Teaching

Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen

WS 2017/18

  • Vorlesung: Twentieth-Century US Media, Law, Politics, Arts

    This interactive lecture series employs musical, photographic, televisual, filmic, and digital texts to describe how changes in media and the arts affected the cultural politics and legal parameters of the United States during the twentieth century. Get ready to listen, watch, and think aloud.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: The Pornification of Culture

    Porn, this seminar maintains, has gone mainstream. Its tropes and narratives increasingly appear as unmarked in everyday culture. This pornification of Western post-industrial cultures includes the emergence of phenomena such as do-me or fuck-me feminism, erotic capital, and the sporno (sport + porn) body type as a new masculine ideal. In terms of cultural practices, this trend comprises the visual self-stylization of one’s fuckability, particularly in digital forums. For women and girls, this quality is attested to in Facebook and other forums through poses featuring pursed lips, breast and bottom cleavage, and come-hither facial expressions. For men, this trend is manifested in selfies that feature the subject’s hairless six- or eight-pack abdomen, juxtaposed above his open pants. It is also manifested in pole dancing having become a regular form of sport.

    The seminar shall analyze specific texts in which porn tropes and narratives are carried over into mainstream culture and are thereby commodified or re-commodified. These texts include popular singers such as the US American Minaj’s highly sexualized video Anaconda (2014) or the Swedish singer Tove Lo’s short film Fairy Dust (2016), in which the singer is filmed while masturbating. We shall also examine the adaption of porn tropes in various forms of self-fashioning, such as selfies.

    The pornification of culture has been variously described as “the rise of raunch culture” (Ariel Levy 2005), “the new sexism” (Rosalind Gill 2011), or as “the diversification of the pornographic” (Susanna Paasonen 2014). The seminar shall discuss these theoretical texts to better comprehend why porn has become so ubiquitously visible that its presence is rendered  invisible due to its regularity.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Trans* Television

    Time Magazine recently described transgenderism as “America’s next civil rights frontier” (June 9, 2014). In this seminar we shall investigate how recent renderings of trans* individuals and lifestyles interact with the recent publicity surrounding transgenderism. Our central texts shall be Orange is the New Black (2013–) and Transparent (2014–). We shall look at both how the formal qualities of these series contribute to their political impact and discuss how the hype surrounding their actors and makers and themes has changed discourse around trans* politics in the United States.

  • Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Colloquium

    Researchers are asked to share and provide peer-review for work in progress, which is then discussed in an informal atmosphere.

SS 2017

  • Vorlesung: exploring decolonial and queer feminisms

WS 2016/17

  • Vorlesung: Charting Developments in the United States during the Twenty-First Century

    This series of lecture sessions shall first seek to explain the current US American presidential election and how the primary and election contributed to the current choice of candidates as well as what the central issues, political and personal, in the November vote are. After the election the lecture series shall move on to discuss other central cultural-political topics that are shaping the United States now. These include the events of 11 September 2001 and the ensuing so-called War on Terror, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis of 2008, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

    The lecture series held by Prof. Olson shall take place in conjunction with the University President Professor Mukherjee’s and Prof. Claus Leggewie’s Ringvorlesung: „Amerika ist anders“ (in German). In five lectures by external experts issues such as environmentalism, the US–German relationship, the history of racial violence, and overlaps between the political and the medial shall be investigated.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: Feminist Media Studies

    One half of this course shall be devoted to learning the specific methods of feminist analysis, a politicized approach to media texts. The other half shall be spent in practicing the performance of analysis of texts of the students’ choice, such as Orange is the New Black (2013 – present). Those students who are preparing to write their Master’s Degree Thesis shall also be encouraged to present their work in class sessions for peer-feedback.

  • BA Seminar: Vampire

    This BA seminar will work to answer the question of why vampires have recently taken such a big bite in the US American cultural imaginary. While briefly reviewing the history of vampires in Anglophone literature, the seminar’s emphasis shall be on newer textual phenomena such as the Twilight series, in novel and film, The Vampire Diaries (2009 – present), and True Blood (2008 – 2014). We shall also discuss the reasons for the recent decline of popular vampirism and the question of whether zombies have become the new vampire.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Migration/Law/Gender

    This Master’s Degree seminar compares fictional, popular media, and legal representations of migrants and asylum seekers in English and German. Our efforts shall be to uncover how such representations may alternatively function to elicit support for the protections of migrants and/or reify their status as victims and as abject, or, in negative representations, to garner support for anti-migration sentiments and political measures.

  • Doctoral Colloquium

    Doctoral candidates are invited to present their current research projects for feedback and positive critique.

  • Workshop with Sara Polak: The Personal Politics of Teaching Culture

  • Workshop with Sonja Schillings: Posthumanist Feminism

 

WS 2015/16

  • Vorlesung: From Proto-Feminism to Queer Studies and Beyond

    This series of interactive lectures, some by guest lecturers, offers an overview of how feminism developed historically and gave rise to a number of disciplines including women’s studies, gender studies, masculinity and queer studies. The lecture also seeks to ask where feminism is now in relation to other forms of gender- and sexuality-related scholarship and activism. While the primary focus will be on Britain and the United States, the lecture will also take note of the very different history of feminism in Germany.

