Founded In    1956
Published   quarterly
Language(s)   English, German
     

Fields of Interest

 

literature, cultural studies, history, political science, linguistics, critical theory, teaching of American Studies

     
ISSN   0340-2827
     
Publisher   Winter
     
Editorial Board

General Editor:
Oliver Scheiding

Review Editor:
Christa Buschendorf

Editorial Board:
Christa Buschendorf
Andreas Falke
Hans-Jürgen Grabbe
Alfred Hornung
Sabine Sielke

Managing Editor:
Damien B. Schlarb

Assistant Editor:
Nele Sawallisch

Submission Guidelines and Editorial Policies

Manuscripts and books for review should be submitted to the editorial office in Mainz. There is no obligation to review unsolicited books.
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding
FB 05 Dept. of English and Linguistics Amerikanistik
Johannes Gutenberg - University Mainz
Jakob Welder Weg 20 (Philosophicum II), room 02-229
55128 Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131 39 20 296
Fax: +49 6131 39 20 356
Email: amst@uni-mainz.de
In view of the computerized production of the journal, manuscripts of articles and reviews can only be accepted if submitted as computer files (preferably MS Word) and accompanied by a printout. Please note the following formal requirements:
– Article manuscripts - manuscript text, abstract, notes, list of works cited - should not exceed 60,000 to 70,000 characters (including spaces).
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Amerikastudien / American Studies

ALTTEXT

Amerikastudien / American Studies is the journal of the German Association for American Studies. It started as the annual Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien in 1956 and has since developed into a quarterly with some 1200 subscriptions in Europe and the United States. The journal is dedicated to interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives and embraces the diversity and dynamics of a dialogic and comparatist understanding of American Studies. It covers all areas of American Studies from literary and cultural criticism, history, political science, and linguistics to the teaching of American Studies. Special-topics issues alternate with regular ones. Reviews, forums, and annual bibliographies support the international circulation of German and European scholarship in American Studies.
(www.amerikastudien.de/quarterly/)
Editor: Oliver Scheiding
Address: Amerikastudien/American Studies
FB 05 Dept. of English and Linguistics Amerikanistik
Johannes Gutenberg - University Mainz
Jakob Welder Weg 20 (Philosophicum II), room 02-229
55128 Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131 39 20 296
Fax: +49 6131 39 20 356
Email: amst@uni-mainz.de

 

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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017: Poetry and Law, Vol. 62, No. 2

Introduction: Towards a Legal Poetics


Savage Properties and Violent Forms: Christopher Brooke's Poem on the Late Massacre in Virginia (1622) and the Discourse on Civility and Possession in Early Modern America


The following essay attempts to discuss the convergence of legal and poetical discourse and concepts by looking closely at an early modern lyrical text, Christopher Brooke's A Poem on the Late Massacre in Virginia (1622). While the poem has achieved a certain notoriety due to its excessively racist imagery, its author has been virtually forgotten, and the text has rarely, if ever, been discussed in regard to its particular poetic strategies. A discussion of these strategies might help us understand the specific ways in which, in the context of colonial expansion, early modern English poetry about sovereignty, civility, and indigenous culture(s) helped to develop a discursive 'field' which blends aesthetic concerns for proper forms (i.e., the specific 'properties' of poetry as normative speech) with legal-political and philosophical ideas about rightful conquest, dominion, and colonial property. In Brooke's poem the convergence between these spheres finds its most explicit expression in the deconstruction and reconstruction of 'civil bodies' -- meaning both the bodies of specific victims of the massacre and the civil body politic of the colonial commonwealth which the Virginia Company tried to establish. In conclusion, the analysis and the contextual interpretation of Brooke's text are meant to project a comparative perspective on law and poetry as acts of normative codification.

