Anecdotal Modernity: Making and Unmaking History
Interdisciplinary Essay Collection
(co-edited with James Dorson, Florian Sedlmeier, and Birte Wege)
Modernity is made and unmade by the anecdotal. Conceived as a literary genre, a narrative element of criticism, and, most crucially, a mode of historiography, the anecdote illuminates the convergences as well as fault lines cutting across modern practices of knowledge production.
This volume explores uses of the anecdotal in exemplary case studies from the fifteenth century to the present. Eschewing simple chronology in favor of interdisciplinary dialogue, Anecdotal Modernity hones in on "Event," "Detail," "Story," "Rumor," and "Truth" as key dimensions of the anecdote itself, but also, by extension, as key coordinates for the larger cultural coherencies that the anecdotal brings forth and shapes into the world that we recognize as modern.
Modernism in American Centuries: Henry James, T.S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, James Baldwin
Monography / Habilitation Manuscript
In 1941, the publicist Henry Robinson Luce famously declared the twentieth century to be the "American Century." How could it be otherwise, Luce claimed, when "American jazz, Hollywood movies, American slang, American machines and patents, are in fact the only thing that every community in the world, from Zanzibar to Hamburg, recognize in common." The assertion is undeniably arrogant and its pronouncement particularly bold in the midst of military conflicts that made it unlikely for either Hamburg or the British protectorate of Zanzibar to identify itself primarily with the popular cultures of the United States. It is, moreover, hardly an original claim. Luce does not invent, but rather summarizes longer-running discourses concerning the "Americanization of the World," which the British publicist and cultural commentator William T. Stead already deemed "the Trend of the Twentieth Century" in 1902: a good four decades ahead of Luce.
Modernism in American Centuries revisits these discussions of Americanization, understanding this term along with the cosmopolitan as proto-vocabularies for what we now discuss as globalization. Yet more particularly, however, the study considers how US authors traveled with and tactically utilized the flows of American music, film, language, industry, and invention in the period to forge their international careers. The four sections of the study consider the "affordances" of Americanization for Henry James, T.S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, and James Baldwin as a means to more closely analyze their creative productions, on the one hand, and more broadly illuminate the frameworks of globalizing modernity that they navigated in the service of that creative work, on the other.
A Cultural History of Solitude in the USA
Solitude, the quality or state of being alone or remote from society, is an international and transhistorical phenomenon, which has continually prompted popular and artistic treatment. Cultures of solitude in the USA are of particular interest, since the related concepts of individualism and freedom are at the core of American national history and identity. The project traces American cultures of solitude from the colonial era to the present time. It probes into the ways in which individual identities are developed and shaped by life in loneliness and isolation and studies cultural representations of hermits, solitaries, and recluses whose examples negotiate and question accepted social and cultural practices. A profounder understanding of this anthropological constant heightens the awareness for contemporary discourses on pressing social challenges and popular lifestyle trends such as privacy, surveillance, new technology, fundamentalism, poverty, illness, old age, simplification, anti-consumerism, and ecocriticism. Solitaries can be read as trailblazers for an alternative future or as symptoms of a pathological society.
- European Entanglements in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery in the Americas as Ideological Preparations for Colonial Endeavors in Africa and Asia (ERC Grant proposal 2019)
- Framing Migration in Visual Art (as part of a research project with the Center for International and Transnational Area Studies (CITAS), University Regensburg, Germany)
From Beneath Us It Devours: The Meaning and Making of Apocalyptic Landscape in America
In the year 1500 Christopher Columbus declared to the Court of Spain that “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John, and he showed me the spot where to find it.” From the Columbian arrival onwards, the intertwining of apocalyptic and landscape have been fundamental to imagining and transforming America. And yet, more than five centuries of scholarship have yielded not one single publication dedicated to the study of apocalyptic landscape in America. I propose to begin the work of unearthing the many ways in which American territory has become apocalyptic landscape, and how the unique material and discursive figuration of these spaces informs the ways in which apocalyptic landscapes are understood, accessed, and managed.
Scienta and Slow Science in Ecopoetry and Speculative Fiction
My project scrutinizes the role of scienta in the genres of ecopoetry and speculative fiction. Both genres acknowledge and reevaluate the presence and influence of non-human agencies, which often present different modes of generating and distributing knowledge. These agencies question the validity of what qualifies as scienta and provide countermodels to anthropocentric structures in the knowledge economy of Western societies. The analysis of selected primary texts (including, among others, the contemporary ecopoetry of Rita Wong and Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy) will be embedded in a discussion of Isabelle Stenger’s plea for a slow science that promotes the cultivation of a public intelligence of “connoisseurs.” Ultimately, this project aims to render visible how poetic and prose texts offer spaces of alterity that challenge epistemological and ontological paradigms of prevalent knowledge systems.