  • BA Seminar: Difficult Women in Post-Network Television (with Lisa Charlotte Friederich)

    This course departs from the thesis that the recent boom in post-network ‘quality’ television has been motored by dramatic explorations of violent, criminal men or anti-heroes such as Walter White and Tony Soprano. Our first task shall be to look at characters such as Gemma in Sons of Anarchy (2008–2014), Carrie in Homeland (2011 – present), Elizabeth in The Americans (2013 – present), and various characters in Orange Is the New Black (2013 – present) to see how these untypical figures may challenge dominant representations of women in television. The course’s second task is to teach students television analysis by actually making and cutting films. In separate tutorials with student filmmaker Lisa Charlotte Friederich, students will learn aspects of cinematography.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Lusting After Submission? The Cultural Politics of Fifty Shades of Grey

    The novel trilogy and recent movie adaption of Fifty Shades of Grey have incited a number of controversies including whether the texts misrepresent sado-masochism and encourage women to remain in abusive relationships. In this course we will first review the history of romance fiction and then explore feminist texts concerning fantasies about sexual submission, in order to discuss why these texts have become focal points of so many cultural-political disputes.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: A New Category of Being: The Atom Bomb in American Literature (Sonja Schillings)

    The use of the atom bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States constituted a caesura in human history. Suddenly faced with the tangible possibility of a total destruction of humanity by humans, contemporaries of the bomb around the world struggled to develop new understandings of notions such as responsibility, life, and even reality itself. This seminar specifically traces some of the dilemmas and questions formulated in the country responsible for the first use of the bomb, the United States, and especially focuses on debates in the context of the Manhattan Project. Next to familiarizing students with these debates and questions, the seminar particularly emphasizes the discussion of literary reactions to the bomb, as artists and writers struggled to formulate their own aesthetic responses to the nuclear age as well as their altered understandings of reality and being-in-the-world in the „Age of Anxiety.“

  • Doctoral Colloquium

    Doctoral candidates are invited to present their current research projects for feedback and positive critique.

SS 2015

  • Vorlesung: Cultural Approaches to Law and US American Legal Culture

    This series of interactive lectures invites its participants to understand law not as an independent body of rules but as inseparable from culture, narrative, images, and political economy. The particular focus of the individual lectures will be on US American legal culture(s). Guest lectures by scholars in cultural legal studies, political science, anthropology, and US American history will enable participants to examine law from several perspectives. The lecture series will include the international conference “Law’s Pluralities: Law’s Pluralities–Cultures/Narratives/Genders” (May 6-9), featuring Susanne Baer, Justice of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court and Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin.

  • BA Seminar: Landmark Trials in African American History

    From the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) to recent trials concerning the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the homicide of Eric Garner, legal tribunals have provided forums for negotiating racial politics and racism in US American history. In this seminar we shall grapple with the legal and social aspects of several landmark trials by discussing their historical backgrounds and political ramifications and by acting them out in mock trials. Ideally, this course should be taken in conjunction with the lecture series on “Cultural Approaches to Law and US American Legal Culture.”

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: Reading Television

    Arguably, post-network television has replaced the novel as an aesthetic forum for debating cultural and political issues. Yet thinking critically about television’s supposed new golden age and delineating televisual form proves to be complex. In this seminar we will review arguments concerning television’s current cultural dominance as well as methods for analyzing television form and content. Particularly those students who are working on televisual, filmic, or multimedial texts in their final theses are encouraged to introduce their projects in class.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Chinua Achebe

    Recently deceased Chinua Achebe has been called the “father of Modern African Literature,” an “inaugural postcolonial novelist,” “a protest writer,” a premier critic of Western institutional racism, and a speaker of Igbo culture. In this seminar, we shall discuss some of the author’s most influential essays as well as Things Fall Apart (1958). In order to engage with Achebe’s essay “An Image of Africa” (1977), seminar participants are asked to read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) before the term begins.

  • Doctoral Colloquium

    Doctoral candidates are invited to present their current research projects for feedback and positive critique.

WS 2014 – 2015

  • Vorlesung: The United States: Beginnings – Law/Politics/Literature

    This interactive lecture series covers the time from the various pre-Anglophone and pre-national beginnings of the United States up until 1900. In each session one paradigmatic literary or legal text will be analyzed in depth as a way to open up central political and cultural issues of the period in question. These texts offer keys to understanding how imperialism, slavery, and Puritanism shaped the colonial and antebellum and postbellum periods. Lines of continuity will be drawn between America’s present and its beginnings.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Quality Television’s Preoccupation with Violent White American Men: From Tony Soprano to Walter White

    The so-called television revolution has been advanced by stylistically experimental and critically-acclaimed serials that have focused particularly on violent white, middle-aged American men. This seminar asks why this is the case. Our central focus will be on Breaking Bad (2008—2013), which seminar participants should have watched in its entirety beforehand. Yet reference will also be made to other Cable dramas such as Sons of Anarchy. Practicing modes of television analysis, we shall ask how stylistics converge with gender and monetary issues in these series.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: Loving Feminism

    Not for the feministically faint of heart, this seminar/colloquium reviews major standpoints and key works in current feminist debates through reading and debate. Men, trans*, and inter* persons are also most welcome.

  • BA Seminar: Danni Lowinski and Drop Dead Diva: Class, Law, Comedy-Drama and Women Lawyers

    This seminar covers topics such as comparative legal cultures, the medialization of law, and gender and genre. We will begin by discussing differences between US American and German legal systems and legal cultures and also review methods for analyzing televisual texts. By highlighting the presentation of socio-legal issues in two generically quite similar television series, areas of cultural difference will be uncovered.

  • Colloquium for post-graduates

    Doctoral candidates are invited to present their current research projects for feedback and positive critique.

  • GCSC (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture) — Workshop: The Personal Politics of Teaching Culture

    In this workshop we will work on issues such as sharing power, recognizing difference, and dealing with our own strengths and weaknesses as facilitators of learning. Cultivating our passion for teaching while also seeing the political implications of our praxis will be at the center of our discussion and exercises. I look forward to learning from you..

