Occasional Papers

Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn: Asian Masters of American Art

Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn were Asian American artists who made major contributions to the two most important movements in American art between 1930 and 1960—Regionalism and Abstract Expressionism. Today, however, art historians and the general public have largely forgotten them. Chong and Chinn worked in close collaboration during the 1930s and 1940s and invented a new watercolor style: using Chinese ink painting techniques and evocative calligraphic poetry to portray everyday subjects from the Western United States.

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American Berlin Across the Last Century

Over the past century, many studies have been devoted to American literature set in Europe and its capitals. Scholars including D. E. Barclay and E. Glaser-Schmidt, Hans-Jürgen Diller, Hanspeter Dörfel, Elisa Edwards, Peter Freese, Walter Kühnel, Henry Cord Meyer, Martin Meyer, Georg Schmundt-Thomas, and Waldemar Zacharasiewicz have focused on Germany’s image in the American imagination, either literary or from a general standpoint of comparative imagology. Yet despite a marked increase in American fiction treating Berlin since its first designation as Germany’s capital (and an overwhelming increase in the past twenty years), few studies have targeted Berlin itself as a setting or image in American literature and popular consciousness. Those which have are almost limited to Jörg Helbig’s very general collection Welcome to Berlin: Das Image Berlins in der englischprachigen Welt von 1700 bis heute and to Christine Gerhardt’s very specific “‘What was left of Berlin looked bleaker every day’: Berlin, Race, and Ethnicity in Recent American Literature.” This paper surveys trends in the development of American literature set in the German capital from around 1900 to the present.

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Rape as Spectator Sport and Creepshot Entertainment: Social Media and the Valorization of Lack of Consent

Lack of consent is valorized within popular culture to the point that sexual assault has become a spectator sport and creepshot entertainment on social media. Indeed, the valorization of nonconsensual sex has reached the extreme where sex with unconscious girls, especially accompanied by photographs as trophies, has become a goal of some boys and men.

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The American Century and Its Evangelical Christian Fiction Legacy

Marisa Ronan investigates how the ideology of the “American Century” became enmeshed in the emergence of a distinct evangelical Christian fiction genre. By positioning the End Times narrative within an identifiably American experience, evangelicals sought to locate America’s destiny within a biblically ordained narrative of American Exceptionalism that drew heavily upon the geopolitical developments of the time. The article explores the origins of the “American Century” as a concept, from its earliest appearance in Henry R. Luce’s 1941 editorial, to how it became, for evangelical writers and theologians, a useful entry point into the political sphere and a way to encode their writing with an ever increasing sense of urgency. In focusing on the writings of Frank Peretti, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins, Ronan seeks to establish how the novels that found greatest popular success were those which were fully entrenched in the “American Century” narrative.

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Western History as (Post-)Colonial Studies?

In their annual meeting in February 2010, the historians in the German Association for American Studies included a section on “American History from the Perspective of Postcolonial Studies.” The issues addressed in their call for papers reminded me of the debates among Western historians around the writing of a “New Western History.” This paper, which was presented within that section in an earlier version, raises the question how American history has addressed and integrated concerns and changes of perspective that have also informed postcolonial studies. As I will try to show, the impulses that propelled Western history in recent years have not (at least not primarily) come from postcolonial theory but from issues within the field and within American culture. The question is whether historiography could profit from considering some of the theoretical issues within postcolonial studies, or rather: how can history and textual studies meet?

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Mark Twain’s Relevance Today

From the earliest stage of his writing career, Mark Twain was more than a literary comedian. From the first, his humor had a satirical and sometimes even a bitter edge, and throughout his life he repeatedly ridiculed the foolishness and foibles of the “damned human race.” His humor was in fact the basis of his appeal across classes, races, and nationalities. His social satire is the basis of his relevance today. The secret of his success as a humorist, he insisted, was that everything he wrote “had a serious philosophy or truth as its basis. I would not write a humorous work merely to be funny.” If Twain was an American icon, he was also an iconoclast.

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“Making America”: On A New Literary History of America*

The number of people who have read a single literary history from cover to cover may be smaller than the number of literary histories that have been published. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such histories became popular, providing information about the lives, works, reception, and influence of single authors, facts that were strung together chronologically in the form of long narratives that employed a limited number of available story lines, such as growth or decline, a golden age, a transitional period or a renaissance, lonely figures and literary movements, avant-garde and epigonal works, major and emergent voices, or currents and eddies coming together to form a main stream. Such reference works have been less often read than consulted by students who wanted to catch a quick glimpse of authors, works, movements, or periods in their historical contexts.

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