Universität Wien FIND

123426 SE Literary & Cultural Studies Seminar / BA Paper / MA American/North American Lit./Studies (2019S)

Cultural Politics in 20th Century American Narratives

11.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work

Details

max. 18 participants
Language: English

Lecturers

Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Because of the expected attendance of the participants at the international conference at the end of March, we will not schedule regular sessions on 15 May, and either on 22 May or 12 June.

Wednesday 13.03. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 20.03. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 27.03. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 03.04. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 10.04. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 08.05. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 15.05. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 22.05. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 29.05. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 05.06. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 12.06. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 19.06. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19
Wednesday 26.06. 18:00 - 20:00 Raum 4 Anglistik UniCampus Hof 8 3E-EG-19

Information

Aims, contents and method of the course

Cultural Politics in 20th- Century North American Narratives
The use of new media has enabled individuals and sometimes unidentified agencies to disseminate information rapidly and exert great influence on the public, often also by providing incorrect information or even fake news. Such messages may affect societies and shape the perception of “reality” by the public at large and fashion political decisions in times of crisis and conflict.
The seminar will address this topical issue of the reciprocal influence of media and political culture by considering fictional texts (and an essay) by 20th-century North American writers presenting significant events and incidents in American regions and in Central Europe, mainly in the first half of the 20th century. Special emphasis will be put on critical situations in the heart of Europe, but the discussion will also include texts reflecting the impact of racism in the American South and a novel offering a dystopian vision of the USA. This vision is presented by the Nobel Prize laureate Sinclair Lewis in a text which seems to mirror the transfer of dangerous populist ideas from Europe to the USA in the 1930s.
Our class discussion will greatly benefit from the lectures to be given at an international conference convening in Vienna between March 28 and 30 on “Cultural Politics and Propaganda: Mediated Narratives and Images in Austrian-American Relations.” This conference is an integral part of the seminar, which will have fewer regular sessions because of this special event.

Assessment and permitted materials

Participants will have to submit a written seminar paper of 20-22 pages and offer an oral presentation. Regular attendance including attendance at the international conference, active class participation and two written reports of two pages each (one at least on four talks given at the conference, and one on a regular seminar session) will be expected. There will also be a final written essay test.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Students will study a dystopian novel (by Sinclair Lewis) and a number of stories (by Kay Boyle, Thomas Wolfe, Eudora Welty and other authors), an essay and a segment from an autobiography (by Lillian Hellman), which all reflect social and political tensions on both sides of the Atlantic and convey stereotypical images of the societies depicted. Many of the texts express concern at certain problematical trends and even alarming developments in Central European countries and in American society in the interwar years. At the conference the students will also hear about the influence of American cultural politics on the situation in Austria and Central Europe in the aftermath of World War Two, which should give them a clear sense of the impact of politics on cultural phenomena before the digital age.
Evaluation of seminar paper and its presentation 40 %, participation in class, including conference 30%, essay test 30 %.

Examination topics

Student activities will include presentations of research papers on the topics chosen and a general discussion of the texts considered in class. Students are also expected to participate as auditors in the international conference on “Cultural Politics and Propaganda,” which will take place in Vienna from the afternoon of Thursday, March 28, to lunchtime on Saturday, March 30.

Reading list

Students will have to acquire a copy of Sinclair Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here (1935) and a reader with a number of short stories and an essay as well as excerpts from additional texts we will discuss in class. The Reader is available at Copy Studio.

A reserve shelf (Handapparat) with a selection of material on the writers to be considered in class will be accessible on the upper floor of the departmental library.
Students interested in the topic of the seminar are invited to volunteer to prepare early seminar presentations for the class.
The first five topics are the following :
1. The representation of strong characters in fiction by the American humorist Irvin S. Cobb. Focus on his stories about “The Old Judge” in Fairfield, Kentucky, in the conservative Upper South.
2. The representation of the Viennese lifestyle and culture in narratives by American journalists resident in the city in the interwar years: Consider Whit Burnett’s “Nostalgia for the Vienna Woods” in the context of traditional images of the city.
3. The literary depiction of political conflicts and ethnic prejudices in an Austrian province in the mid-1930s: Kay Boyle’s “The White Horses of Vienna.”
4. The representation of dangerous trends in Central Europe in the depiction of characters and of atmosphere in the story “We Have to Sit Opposite” by the Canadian writer Ethel Wilson.
5. The transformation of German society and culture in the interwar years as represented by Thomas Wolfe in “Oktoberfest” and “The Dark Messiah.”

Association in the course directory

Studium: UF 344, BA 612, MA 844;
Code/Modul: UF 4.2.4-322, BA09.2, 10.2, MA5, MA6, MA7;
Lehrinhalt: 12-0406

Last modified: We 03.07.2019 08:27