WS 2013 – 2014

  • Vorlesung: Twentieth–Century US American Culture and Politics – From the Margins to the Center

    Each interactive lecture will focus on a major cultural-political issue in twentieth-century US American history, including immigration, the struggle for racial equality, Vietnam, and the crisis of American empire. The lecture series will also emphasize how changing media conditions have altered US Americans’ conceptions of themselves. This will include discussions of how documentary photography made Americans aware of the material consequences of the depression, how television reporting increased awareness of the routine use of violence against black demonstrators, and how the use of video technology by private individuals changed the nature of political reporting and surveillance.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Post-‘9/11’ Television and Film: Screening Security Practices

    This seminar examines how post-‘9/11’ television series and films present the use of violent counterterrorist security measures by the United States with increasingly self-critical reflection. Post-‘9/11’ series such as Homeland (2011 – present) employ strategies that criticize the use of drones as well as the dominant representations of the utility of torture and other violent security measures that characterized earlier television series such as 24 (2001-2010). Scandal (2012 – present) has recently presented a highly critical depiction of the torture of a putative terrorist. These texts will be compared to far more morally equivocating depictions of violent counterterrorist measures as in Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Inevitably, our discussion will deal with identity issues brought up by these texts such as their depictions of gender, race, religion, and ethnicity.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: Critical Media Studies

    While theory and methods for dealing with all medial texts will be discussed in this class, our central focus will be on how to analyse television series and films. Thus, the seminar/colloquium should ideally be taken in conjunction with the one on “Post-‘9/11’ Television and Film.” Students who wish to may also present their Masters Degree projects to the class for feedback.

  • BA Seminar: Introducing Gender Studies (Franka Heise)

    This seminar introduces gender as an analytical category of difference in cultural theory and as a key issue in the investigation of social life. The course aims to provide an overview of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches to the study of gender roles and gender relations. It will focus on how gender and sexuality intersect with other axes of difference such as race, class, age, and disability. Attention will be paid to understanding how complex social systems of oppression such as (hetero-)sexism, homophobia, racism, ageism, etc. relate to gender as a category of identity. The course will also provide an introduction to some of the key theoretical texts in and approaches to the fields of gender, culture, and sexuality.

    A specific focus will be on contemporary media representations of gendered identities. We will examine how gender and the media work together to influence gendered constructions of knowledge and experience. To get graded credit for the course, students will be asked to present their work in a student conference.

  • Doctoral Colloquium

    Doctoral candidates are invited to present their current research projects for feedback and positive critique.

SS 2013

  • Vorlesung: Twenty-First Century US America: A Cultural History of the Present

    This series of interactive lectures examines the beginning of the US American twenty-first century through the lens of aesthetic texts and their contexts. Each lecture introduces a major cultural artifact – such as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father (2004[1995]) and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008) – as a way in which to open up historical events such as 2008 Elections and the Iraq War.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Gendering Television Series

    Television critic Emily Nussbaum has argued that the majority of acclaimed cable-series are „about patriarchal subculture.“ Dramas such as The Sopranos and Mad Men represent „multi-character exploration[s] of a closed, often violent hierarchical system“, in which viewers learn „what it means to be excluded from power: to be a woman, or a bastard, or a ‚half man'“ (The New Yorker,May 7, 2012).

    Bearing this quote in mind, we will examine the gender work performed in recent, highly acclaimed cable series, including The Sopranos, Breaking Badand Girls. Participants will be invited to transfer insights from the analyses of gender and formal elements in these texts to other television series.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar/Colloquium: Issues in Narrativizing Culture

    In making sense of cultural phenomena and analyzing representational patterns, cultural critics impose narratives on what they study. The first aim of this seminar is to treat this practice critically by introducing its precepts and then considering alternative methods for interpreting culture. The second goal of the course is to enable those students about to write their MA theses to get feedback on their projects. These individuals will be invited to present their working methods, central theses, and corpus to the class.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Medializing Law

    Richard Sherwin, amongst others, has argued that the nature of legal practice itself has changed through alterations in the media. For instance, in what is known as the CSI effect jurors increasinglyexpect to be presented with scientific evidence about the perpetrator of a crime that can be proven incontrovertibly. Second, US lawyers make greater use of visual and multi-medial platforms to present evidence in court and respond to their being filmed in the courtroom by behaving in increasingly small-screen appropriate ways. Third, those who are involved in law enforcement are influenced by and respond to mass communication representations of their work.

    This course examines interactions between film and television media and the law. While we will focus primarily on US American culture and, for instance, the effects of the filming of the OJ Simpson trial on cultural politics, we shall also take note of how American genres such as the courtroom reality show, Judge Judy (1996 – ) have influenced German series such a Richterin Barbara Salesch (1999 – 2012). Our central focus will be on determining how and to what degree media influences our conceptions of law, justice, and legal culture.

SS 2012

  • Vorlesung: Presidential Politics and the U.S. Elections

    This interactive lecture series covers the history of the U.S. American presidency in order to offer a better understanding of central issues in the 2012 elections. The central Constitutional premise of establishing a balance of powers will be reviewed as will the continuing struggles between the executive and legislative branches of government. Looking at the history of the presidency, particularly in the post-WW II period, will allow us to grapple with some of the central issues that will influence the 2012 campaigns. These include the economy and unemployment, political divisiveness and a polarity of attitudes concerning social issues such as health care, homosexual marriage, and abortion. Our texts will include the Constitution, historical writings, presidential autobiographies, web sites, and attack ads. Thus a further concern will be to better understand how the presidency has been mediated in the past and today.

  • BA Seminar: Presidential Biographies and Self-Fashionings

    In this class we will analyze presidential candidates’ life writings as well as other medial sources that offer information about the candidates. We will depart from campaign advisor David Axelrod’s insight that in the current cultural moment presidential campaigning has little to do with policy and much more to do with personal narrative. Since non-print media forms now play major roles in presidential politics, we shall also discuss how campaign ads contribute to the presentations of the candidates as well as websites and social media. Interest will be placed in the ways in which various media change the nature of how candidate’s identities are constructed.

  • Colloquium /Master’s Degree Seminar: Law and Literature

    Law and Literature is a sub-discipline that emerged in the United States during the 1970s in response to what was seen as the narrowly doctrinal nature of law school education. It attempts to open up both disciplines by bringing their respective texts and methodologies into a dialogue. We shall read foundational theoretical texts as well as primary ones and discuss newer medial presentations of the law.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Dickens and Politics

    Charles Dickens was a political writer whose fictional and journalistic writings interacted with and impacted on Victorian social mores and policy. We take the occasion of his two hundredth birthday to ask how his writings and film adaptations of them speak to the cultural politics of our own moment in time.