Sidney Lanier, the Language of Paradox, and Staging Contradictory Political Ideals in the Battle for Civil Rights and the War against Terrorism during the Era of Reconstruction


During the era of U.S. Reconstruction, emancipation and passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution heightened an ongoing conflict between the nation's civic ideals of liberty and equality. Whereas the first ten amendments comprising the Bill of Rights restricted the power of the national government in order to protect individual liberties, the Civil War Amendments gave new enforcement powers to the national government to ensure civil and political equality for former slaves. This essay explores how a couple of works of literature by authors trained in the law stage the conflict between civil liberties and civil rights. The primary focus is on two poems by the southerner Sidney Lanier: "Civil Rights" and "Them Ku Klux." These poems do not confirm Percy Bysshe Shelley's claim that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Instead, by showing how poetry's language of paradox dramatizes Sir Phillip Sidney's recognition that "the poet [. . .] never affirmeth," they suggest an important role poetry can play in interdisciplinary studies of law and literature.

Poet and Reader in the Witness Box: Society on Trial in Muriel Rukeyser's Early Poetry


In her early documentary poetry of the 1930s, the Jewish American poet, writer, and political activist Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) dealt with two famous cases of social injustice, the Gauley Tunnel mining disaster where hundreds of workers died owing to unsafe working conditions (The Book of the Dead), and the lawsuit of the Scottsboro Nine, in which nine young black men were falsely accused of having raped two white women ("The Trial"). On the basis of a radical relational poetics that poses a poetic process built on a close interrelation between poet, poem, and reader, a process, moreover, in which the reader is redefined as "witness," Rukeyser generates poetic spaces of justice. In a brief discussion of The Book of the Dead followed by a close reading of "The Trial," this article shows how Rukeyser -- drawing on the analogy between judicial procedures of witnessing and judging in the legal courtroom and multiple acts of witnessing and judging in the court of poetry -- conducts retrials that reveal the severe injustice of the official verdicts in these cases, highlight the dreadful suffering of the victims and, in the end, call for a state of higher justice.

Poetry, Negative Capability, and the Law: James Wright's "A Poem about George Doty in the Death House" and "At the Executed Murderer's Grave"


American Law and Literature scholarship has tended to focus on fiction and drama to the exclusion of poetry. Yet a number of major American poets have grappled with law-related issues. The mid-twentieth-century American poet James Wright produced two poems expressing his opposition to the death penalty. The earliest of these -- "A Poem About George Doty in the Death House" -- proves problematic in its romanticization of the convicted killer and its striking lack of empathy for his victim. Among other things, Wright's performance here calls into question the claim of the philosopher Martha Nussbaum that literature can help to humanize the law by encouraging empathetic feeling in its practitioners. Richard Posner has cogently argued against Nussbaum that "empathy is amoral," as likely to attach itself to evil persons and forces as to good ones. Wright's second poem -- "At the Executed Murderer's Grave" -- is aesthetically and morally superior to the first because it relies less on empathy than on what Keats called "negative capability," poetry's traditional capacity for accommodating mixed feelings. It points to what may be a particular capacity of poetry as a genre to engage with a matter of fierce public controversy in a nonpropagandistic way.

Figuring Human Rights and Troping Law and Literature: Li-Young Lee's Poetic Investigations of Migration and Refugeeism


Through a discussion of figuration in Li-Young Lee's "The Cleaving" (1990) and "Self-Help for Fellow Refugees" (2008), this essay explores how lyrical forms speak the language of human rights differently than does prose. Human rights discourse does not typically take narrative form in poetry. Poems such as "The Cleaving" and "Self-Help for Refugees" counter Joseph Slaughter's assertion that the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European Bildungsroman lent narrative form and plot structure to human rights discourse by projecting socially integrated versions of their homodiegetic narrators -- ones in full possession of their rights -- into the future. Lee's poems suggest that the elicitation of viscerally experienced affect through figural means may be more effective in shaming responsible parties into protecting human rights than appeals that are processed through narratively evoked emotions. A contextualization of Lee's 'political' poems serves to highlight larger movements in Law and Literature research more generally. These include the new focus on human rights, the move away from an exclusive interest in realist prose to other aesthetic forms, the increased interest in figuration rather than simply narration, and the new emphasis on affect.

