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Research/Publications

Barbara Hahn and Kerstin Schmidt eds. Inequality in America: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Publications of the Bavarian America Academy. Winter, 2017.

In the United States, income inequality has increased significantly. For decades, wage growth has been especially slow for the middle class, whereas the top 10% of earners has benefitted the most from the economic upswing. The same is true for distribution of wealth. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap between America’s upper-income and lower-income families has reached its highest level. There are not only disparities between regions of the United States, but also huge differences within American cities themselves that are often caused by urban governance and housing policies. All this is true for Canada and other countries of the Americas as well, but to differing degrees.

By the same token, racial and ethnic inequalities, as well as inequalities along gender lines, leave a deep mark on different countries of the Americas and are often the result of a lack of social justice, equality of opportunity, or access to education and health services. This wide range of systemic and structural inequalities is also negotiated in cultural practices, as novels, plays, short stories, or artistic productions thematize differences between individuals and groups of society, often along the 'color line.'

The essays collected in this book address inequality in America from a variety of perspectives, ranging from literary and cultural studies, sociology, economics, political science, history, geography, as well as museum studies.

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Theater and Mobility - Special Issue of the JCDE: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English - Vol. 5, Issue 1 (Apr. 2017)

Issue Editors: Kerstin Schmidt and Nathalie Aghoro

Full text PDF available here.

Weber: The Contemporary West (https://www.weber.edu/weberjournal)

Kerstin Schmidt, as guest editor, together with Prof. Vijay Kumar (Hyderabad, India) and Prof. Michael Wutz (Ogden, UT, USA):

Contemporary Global Voices  (Fall 2016)

South Asian Writing (Spring 2016)

Faisst, Julia. Cultures of Emancipation: Photography, Race, and Modern American Literature. American Studies: A Monograph Series. Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag Winter, 2012.

Emancipation, both in aesthetic and political terms, was the decisive aim of modernist authors in the United States. Cultures of Emancipation investigates how black and white writers from the 1860s to 1945 (Frederick Douglass, Harold Frederic, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Jean Toomer, and Charles Chesnutt) enlisted photography to set themselves free, politically and artistically. In the face of personal and historical crises such as Abolitionism and the Great Migration, they turned to photography to abolish slavery, obtain equal rights, and refashion themselves as writers of an era that would become dominated by images. Photography served as the thematic, structural, and conceptual fulcrum of modernist literature. Reading interdisciplinary modernism across the color line, this is the first study to place photography at the center of both black and white literary modernism. At the intersection of literary and visual studies, race studies, and cultural history, Cultures of Emancipation shows how vital photography was to the rise and development of modernist literature, as well as to the aesthetics and politics of modern selfhood.

Faisst, Julia, Alan Rosen and Werner Sollors, eds. David P. Boder. Die Toten habe ich nicht befragt. Second Revised German Edition of I Did Not Interview the Dead (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949). Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag Winter, 2012.

Bereits 1946 nahm der in Lettland geborene amerikanische Sprachpsychologe David Pablo Boder in Europa mit einem hochmodernen Drahttongerät über 100 Gespräche mit jüdischen und nichtjüdischen Überlebenden von Vernichtungspolitik, Konzentrationslagern und Kriegswirren auf, die heute eine der allerfrühesten Sammlungen von Nachkriegszeugenaussagen darstellen.

Während Boder Frauen und Männer in Deutschland, Frankreich, Polen und Estland von ihren bewegenden Lebenserfahrungen berichten lässt, gelingt es ihm, ihre noch frischen Erinnerungen und Emotionen in ihren eigenen Stimmen präzise aufzuzeichnen. So sind die traumatischen Spuren des Erlebten der oft verstörenden Sprache der Interviews prägnant eingeschrieben. Zusammen mit der von Boder entwickelten Trauma-Theorie kann dieser Beitrag zur Holocaust-Forschung als ungewöhnlich früher Versuch einer Erinnerungs- und Medienforschung gelten.