WS 2011 – 2012

  • Ringvorlesung: Doing and Undoing Gender, JLU and GCSC

    This RVL concludes the research project on “Integrating Women’s and Gender Studies.” It features a performance and a series of lectures by students and faculty members of the JLU and the Graduate Center for the Study of Culture. Some sessions will deal with questions of how gender, queer, and intersectionality theory have impacted on the disciplines of sociology, literary, theater, cultural studies, and history generally. In others, speakers will introduce specific projects that interrogate and un/do the gender binary or involve queer politics and/or intersectional research. Look forward to talks on subjects such as confronting the challenge of how popular science reifies gender, on country houses as queer spaces, on twentieth and twenty-first-century Black masculinities, on intersectionality and ageing, and on writing the feminine voice as an emancipatory act. Listen in. Act up.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Reading Families: Novels by Jonathan Franzen

    Jonathan Franzen’s two major novels The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010) explore complexities in American family life at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first one. With themes including economic change and new ways of working, ageing, illness, environmentalism, politics, and the difficulties involved in long-term marriages, Franzen’s work asks what is it to be a middle-class American now? His novels also witness what has been seen as a move in American fiction away from postmodernism to a new realism or hyperrealism.

  • Master’s Degree Seminar: Screening Families: The Sopranos and Six Feet Under

    On the one hand David Chase’s The Sopranos (1999 – 2007) and Allen Ball’ Six Feet Under (2001-2005) continue a tradition of American television programming that has centered around the importance of the family. In these programs, crime and death finance the families that stand at the center of them. On the other hand, these series have been viewed as frame-breaking in that they depart from previous norms of censorship and advertizing to introduce complex serial stories in which viewers need to bring a high level of engagement to be able to follow developments. The Sopranos and Six Feet Under represent two well-known examples of what has been called quality television, a genre which has been said to have surpassed the novel in terms of its complexity and capacity for social commentary and critique. We shall ‘read’ these series in terms of their medial particularities – how they reveal storytelling, audience participation, and television in new ways – as well as on the background of American cultural politics, including the period of perceived vulnerability, disillusionment and paranoia that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001.

  • Vorlesung: The United States: Beginnings – Law/Politics/Literature

    This interactive lecture series covers the beginnings of the United States from the pre-revolutionary period until 1900. In each session one paradigmatic literary or legal text will be analyzed in depth as a way to open up central political and cultural issues of the time. These texts offer keys to understanding, for instance, how slavery, displacement, and Puritanism shaped the colonial period. A goal of the course is to trace lines of continuity between America’s present and its beginnings. How do exceptionalism, religious enthusiasm, nativism, immigration, prejudice, and integration all continue to affect the nation now?

  • Colloquium/Master’s Degree Seminar: Cultural Theory/Cultural Critique

    This course is aimed particularly at students who are preparing to write their final Master Degree thesis or their Magister- or Diplomarbeit. On the basis of texts from a reader, insights by major cultural theorists, such as Williams, Foucault, Butler, Hall, and Haraway will be discussed as well as specific methods for performing cultural analysis on written narratives, visual texts, and television series. Students will be encouraged to work in pairs so as to support their research and writing processes. Those preparing to write their final theses will also present their projects in class.

SS 2011

  • Vorlesung: From Feminism to Women’s Studies to Gender Studies to Queer Studies to…?

    This interactive lecture traces the history of the social movement called feminism through to the establishment of women’s, gender, and queer studies as recognized disciplines and forms of pedagogy. Beginning with proto-feminist work and suffragism, the lecture series will go on to examine what are called the three waves of feminism and the moves to address an ever greater number of political and social forms of discrimination and inequality which are at the basis of gender studies, men’s studies, queer studies, and sexuality studies. We shall also ask where feminist and gender studies are heading – to global feminism, to area studies, and/or to post-humanism. Each session will feature an overview of the topic as well as a reading of one paradigmatic text such as Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (2005).

  • Hauptseminar: Terrorism

    In this course we will study US policy towards terrorists and terrorism in the post 9/11 era as well as fictional and non-fictional depictions of terrorism. We will analyze post 9/11 legislation, including the so-called torture memos, and fictional constructions of terrorism such as that in the television series 24 (2001-2010). By doing so, we will work towards grasping how terrorism has been conceived of in the American imaginary.

  • Hauptseminar: Reading Gender

    This Hauptseminar and colloquium is also open, on a voluntary basis, to Bachelor students who are interested in feminism, women, and gender studies. As part of the project „Integrating Women’s and Gender Studies,“ the course is meant to accompany a series of lectures that will be held during the semester by well known scholars who are working on feminism, masculinity and gender studies. These include Ina Schabert, Robyn Wharhol, Leora Auslander, Sabine Sielke, Jennifer Coates, and Stephan Horlacher. Topics will range from linguistics and gender to men’s studies. We will read and discuss these researchers’ work so as to better prepare for their lectures.

  • Proseminar: Law and the Media

    This course examines how law is dealt with in the popular media. While we will focus primarily on American culture, we will also take note of how, for instance, the US courtroom reality show, Judge Judy (1996 – ), has influenced its German counterpart, Richterin Barbara Salesch (1999 -). By reading some theoretical texts and by analyzing courtroom shows, crime series, and popular movies that center on law, we will work on answering the questions of how and to what degree does the media constructs our ideas about how law works and what justice is and should be.