State Killing and the Poetic Series: George Elliott Clarke's Execution Poems and Jill McDonough's Habeas Corpus


In their book-length works Execution Poems (2000) and Habeas Corpus (2008), George Elliott Clarke and Jill McDonough engage readers in questions surrounding the death penalty. Both employ the form of the poetic series and confront the reader with historical executions and their contexts. In this essay, I analyze the poetic strategies through which Execution Poems and Habeas Corpus engage the reader and how, specifically, they use the form of the poetic series to do so. Execution Poems, I argue, performs a racialized cycle of violence that state killing is part of. The poetic series itself transcends the cycle of physical violence, as it replaces actual killing with words that "execute." Habeas Corpus offers readers structures of poetic condensation that allow for epiphanic insights into the humanity of executed men and women and into the inhumanity of capital punishment. Both Execution Poems and Habeas Corpus use the form of the series to carry past executions into the present and future and to thus impress upon the reader the "ongoingness" of state killing -- thereby functioning as propaedeutic to political change.

Exceeding Determinacy in the Language of Personhood: Citizens United, Corporations, and the Poetry of Timothy Donnelly and Thomas Sayers Ellis


By a fiction of the law, corporations are legal persons in the United States, and in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that they have a right to free speech, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. In two poems published the same year -- Timothy Donnelly's "The Cloud Corporation" and Thomas Sayers Ellis's "Skin, Inc." -- the corporation is used as a metaphor to explore the self. For Donnelly, the corporate person's intangibility as well as its inherent collectivity is a trope for the self in a consumer society, while Ellis uses the corporate metaphor to criticize the position of the black poet in the contemporary literary field. By drawing on the ruling in Citizens United, this article concludes that both poems criticize the infiltration of economic categories into the language of personhood.

"Any and All"; Curriculum Vitae"; "Do What You Can"


Other Issues

Amerikastudien / American Studies 2017, Vol. 62, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016: Environmental Imaginaries on the Move: Nature and Mobility in American Literature and Culture, Vol. 61, No.4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016, Vol. 61, No.3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016: Turkish-American Literature, Vol. 61, No.2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2016, Vol. 61, No.1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015: Risk, Security: Approaches to Uncertainty in American Literature, Vol. 60, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015, Double Issue, Vol. 60, No. 2/3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2015: Network Theory and American Studies, Vol. 60, No.1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014: South Africa and the United States in Transnational American Studies, Vol. 59, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 3,
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2014, Vol. 59, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013: Iconographies of the Calamitous in American Visual Culture, Vol. 58, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013, Vol. 58, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2013: Pragmatism's Promise, Vol. 58, No. 2
Amerika Studien / American Studies 2013, Vol. 58, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012: Tocqueville's Legacy: Towards a Cultural History of Recognition in American Studies , Vol. 57, No.4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, 57.3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012 - Conceptions of Collectivity in Contemporary American Literature, Vol. 57, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2012, Vol. 57, Vol. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011: American Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Vol. 56, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2011, Vol. 56, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: African American Literary Studies: New Texts, New Approaches, New Challenges , Vol. 55, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: Trauma's Continuum -- September 11th Reconsidered, Vol. 55, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010, Vol. 55, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2010: Poverty and the Culturalization of Class , Vol. 55, No. 1
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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009: American History/ies in Germany: Assessments, Transformations, Perspectives, Vol. 54, No. 3
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009, Vol. 54, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2009: Appropriating Vision(s): Visual Practices in American Women's Writing, Vol. 54, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008, Vol. 53, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008: Die Bush-Administration: Eine erste Bilanz, Vol. 53, No. 3
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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2008: Inter-American Studies and Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 53, No. 1
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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007, Vol. 52, No. 2
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2007 - Transatlantic Perspectives on American Visual Culture, Vol. 52, No. 1
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006, Vol. 51, No. 4
Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Asian American Studies in Europe, Vol. 51, No. 3
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Amerikastudien / American Studies 2006 - Multilingualism and American Studies , Vol. 51, No. 1
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