Research Assistant, Institute of English and American Studies, FSU Jena
PhD Project: "Reimagining Women and Nature in US-American Literature of the Anthropocene"
|Feb - July 2011||
Student Assistant, University of Heidelberg
Editorial work for Learning 9/11: Teaching for Key Competencies in Literary and Cultural Studies. Ed. Stefanie Schäfer und Irina Bauder-Begerow. Heidelberg: Winter, 2011.
MA Literature - Arts - Culture (major: American Literary and Cultural Studies)
BA English & American Studies and French Studies, University of Münster
BA Thesis: "Transcending Gender: Margaret Fuller’s Vision of the American Woman as a Degendered Soul"
As we progress through the twenty-first century, no corner of the world seems to be shielded from the negative effects of human activities. The tremendous scale of human impact on the Earth system finds expression in the idea of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, which was first introduced by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000. In this seminar, we will tackle this relatively new concept and discuss its implications beyond the field of science. In how far does the Anthropocene challenge our current understanding of the relationship between humans and non-human nature?
Against the background of the Anthropocene concept, we will read a variety of literary texts reflecting upon human dominance of the Earth’s environment. We will engage with the flourishing genre of climate change fiction (cli-fi) and discuss the challenges of representing environmental threats that occur gradually and out of sight. Furthermore, we will assess the shortcomings of the dominant species-centered Anthropocene narrative and consider the relevance of an ecofeminist and environmental justice perspective.
As women of color, Chicanas have been excluded as "exotic others" from the white-dominated women’s movement and have been silenced within the male-dominated Chicano movement of the 1960s. Between 1970 and 1980, Chicanas began to raise their voices and pens to draw public attention to their struggle against racial, class, and gender oppression - a distinct Chicana feminist movement was born. In this course, we will engage with Chicana theory, literature (poetry, short story, novel), film, and art. We will take a closer look at how well-known Chicana writers and artists have transgressed traditional thematic and formal conventions to express their unique experiences and to narrate female identity construction in the context of ethnic affiliation. Furthermore, we will discuss culture-specific concepts such as the "new mestiza consciousness" (Gloria Anzaldúa) as well as literary and artistic reinterpretations of the three iconic figures La Virgen de Guadelupe, La Malinche, and La Llorona. While most of the works will be approached from a gender-studies perspective, we will read Helena María Viramontes’ novel Under the Feet of Jesus (1995) through an environmental justice lens.
Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues of our times. In recent years, it has become a dominant theme in mainstream fiction and has moved from the margins to the center of the American literary landscape. In the first part of this seminar, we will discuss climate change as a cultural phenomenon, ask "why we disagree about climate change" (Mike Hulme), talk about the term "cli-fi" and theorize about its usefulness. We will also address the challenges and potentials of narratives in climate change representation. In the second part, we will tackle a number of literary texts dealing with (anthropogenic) climate change, ranging from present-day to futuristic scenarios. The emotional, ethical, and political dimensions of living with climate change are emphasized to varying degrees in these works. Finally, the seminar will be rounded off by a discussion of Benh Zeitlin’s film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), which employs magical realism to make visible climate risks and environmental injustices.
Margaret Atwood is an internationally famous English-Canadian author. Her virtuous wit, dark humor and unmistakable style, as well as the topicality of her themes, have made her a favorite both in and outside of academia.
In this seminar, we will address Atwood’s primary thematic concerns, ranging from national identity and ecology to feminism and human rights. First we will read excerpts from her principal work of literary criticism, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972), and discuss its contribution to Canada’s growing self-awareness at that time. Then we will read Surfacing (1972), a novel of self-discovery, which explores feminism, nationalism, and environmentalism as interrelated themes. The development of those themes will also be analyzed in some of her short stories, before we will finally turn to her 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The aim of this seminar is to engage in close readings of Atwood’s work and assess her national and international impact from the beginning of her career up to now.
The relatively recent idea of the Anthropocene - a geological age of our own making - has marked a paradigm shift in our understanding of humans’ relationship to nature. In this seminar, we will discuss ecologically oriented texts that reflect some of the challenges we face in this new era. As a basis for our discussions, we will read theoretical texts on ecocriticism (or environmental criticism) and the concept of the Anthropocene. In a second step, we will devote ourselves to a range of literary texts making use of different genres and modes in their response to the environmental crisis.
"It should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations. Absolute freedom. And the road has always led west." (Into the Wild)
This seminar will deal with the road narrative, a distinct and perhaps uniquely American cultural form which envisions the national ideal of freedom as an open road. As a symbol, the road represents escape, freedom, and discovery, as well as expansiveness and open-endedness. It constitutes a space outside the norm and may thus enable critique against the status quo. On the basis of various examples we will examine to what degree these narratives destabilize social categories and hierarchies. We will start with Jack Kerouac’s bestselling novel On the Road (1957), often called the "bible of the Beat Generation." Then we will discuss a number of classic road movies: the counterculture film Easy Rider (dir. Dennis Hopper, 1969), Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991) - a feminist variation of the road movie, The Straight Story (dir. David Lynch, 1999), and Into the Wild (dir. Sean Penn, 2007). We will also take a look at the illustrated, queer motorcycle adventure novel Flaming Iguanas (1997) by Erika Lopez.
This seminar will offer an introduction to ecocriticism (also referred to as environmental literary criticism), which has emerged as a distinct critical school or movement only in the last two decades. According to Cheryll Glotfelty, the acknowledged founder of the discipline, it is "the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment." Literary works are thus (re-)read from an ecocentric perspective, with special focus on the representation of the non-human world. In the course of the seminar we will not only discuss key theoretical texts of ecocriticism but also get acquainted with ecofeminism, which sees a connection between the exploitation and degradation of nature and the patriarchal domination of women. As a second step we will read a variety of literary works through an ecocritical lens, ranging from the nineteenth-century nature writing of American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau to Margaret Atwood’s ecodystopian novel Oryx and Crake (2003). The course will finish with a discussion of The East, a 2013 thriller about the radical activism of an environmentalist terrorist group.
This course will deal with texts by contemporary Mexican American and Latin American women writers and will focus on questions of the interrelation of language and ideology, as well as gender and ethnicity. How these authors transgress traditional thematic and formal conventions will be the focus of the seminar. Since the struggle for identity has been a major theme in ethnic American women writing, we will also take a closer look at how the chosen authors have drawn on and modified the conventions of the Bildungs- and Künstlerroman to narrate female identity construction in the context of ethnic affiliation.