WS 2010 – 2011

  • Vorlesung: Twentieth Century America: Culture/Politics/History

    This interactive series of lectures will introduce students to major US American historical and political events of the twentieth century. A large part of our examination of the past will include the analysis of how social issues have been influenced by and reflected on aesthetically. Thus while covering overviews of developments in twentieth-century prose, poetry, and drama, the lecture series will also engage with the increasing importance of photography, television, and film during this period. Each lecture will be accompanied by a power point lecture which can be downloaded from the Stud.IP. Handouts with study questions and copies of passages from paradigmatic texts will also be distributed in each lecture. Student questions are encouraged in an effort to turn these lectures into more of a dialogue.

  • Hauptseminar: Problems and Methods in Cultural Studies

    Cultural studies has often defined itself as an anti-disciplinary and anti-institutional form of decoding literary texts and other cultural products and phenomena. This presents a problem to students when they are looking for specific methods with which to formulate and shape their cultural studies projects. In this seminar we will review some central methods for conducting cultural studies, including narrative and visual analysis. Students doing their Diploma or Magister exams with me are particularly encouraged to attend this course and to discuss their research problems and issues as they arise.

    Recommended reading: Michael Pickering, ed. (2008). Research Methods for Cultural Studies.

  • Hauptseminar: The Seduction of Romance Fiction – From Pamela to Twilight

    What attracts readers again and again to the plot of a woman who is attracted to a dangerous man, who in the course of the story is reformed by LOVE into being a veritable prince? Why do such novels, which often feature a woman in a low-cut dress being forcefully embraced by a bare-chested man, attract so much ridicule that their readers feel it is necessary to hide their covers? What stories do these novels tell us about the culture we life in and its competing ideologies? Do they reinforce the idea that a woman’s quest in life is simply to wait passively for the real adventure of her life to begin in the form of a romance with an attractive, but somewhat villainous man? Or, do they enable women to negotiate the realities of patriarchy? Why is the figure of the Byronic hero and his plucky yet vulnerable counterpart familiar to us even if we have never read romance fiction? Why has romance traditionally been considered less valuable than, for instance, realism?

    Romance lovers and romance haters are invited to answer some of these questions with me, as we look at similarities between romances such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005). Our readings will include theoretical texts and anti-romances. (Painting: La liseuse de romans)

  • Proseminar: Twentieth-Century American Trials

    Legal cultures determine the way we understand how our societies and governments function as well as what we believe to be right and wrong. One way of examining these legal cultures is to look at the major trials that occur in them. Given the United States’ adversarial trial system, trials represent both dramatic storytelling contests and opportunities to hash out central socio-cultural issues. After reading about major twentieth-century trials involving issues such as teaching evolutionary theory, abortion, and racial equality, students will act out mock trials in class.

GCSC (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture)

  • Workshop: Political Directions in Cultural Studies II: écriture féminine,  Butler and Beyond (with Mirjam Bitter and Mirjam Horn)

SS 2010

  • Vorlesung: Twenty-First Century America: A Cultural History of the Present

    This series of interactive lectures looks at the American twenty-first century through the lens of major novels, life-writings, and other aesthetic texts. Each lecture will discuss one major cultural artifact – a movie, a novel, an autobiography – on the background of events such as 9/11 or the election of Barack Obama. Close readings of paradigmatic texts will be performed by the students and teacher during the lecture, and power points as well as study questions will be made available through the Stud.IP.

  • Proseminar:Hogarth and Visual Culture

    The eighteenth-century artist William Hogarth mastered a new form of telling stories with images: he made detailed engravings of his series of paintings and drawings which he then sold as inexpensive prints. These series told narratives about lousy marriages between the newly rich and the aristocratic, showed how poor country girls are turned into prostitutes when they come to London, and about how those who hurt animals and indulge in blood sports will get their just deserts and be eaten by animals themselves. Hogarth’s funny, bitingly critical, and sometimes quite tragic engravings force his viewers to develop a new method of seeing that registers both developing themes and individual symbols. The aim of this course is to learn to employ the tools that we have learnt in literary studies to analyze visual representations. Hogarth’s prints can be read as critical and comic commentaries on contemporaneous marriage practices and leisure activities as well as about the development of eighteenth-century London. These images tell us much about class and gender roles in eighteenth-century Britain as well as about how we relate stories. We will pay particular attention to The Harlot’s Progress (1732), The Rake’s Progress (1735), Marriage à la Mode (1745), Industry and Idleness (1747), The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). Please order your copy of Engravings by Hogarth at least four weeks before the beginning of the term.

  • Hauptseminar: Cultural Meanings of the Obama Presidency I

    Hauptseminar: Cultural Meanings of the Obama Presidency II

    This seminar examines the election and presidency of Barack Obama as cultural as well as political and historical events. We will discuss readings of Obama’s person such as his being the Black Kennedy or the embodiment of the American dream. This will include an analysis of Obama’s election within the context of American race relations and racial politics, but it will also focus on the media’s intense scrutiny of Michelle Obama, the Obamas’ marriage, children, and bodies, and how these representations play out in terms of gender politics and identity. We will also make reference to how the President and his advisors have successfully used new media in their communication strategies. Through the analysis of written and multimedial representations of Barack Obama and his family, we will attempt to determine the various symbolic meanings of his presidency. At the end of the semester a conference called “Obama – Cultural Meanings, Historical Contexts, and Global Reception” (July 15 -17) will take place in Gießen, which students are encouraged to attend.

GCSC (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture)

  • Workshop: Political Directions in Cultural Studies I: Feminism and Cultural Studies

WS 2009 – 2010

  • Vorlesung: Survey of British Literature and Culture (1880-1927)

    A continuation of the lecture series which I offered in WS 2008-2009 and SS 2009, this course aims to give students an overview of major developments in British literature and culture between 1880 and 1927. Available to Gießen students online, the individual power point presentations and handouts outline major characteristics of developing genres in the late Victorian, fin de siècle, and Modernist periods. Lectures are delivered freely rather than read aloud and involve question and answer periods to encourage student participation. They describe the background of historical and aesthetic developments and explain central cultural controversies. Each lecture will also provide an individual reading of a paradigmatic text.

  • Hauptseminar: American Punitivity: The Desire to Punish

    After a period of concentrating on rehabilitating criminals and reintegrating them into society, America has been transformed into a culture in which the desire to punish and ‚put away’ those who are considered to be criminal has become paramount. Thus America has the highest rate of incarceration in the western world, and American super max prisons have created new standards of harshness and isolation for those who are forced to live in them. Mandatory sentencing policies such as three strikes laws have increased the numbers of individuals who are incarcerated for minor offences. We will first examine some theories about why Americans have become so interested in punishing law breakers harshly. Secondly, we will examine how punitive attitudes are represented in literary texts.

  • Ringvorlesung with Ansgar Nünning: New Theories, Models and Methods in Literary and Cultural Studies

    This series of lectures offers students an overview of important new developments in literary and cultural studies. In each lecture a new approach to texts will first be introduced and its theoretical basis and terminology will be explained. Second, the lecturers will demonstrate how to apply the method they have introduced to specific texts. Thus students should get a concrete impression of how to turn theory into practice. Each week a new lecturer or team of lecturers will introduce topics ranging from eco-criticism to cultural memory studies.

  • Hauptseminar: Short Fiction of Henry James

    Joseph Conrad described Henry James as „the historian of fine consciences” due to his carefully wrought representations of how sensitive individuals experience their worlds. This is one way to read and appreciate James’s work. Secondly, James has been read as a stylistic innovator and a founder of the study of narratives. In this course we will combine traditional approaches with newer ones, such as „queer,” feminist, and political readings of James’s texts.

  • Proseminar: American Legal Culture

    This cultural studies course introduces students to American legal culture. Those particularly aspects of the American legal world which differ from German and Continental legal cultures will be emphasized. These include the difference between the adversarial and the inquisitorial systems, the importance of the American Constitution to interpretations of American law, and the separation of the church and state. We will begin by reading the American Constitution but will also focus on culturally salient representations of law and lawyers such as in Sidney Lumet’s film The Verdict (1982).

GCSC (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture)

  • Workshop: Teaching Culture: Active and Cooperative Learning

  • Workshop: Political Directions in Cultural Studies I: Animal Studies

  • Workshop: Teaching Culture: Active and Cooperative Learning (with Prof. Michael Legutke)

SS 2009

  • Performing American Masculinities

    Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem (1949), Sam Shepard, Buried Child (1978; revised 1995), David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), Oleanna (1992)

    What does it mean to be an American man? Is an American man violent and/or inarticulate? Does his masculinity rest on his distancing himself from women, people of color, and gays? We will read and perform some canonized post-war plays in which masculinity is enacted. How do these plays fashion men and represent women? Where do they leave us as viewers? Is the construction of American masculinity in these plays inherently white and violent? Not forgetting simultaneous African-American, queer, and women’s theater movements, we will also ask a larger question about genre? Does drama strike us as a more masculine genre than prose and poetry? Why is violence so often depicted there?

  • Margaret Atwood: Poetry, Prose and Essays

    The contemporary Canadian author Margaret Atwood manages the unusual feat of appealing to literary critics and ordinary readers alike-two often entirely unrelated groups. Atwood’s fiction provides commentary on being Canadian, middle-class, and on the sometimes strained relations between men and women without ever being didactic. Her playful uses of language, genres, and myth challenge readers to think about identity and the reading process in new ways. In this course we will read Atwood’s comic take-off of Gothic romances, (1976) and the more recent The Blind Assassin (2000). Additionally, we will read a short story and essay by Atwood as well as some of her poems to study how this author deals with themes differently in various prose and lyric forms.

  • Vorlesung / Lecture Series: Survey of British Literature (1790 -1880)

    This powerpoint lecture series is designed to give students an introductory overview of literary, political, and cultural developments in the nineteenth century. Major canonical works, genre developments, and their relations to cultural changes will be discussed. Close readings of short excerpts from major works should help students to engage with the course matter actively.

  • Experiencing the Body in Poetry and Prose

    Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (1992), Eve Ensler The Vagina Monologues: The V-Day Edition (2001), and Gloria Steinem’s „If Men Could Menstruate“, reader

    In this course we will examine how the body of the self and the body of the Other is experienced in a variety of text types. How do plays, poems, and prose works portray experiences such as ageing, gender, sex, and illness? For instance, how does the manner in which the story is told suggest whether the voice behind the text is male or female? Do certain genres describe embodiment better than others? We will also ask to what degree the body determines how we know and think about the world. For instance, Mark Johnson suggests that all thought arises out of bodily experience (The Body in the Mind, 1987). Our reading list will include Nathaniel Hawthorne’s „Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment“ (on ageing), Stephen Crane’s „The Monster“ (on being African-American and disabled), a selection of Katherine Mansfield’s stories (on eating, sexuality, and body image), Robert Hass‘ „A Story About the Body“ (on cancer and sex), as well as poems by D.H. Lawrence, Silvia Plath, Maya Angelou, and scenes from The Vagina Monologues. We will begin by reading Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (1992). Some readings of theoretical texts on textual and human bodies will be required.

Vertretung für Prof. Dr. Ansgar Nünning

WS 2008 -2009

  • Vorlesung / Lecture Series: A Short History of English Literature (Part I 1500 – 1800)

  • Proseminar: New Approaches to the Early Eighteenth-Century Novel

    Daniel Defoe, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner (1719), Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740); excerpts from Eliza Haywood, Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry (1719)

    We will review more familiar interpretations of these texts based on their narrative structures and challenges to contemporary prejudices against novels. Simultaneously, we will discuss how new critical emphases on colonialism, alterity, materialism, and gender studies have come to make us consider these novels in new ways. We will also discuss how forgotten bestsellers such as Haywood’s Love in Excess; or The Fatal Enquiry contributed to the canonization of the other texts.

  • Hauptseminar: Literary and Cultural Responses to 9/11 and the ‚War on Terror‘

  • Hauptseminar: Later Coetzee and the Ethics of Writing and Reading:

    Disgrace (1999), Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons (2003), Slow Man (2005), Diary of a Bad Year (2007)

    Nobel Prize winning, South African novelist Coetzee’s non-realism and constant undermining of narratorial authority do not allow the reader to adopt the views of the narrator or to accept the novel’s world as fact. On the one hand, Disgrace deals critically with racism and the oppression of women and animals in the post-apartheid era; on the other, the narrative makes us distrust its reliability. Elizabeth Costello constructs its protagonist through a series of public lectures which she holds, and the text hovers between argumentative essay and fiction. Slow Man (2005) also presents the reader with a hall of mirrors when its central ailing character realizes that he is the literary creation of the novelist Elizabeth Costello. Diary of a Bad Year offers yet a new narrative form which recalls Jacques Derrida’s early criticism. The novel is comprised of split or tripartite pages divided into the ’strong opinions’ of the fictional writer JC on subjects such as terrorism and torture, a more conventional fictional first-person description of this writer’s experiences as he composes his book, and, finally, the narrative of the young woman who types the book for him. The novels discussed in this course deal with rape and social iniquity, animal suffering, the ageing body, and ethical problems in representation.

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg: Lehrbeauftragte, Lektorin, Wissenschaftliche Angestelle am Englischen Seminar

SS 2008

  • Proseminar and Hauptseminar: Ethical and Cultural Responses to 9/11 and the ‚War on Terror‘:

    Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2006), Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), Don DeLillo, Falling Man (2007), Gavin Hood, director, Rendition (2007); essays by Susan Sonntag, Slavoj Zizek, Jacques Derrida, and Jürgen Habermas

    The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 9, 2001 as well as the revelation of the torture of Iraqi inmates in Abu Ghraib by American soldiers during the spring of 2004 have presented critical thinkers and artists with a number of moral and aesthetic problems: How should one adequately respond to the new sense of uncertainty and vulnerability that followed the attacks on New York and Washington, and later on Madrid and London? How does one reconcile the ideology of spreading democracy with the practice of torturing individuals or imprisoning them without legal representation? How are European nations implicated in the Bush administration’s justification of war on the basis of protecting freedom? How can suffering and death due to terrorism or the torture of suspects be represented in ways that are non-voyeuristic and ethical? Given the practices of extrajudicial incarceration and rendition how do we now understand concepts such as human rights and democracy?

    In this course we will study both fictional and philosophical responses to 9/11 and the ‚war on terror.‘ We will use these texts as ways of thinking about the ethics of the post-9/11 era and considering how fictional texts can perform ethical work. Critical essays by current philosophers will help us to place recent political events within larger debates about human rights and history. Please read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2006) before the class begins.

WS 2007 -2008

  • Proseminar: Dickens and Social Criticism:

    Bleak House (1852-3) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5), non-fictional writing

    This course features two Dickens novels in which poverty, illegitimacy, judicial injustice, and class prejudice play major roles. In it we will also take note of some of Dickens’s essays on related social issues such as capital punishment and the rehabilitation of ‚fallen women‘. Our purpose is to discover how Dickens’s writing frequently fuels Victorian reformist energies and at other times furthers more conservative agendas.

    EPG students: Dickens’s work serves as an example of how literature may serve to alter cultural perceptions of social issues. By studying his novels, we may question how literature potentially works as an ethical force within the society out of which it emerges and into which it is received. More specifically, we will delineate the aesthetic means with which Dickens so effectively conveyed his own moral views. An awareness of the moral inconsistencies in Dickens’s textual universe will lead us to ask how much responsibility an author bears towards her or his society and readers to be an arbiter of right and wrong. The question of the author’s responsibility will lead us then into a discussion of our own responsibilities as readers (and teachers) of literary studies. We may, for instance, question the preconceptions about morality which we as twenty-first century individuals take to our readings of Victorian texts. Finally, we will use Dickens’s texts as a basis for a wider discussion of the connection between literature and social policy.

  • Proseminar: Poetry and Poetic Metaphor:

    Norton Anthology of Poetry or class reader

    This course aims to help participants to become more comfortable with talking and writing about poetry. In it we will develop strategies for analyzing unfamiliar poems in order to take some of the dread out of working with poems under exam conditions. We will review features of poetry in various literary periods as well as terms used for describing poems. Hopefully, the course will increase students‘ enjoyment of reading poetry and, for some, writing poems. Our particular focus will be on poetic metaphor and how various theories of metaphor can be used as a method for entering the texts.

SS 2007

  • Tutorial for Survey of English Literature II: Romantic Poetry to Postcolonial Writings

  • Proseminar: The Drama of Injustice:

    David Hare, Murmuring Judges (1991); Jessica Blank, Erik Jensen, The Exonerated: A Play (2003); Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, Guantánamo: ‚Honor Bound to Defend Freedom‘ (2004)

    These three recent plays, two British and one American, investigate forms of judicial injustice and unfair imprisonment. David Hare’s play, the second of a trilogy about British institutions, portrays a young, idealistic lawyer’s disillusionment in the face of the entrenched problems and prejudices of the British criminal justice system as well as a woman constable’s efforts to expose police corruption. The Exonerated dramatizes the stories of six individuals who were formally on America’s death row. Guantánamo also puts the actual experience of inmates on stage, British detainees in the American naval base and detention center Camp Guantánamo in Cuba. „Honor Bound to Defend Freedom” is Camp Gitmo’s motto: in the name of so-called freedom, more than six hundred individuals have been incarcerated without legal representation by the United States government since 2002. Called „illegal combatants” they have been deemed to be without the rights guaranteed to both civilians and prisoners of war by the Geneva conventions. In „verbatim theater” the stories of several detainees are told through their letters from prison being read aloud, the sworn testimony of their families, as well as statements by public officials such as Donald Rumsfeld.

