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What is Amerikanistik?


In our research and courses we cover American literature from its beginnings to the present day. We regard literature as a symbolic form of representing and communicating typical cultural structures, that is, as a medium which expresses in particularly complex ways the characteristic value systems, concepts of self-identities and alterity, and the material and ideological foundations and conflicts of a given society. At the Chair of American Literature we especially focus on the texts and cultural knowledge of the USA, however always bearing in mind that literature cannot be looked at within national boundaries.

The aims of studying American literature are twofold. Firstly, students acquire in-depth cultural competences within the field of American literature, culture and history as well as the theory-based competence to analyze and interpret literature and cultural phenomena. Secondly, studying American literature helps students to develop the ability to reflect critically and to use and promote their creative potential. These aims entail on the one hand the indispensable necessity of acquiring solid knowledge of American literature, culture and history and on the other hand the engagement with self-chosen fields of specialization. We expect students of American literature to acquaint themselves over the course of their studies with the most important developments of American literature and culture and to intensively engage with theoretical approaches of describing and interpreting literature. On the other hand we encourage students to develop areas of specialization which can be chosen according to the students’ interests.

We strongly advise students of American Literature to acquire the following basic works for their studies of American literature:

- Amerikanische Literaturgeschichte (ed. Hubert Zapf, Stuttgart and Weimar, Metzler Verlag, 3rd ed., 2010)
- one anthology of American literature (Norton Anthology or Heath Anthology of American Literature)
- one introduction to literary theory (Peter Barry, Beginning Theory; Ansgar Nünning, ed., Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie; Hubert Zapf, Kurze Geschichte der angloamerikanischen Literaturtheorie, Munich: Fink, 2nd ed., 1996)

Other recommended books:
Metzler Lexikon amerikanischer Autoren (eds. Bernd Engler and Kurt Müller, Stuttgart and Weimar, 2000)
-  Udo Sautter, Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (Stuttgart: Kröner, 1991)
- Hubert Zapf, Literatur als kulturelle Ökologie. Zur kulturellen Funktion imaginativer Texte am Beispiel des amerikanischen Romans (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2002).