invoked in a broad variety of contexts and media.
All material will be made available on the e-learning platform.

“All of you young people who served in the war. You are all lost generation.” These words by Gertrude Stein, popularized in Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, also designate a group of American expatriate writers living and writing in Europe in the aftermath of World War I. European cities, especially Paris, offered greater artistic freedom to the avant-garde and modernist artists, including authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this seminar we read Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (1925), Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises (1926) as well as the latter’s memoir A Moveable Feast (1964). These works document the overwhelming sense of disillusionment and moral decadence in the early post-war years capturing at the same time the vibrant and artistically dynamic period of the Roaring Twenties. Focus will be put on developing skills of analysis of narrative texts within their cultural and historical context.


Texts to be purchased:
F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin Boks, 2013. [ISBN 978-0-241-96567-2 ]
Ernest Hemingway. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. London: Arrow Books, 2004. [ISBN 978-0-099-90850-0 ]
____. A Moveable Feast. London: Arrow Books, 1994. [ISBN 978-0-09-990940 -80]

Further reading material will be made available on the UBT E-Learning platform.

First class meeting: October 21, 2019

Die Übung bereitet Lehramtsstudierende auf ihre Abschlussprüfungen - auf die literaturwissenschaftliche Klausur und gegebenenfalls auf die Erstellung der literaturwissenschaftlichen Staatsarbeit - im Bereich amerikanische Literatur vor. Zur Vorbereitung der Klausur werden anhand der vorgegebenen Epochen- und Gattungsschwerpunkte die Kompetenzen im Bereich der Analyse narrativer, dramatischer und lyrischer Texte sowie Kenntnisse der amerikanischen Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte weiter vertieft. Gegenstand der Übung sind im Wintersemester 2019/20 ausschließlich Texte der amerikanischen Literatur bzw. die amerikanische Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte.