OS Melodrama (Summer 2021)”
Melodrama has had many lives. As a theatrical genre in the 19th century, it dominated the popular European stages. In film, it surfaced as historical costume drama in the UK in the 1940s (“Gainsborough melodramas”) and in Douglas Sirk’s domestic Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s, but it also inflected British Social Problem and New-Wave films and hardboiled-detective fictions, and was arguably a defining feature in shaping Nicolas Cage’s career in action films in the 1990s. Melodrama may have owed much of its success to the fact that it continues to question and transcend traditional generic categories. As a modality, it traverses genres and media and works at sensitive cultural and aesthetic boundaries (Gledhill). As a mode of expression, both artistic and political, it is a crucial feature of modernity. This seminar will look at the various incarnations of melodrama in the 19th and 20th century, with a focus on plays and films.
HS Early Modern and Postmodern Affective Cultures: Staging/Filming Shakespeare (Summer 2021)
This seminar will look at the affective and emotional impact of Shakespeare’s plays on early-modern and on contemporary audiences. The plays have affected audiences in a bodily sense (from laughter to tears), evoked feelings and enlisted emotions, and we will consider such affects, feelings and emotions in their respective cultural contexts. Our focus will then be on the political and ideological purposes they may serve. In the process, we will consider both early-modern stagings of plays, including Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, 1 Henry VI and The Winter’s Tale, and contemporary film adaptations.
AS Culture (Summer 2021)
AS Culture extends the knowledge and skills acquired in GS Culture and is structured along the lines of cultural theory, cultural history, and cultural analysis. The course also comprises case studies of ‘texts’ in various media to illustrate respective approaches. Depending on the lecturer’s field of expertise, these examples will primarily focus on either Great Britain or the United States.
GS Culture (Summer 2021)
This seminar provides a first insight into the field of contemporary cultural studies, with a special emphasis on definitions of culture and on the different approaches and methods of cultural analysis. The course also introduces students to special topics such as media studies, constructions of otherness, the role of myths in the production of social meaning, and gender studies.
HS Conspiracy Theories (Winter 2020-21)
We will look at various conspiracy theories since the late 18th century – but not in terms of whether they are ‘true’ or ‘false’. Rather, we will enquire into the cultural workthat they do (how they affect culture and society?) and approach them with symptomal readings (i.e. consider them as symptoms of more fundamental anxieties, fears or desires). Topics include writings on the French Revolution, Shakespeare conspiracies, Paranoia Movies since the 1970s, British TV (the BBC’s Edge of Darkness, a key television series of the 1980s) plus some contemporary conspiracy theories. This course will be online
HS Britons: Forging and Sentimentalizing the Nation (Summer 2019)
Taking our cue from Linda Colley’s classic study Britons(1992), we will explore how Wales, Scotland and England joined together and forged a new ‘British’ identity which now coexists uneasily with more localized identities, but specifically with ‘Englishness’. This imagined community of ‘Britons’ involves, in the late 18th century, revised constructions of ‘national identity’ and what is considered the ‚national character‘ of the people. According to Harold Perkin, “[b]etween 1780 and 1850 the English ceased to be one of the most aggressive, brutal, rowdy, outspoken, riotous, cruel and bloodthirsty nations in the world and became one of the most inhibited, polite, orderly, tender-minded, prudish and hypocritical” (The Origins of Modern English Society, 1780-1880). This shift still informs current stereotypes (such as ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘gentlemanly behavior’, but perhaps also football hooliganism). We will explore representations of such identity positions in texts ranging from Shakespeare’sHenry V to James Bond films. We will also consider perceived challenges to dominant ‘national characteristics’, such as a ‘sentimentalization’ of British public life (e.g. in reaction to Princess Diana’s death and her funeral in September 1997) – but also the sentimental strain that runs through British life. It can be traced in ‚Victorian Sentimentalities‘ (e.g. in Dickens), sentimental representations of Queen Victoria, sentimental men in novels of the late 19th century and the sentimentalism of Bollywood in Britain. It also informs forms of social organization in Britain – including concepts of ‘class’ (we will look at Ealing films of the 1950s and the British New Wave and gritty ‘social realism’ of the 1960s and ’70s) and of ‘family’ (ranging from representations of working-class families to the one that resides in Windsor).
HS It’s the End of the World… Post-Apocalyptic Fictions Post-Apocalyptic Fictions of the 19th and 20th Century (Winter 2018-19)
This seminar looks at post-apocalyptic fictions of the 19th and 20th century – their formal structure, textual strategies, and the contemporary topics they discuss and the desires and anxieties they address. Novels will include Mary Shelley, The Last Man(1826); Richard Jefferies, After London: Or, Wild England(1885); John Wyndham, The Day of The Triffids (1951); Richard Matheson, I Am Legend (1954); and, for good measure, Stephen King, The Stand (1978; we will discuss the long version first released in 1990). We will also consider film and TV-adaptations of I Am Legend and The Day of the Triffids.
HS Shakespearean Monarch(ie)s (Summer 2018)
This course looks at representations of monarchs and monarchies in some of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. We will study prominent historical and political readings of the plays, and of Shakespeare’s presumed politics (did the author (have to) serve Tudor interests – or was he perhaps a Republican?) We will also consider Shakespeare’s use of royal spectacles, such as masques or pageantry, in which monarchs are allegorised in ways that imply intellect, control or power (Stephen Orgel) – and those moments in the plays when royal power comes to an end. The plays we will study in detail are Cymbeline, Richard II, King Learand Henry V. Other plays will be discussed in passing.
HS 19th-Century Plays (Winter 2017-18)
This seminar looks at popular Romantic and Victorian plays. We will consider melodramas (including one by George Bernard Shaw) and other popular Victorian theatricals, plays of the sensational 1860s and the fin de siècle. Some of the plays are difficult to obtain and will be provided.
HS Popular Adventures at the Turn of the Century (Summer 2017)
This seminar explores two popular kinds of fiction of the fin de siècle, the (masculinist) colonial adventure romance and New Woman prose fiction. One conventionally pits a culturally dominant male protagonist against the powerful vestiges of an earlier human history, and the other a professional woman against equally powerful, restrictive social conventions and ideological beliefs – often the very same that sustain the cultural dominance of the male hero of adventure romances. Despite such differences, however, both kinds of fiction are intricately connected. As popular ‘sub-genres’, they developed in relation to each other (they revolve around each other as ‘twin stars’ do, according to L. M. Richardson). They also share many common features: New Woman fiction adopts themes, tropes and modes of story telling from colonial adventure romance, and the latter adopts domestic discourses to represent imperial practices. In this seminar, we will study how both, adventure romance and the New Woman fiction, represent and negotiate similar late-Victorian cultural debates about gender, empire, (d)evolution and much more – and how they differ and diverge in their politics.The seminar will be accompanied by an interdisciplinary lecture series on current issues in gender studies (participation is optional) organized by the recently established FAU Center for Studies in Gender, Difference and Diversity.
HS The City in 19th Century Popular Culture (Winter 2016-17)
What hopes, desires, anxieties – and fears? – were produced by living in a Victorian city? We will look at 19th-century representations of urban life in selected plays, short stories, newspaper articles and in a serialized romance. In the process, we will study some of the popular Victorian myths connected with urbanization and new forms of sociability (and, to some extent, 20th-century myths of the Victorian Age). We will also look at 19th-century concepts of realism, discourses of power, gender roles, and the forms and shapes of popular culture in the 19th century (specifically in the context of new media forms such as mass-circulated newspapers, popular magazines, early tabloids).