    All three plays dramatize how harsh injustice is enacted in the name of the law or in the so-called war on terror. They challenge viewers to regard legal institutions critically, to empathize with the experience of the incarcerated and the underrepresented, and to take political action. Study of the plays also invite discussions about the relative value of collective public safety and individual rights. Moreover, the plays insist that their viewers confront the current attitude of punitivity towards those considered criminal.

    EPG: Inevitably, our readings of these plays will force us to confront questions about the relations between the literary, the political, and the ethical. Applied ethical questions will be addressed with regard to how prisoners should be treated and to what degree states should guarantee their rights. More general ethical considerations will arise in respect to our expectations of how political theater and art should be, for these plays foreground the role of literary artifacts in political discussions. These plays insist that literary artifacts do not belong to a separate arena of aesthetic inquiry, but are inextricably imbedded in the material world.

WS 2006 -2007

  • Vorlesung / Lecture Series: Survey of English Literature I: Beowulf to Eighteenth-Century Drama (zweistündig)

  • Tutorial for Survey of English Literature I: Beowulf to Eighteenth-Century Drama

  • Proseminar: Three By Coetzee:

    In the Heart of the Country (1977), Foe (1986), Disgrace (1999)

    South African Nobel and Booker prize winner, J. M. Coetzee challenges readers both with his style and his subject matter: apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, colonialism and postcolonial violence, master-servant and animal-human relations, historical scarring, rape, and gender inequity number among the disturbing themes of his novels. Techniques such as narrator unreliability, antirealism, and time reversals unsettle reading habits and expectations as much as do our confrontations with Coetzee’s uncomfortable subject matter. In this course we will discuss the degree to which ethical questions are ineluctably entwined with aesthetic considerations in Coetzee’s fictions and will perhaps allow ourselves to be unsettled and questioned by them.

    EPG Students: While avoiding overt political frameworks, Coetzee’s fiction forces readers to consider their positions with regard to apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, to colonialism, animal abuse, and sexual violence. Moreover, his style makes us question how such experiences are and can be adequately told and read. Such reflections highlight and destabilize the process by which we make and mediate moral judgments.

SS 2006

  • Proseminar: „Eighteenth-Century Animals and Ethics:

    Hogarth’s „Four Stages of Cruelty“, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

    Beginning with a discussion of Rochester’s „A Satyr against Reason and Mankind“ (1675) and William Hogarth’s „The Four Stages of Cruelty“ (1750), we find that animals are put to various, often contradictory uses during the eighteenth-century. They may be employed in literature as vehicles for satire, as mirrors of humankind’s failures, or as substitutive figures for humans considered less worthy: foreigners and women. As Hogarth’s prints show, blood sports in which animals were violently killed such as cockfighting were enormously popular and cruelty to animals was rampant. In this course we will trace varied attitudes towards animals by paying particular attention to two canonical texts: Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe.

    Whereas Robinson Crusoe equates „savages“ and „cannibals“ with wild beasts, and imposes rule over them on his island, Gulliver learns from the Brobdingnags to think of man as „the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” Moreover, during his fourth voyage, Gulliver comes to worship the supremely rational Houyhnhnms—noble horses who coexist without violence—and to be increasingly horrified by the filthy and vicious Yahoos who so greatly resemble himself. Considering the status and uses of animals in these texts will help us to ask questions about gender, alterity, and ethics not only with regard to the eighteenth century but also with respect to our time.

    EPG Schein: Thinking about animals raises questions about our status as humans. Recently, philosophers like Peter Singer have argued that the traditional assumption that nonhuman beings are inherently inferior is analogous to the poor thinking that has informed racist as well as sexist attitudes. This „speciesism“ needs to be overridden. The eighteenth century saw a nascent movement to humanize animals that has culminated in the animal rights movement today. The Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham reasoned that if animals can suffer, and clearly they can, then they deserve rights and protection just as humans do. We will ask how the ‚humane‘ treatment of animals reflects on human ethics and we will ponder the question of how animal rights may be taught in the classroom.

WS 2004-2005

  • Proseminar: „Dickens and the Law II: Oliver Twist and Our Mutual Friend“

  • Proseminar: „Working with English Poems: From Sonnets to Free Verse“

  • Tutorial for Survey of English Literature I: Beowulf to Eighteenth-Century Drama

  • Tutorial for American Exchange Students: Integration into the German University System

SS 2002

  • Proseminar: „Experiencing the Body in Poetry and Prose“

  • Proseminar: „Introduction to American and English Literary Studies“:

    Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Turn of the Screw, Nikki Giovanni’s poetry

WS 2001-2002

  • Proseminar: „Short Fiction of Henry James“

  • Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde“

SS 2001

  • Proseminar: „Exploring the Grotesque in Short Stories of the American South: Faulkner, Welty, O’Connor, Walker“

  • Proseminar: „Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa or, The History of a Young Lady (1747-1748)“

WS 2000-2001

  • Proseminar: „A Selection of Margaret Atwood’s Fiction: Poetry and Prose“

WS 1999-2000

  • Advanced Translation

  • Foundation Course: Speaking English (American) (dreistündig)

  • Foundation Course: Written English (dreistündig)

SS 1999

  • Oral Formulation

  • Written Formulation


Universität Basel, Englisches Seminar: Guest Lecturer

SS 2003

  • Hauptseminar: „Dickens and Law I:

    Bleak House, Little Dorrit, non-fictional writings

Universität Bonn, Englisches Seminar: Gastprofessorin für das Nordamerikastudienprogramm

SS 2003

  • Proseminar: „Confessing Trauma, Confessing Selfhood:

    Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Mara Hornbacher

WS 2002 – 2003

  • Proseminar: „A Case for Lombroso: Frank Norris’s Deterministic Vision of Crime and Sex“

Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck: Lehrbeauftragte für Sozialpsychologie (Diplomstudiengang Psychologie)

SS 2001

  • Proseminar: „Sozialpsychologie und Sprache“