Fünf der acht in Boders Originalfassung I Did Not Interview the Dead von 1949 in englischer Fassung publizierten Interviews wurden auf deutsch geführt und erscheinen nun in der deutschen Erstausgabe zum ersten Mal in ihrer ursprünglichen Fassung.

 

 

De Kerckhove, Derrick, Martina Leeker and Kerstin Schmidt, eds. McLuhan neu lesen: Kritische Analysen zu Medien und Kultur im 21. Jahrhundert. Bielefeld: transcript, 2008.

Dieser international und interdisziplinär besetzte Band nimmt eine kritische Re-Lektüre von Marshall McLuhans Medientheorie vor und setzt sich so mit der zeitgenössischen Medienlandschaft auseinander.

Die medien- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Beiträge, die um künstlerische Stellungnahmen ergänzt sind, bieten eine umfassende und einmalige Sammlung von Perspektiven auf das Werk McLuhans, neue Erkenntnisse zur Genese und den Implikationen seines Denkens sowie zu Umsetzungen in der Medienkunst. Das Ergebnis ist ein so noch nicht da gewesener Einblick in den aktuellen Stand der Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften.

Dem Band ist eine DVD beigefügt, die neben Kurzinterviews mit den Autoren und Autorinnen auch vielfältiges medienkünstlerisches Material bietet.

 

 

Benesch, Klaus, and Kerstin Schmidt, eds. Space in America: Theory, History, Culture. Architecture, Technology, Culture. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005.

America’s sense of space has always been tied to what Hayden White called the “narrativization” of real events. If the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature in America (Niagara Falls, Virginia’s Natural Bridge, the Grand Canyon, etc.) were often used as a foil for projecting utopian visions and idealizations of the nation’s exceptional place among the nations of the world, the rapid technological progress and its concomitant appropriation of natural spaces served equally well, as David Nye argues, to promote the dominant cultural idiom of exploration and conquest.

From the beginning, American attitudes towards space were thus utterly contradictory if not paradoxical; a paradox that scholars tried to capture in such hybrid concepts as the “middle landscape” (Leo Marx), an “engineered New Earth” (Cecelia Tichi), or the “technological sublime” (David Nye). Not only was America’s concept of space paradoxical, it has always also been a contested terrain, a site of continuous social and cultural conflict. Many foundational issues in American history (the dislocation of Native and African Americans, the geo-political implications of nation-building, immigration and transmigration, the increasing division and “clustering” of contemporary American society, etc.) involve differing ideals and notions of space. Quite literally, space and its various ideological appropriations formed the arena where America’s search for identity (national, political, cultural) has been staged. If American democracy, as Frederick Jackson Turner claimed, “is born of free land,” then its history may well be defined as the history of the fierce struggles to gain and maintain power over both the geographical, social and political spaces of America and its concomitant narratives.

The number and range of topics, interests, and critical approaches of the essays gathered here open up exciting new avenues of inquiry into the tangled, contentious relations of space in America.

Table of contents available here

Schmidt, Kerstin. The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama. Postmodern Studies. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005.

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama offers a fresh and innovative reading of the contemporary experimental American theater scene and navigates through the contested and contentious relationship between postmodernism and contemporary drama. This book addresses gender and class as well as racial issues in the context of a theoretical discussion of dramatic texts, textuality, and performance. Transformation is contemporary drama’s answer to the questions of postmodernism and a major technique in the development of a postmodern language for the stage. In order to demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of the postmodern theater of transformation, this study draws on a wide range of plays: from early experimental plays of the 1960s by Jean-Claude van Itallie, through feminist plays by Megan Terry and Rochelle Owens to more recent drama by the African-American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama is written for anyone interested in contemporary American drama and theater as well as in postmodernism and contemporary literary theory. It appeals even more broadly to a readership intrigued by the ubiquitous aspects of popular culture, by feminism and ethnicity, and by issues pertaining to the so-called ‘society of spectacle’ and the study of contemporary media.