Proseminar: Nature & Culture in American Fiction

Dozentin: Christina Caupert M.A.
Termin: Fr. 14.00-15.30 Uhr
Raum: 2003

Questions about the position of the human being in the universe seem to have been asked from the very beginnings of human civilization, but they have gained a new urgency over the past few decades. For a long time, "Western" cultures in particular adhered to the idea that man is at the centre of creation, authorized and able to "subdue the earth." This belief became increasingly shaky in the wake of more recent insights, such as the discovery of our biological kinship with the apes (and ultimately the entire animal kingdom), or the realization that we often do not see through, let alone control, even our very own drives and impulses. However, it was the growing awareness of the alarming damage we have done to our natural environment that opened the doors for systematic reconsiderations of our place in the world.
In this seminar, we will pay special attention to the ways in which selected examples of American fiction imagine the relationship between nature and culture. Including the individual texts' specific cultural contexts and aesthetic strategies in our discussions, we will ask questions such as: what is our place in the world? Why do we feel we are somehow apart from the natural world? What are the preconditions and consequences of viewing culture (in the sense of "man-made world") and nature as opposites? The seminar will offer an introduction to some of the basic concepts of "ecocriticism," which is one of the main areas of research of the Lehrstuhl für Amerikanistik here in Augsburg. Moreover, participants will get to know a variety of literary works from different periods, as well as some basic categories for analyzing narrative texts.

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen: Introductory course

Scheinerwerb: Timely fulfillment of reading and homework assignments, regular attendance, active participation in class, presentation, term paper. 6 credit points.

Einführende Lektüre bzw. Textgrundlagen:
Every participant must have their own copy of:
Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918)
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
For reasons of time, it is advisable to start reading the novels as soon as you know you are going to attend the seminar.
Additional texts will be made available in a reader in the first session of the seminar.