Prof. Dr. Holger Kersten
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik


Veranstaltungen im Sommersemester 2002


Cultural Studies
HS: Wilderness and the Garden: Conceptions of Nature in America

Tue 9-11 h

From the time when the first settlers arrived on American soil to the present age, America's natural landscapes have exerted a powerful influence upon the imagination of the people. Depending on the historical situation and individual circumstances, the responses to the natural environment have ranged from awe and fear to admiration and fascination. America's preoccupation with nature has given rise to a broad range of cultural expressions that pervades almost every sector of American life. From car commercials to issues of national policy, nature supplies settings, themes, and values to such a degree that it has come to be regarded as an ingredient of the national identity. For many Americans, their country has always been "Nature's Nation." – Based on a variety of textual sources, this class will provide students with relevant information and insights about a crucial aspect of American civilization and will attempt to clarify how the concept of "nature" has changed over time.
Students interested in signing up for this class should be willing to devote time and effort to the study of a significant amount of reading material. Moreover, participants will be required to demonstrate their skills in critical reading by writing several short interpretive essays.

Cultural Studies
HS: The Home of the Brave: Heroes in American Culture
Mon 13-15 h

After the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the American press was full of articles about various forms of heroism brought about by the terrorist attacks. Firefighters in particular, but also policemen and, later, soldiers were considered heroes in their response against the threat of terrorism. While it is unusual for German observers to use terms such as "hero" and "heroism," let alone assign it to members of their own culture, the concept of the hero is well established in American culture. From colonial times to the 21st century, politicians, soldiers, athletes, and other figures have been celebrated for their individual contributions to their country. If is true that, in the words of American historian Dixon Wecter, "Hero-worship answers an urgent American need," then a study of American heroes will provide an insight into the culture that selected them as representatives of its particular ethos.
By studying a selection of hero figures from various phases of American history, this class invites students to familiarize themselves with historical figures and events. The examples will provide ample opportunity for analyzing the cultural processes that underlie the definitions of heroism and will, therefore, help to develop an understanding for the functions that American heroes play in negotiating acceptable positions located between individual will and collective order.
Prospective participants should be prepared to do a significant amount of reading, to participate actively in in-class discussions and to work on a number of written assignments.

HS: Beginnings of American Short Fiction
Tue 11-13

For some scholars, the beginning of American literature coincides with the emergence of the short story. It is regarded as a genre which provided American authors with an opportunity to compete with British writers, whose books were widely available in the United States in pirated, and therefore cheap, printings. The emergence of literary magazines, however, provided aspiring writers with an outlet for their literary productions and gave them a vehicle to express the topics and themes that were on their minds. It is a literary form that for William Dean Howells, one of America's most influential early literary critics and writers, possessed "almost limitless possibilities" and that gave him "pride as an American."
It is the object of this class to read and examine a selection of short stories by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and lesser known writers of the first half of the nineteenth century in order to develop a sense of the literary productions of the time and to get an impression of the prevailing subjects and themes as well as the formal features of America's early short fiction.
Students wishing to sign up for this class should be familiar with the basic techniques of textual analysis. Moreover, they should be prepared to commit themselves to a number of reading and writing assignments.

Cultural Studies
PS: American Folklore — An Expression of the People, Their Land, and Their Experience
Mo 15-17 h

For the student of cultural studies a familiarity with folklore is a valuable asset, because, in the words of folklore scholar Jan Harold Brunvand, "Only by turning to the folklore of peoples, probing into its meanings, patterns, and functions [ . . . ] may we hope to understand the intellectual and spiritual life of humanity in its broadest dimensions" (The Study of American Folklore, 1978). – This class has a specific focus on popular American traditions. Like any other people, Americans have sought a sense of identity in songs and stories that reflect portions of their country's history and project the country's hopes and ambitions. Thus, examining recurring themes such as movement, self-education, upward mobility and heroic deeds of large heroes may illuminate some national features that are often regarded as typical American characteristics. It is an endeavor that may ultimately improve our understanding of American culture in a wider sense.
Only students who are prepared to participate actively and to commit themselves to oral and written assignments should sign up for this class. Prospective participants are encouraged to familiarize themselves in advance with the general aspects of the subject.
  Version vom 30.08.2018