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Anglistik SS 2018


„How to Do Literary and Cultural Studies: Methods of Analysis“

Summer Term 2018

Thursday, 12-14

A5, Phil. I


It is a truth universally acknowledged that academic insights are based on methodologically regulated practices. However, students of literary and cultural studies are often unaware of the theoretical frameworks and analytical methods at their disposal. Therefore, this GCSC lecture series is devoted to questions of methodology and appropriate methodological choices. The main objective of the lecture series is to familiarize students with disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodological theories, approaches and reflections, and to systematically break down methods of literary and cultural analysis. Participants shall be equipped with a ‘toolbox’ for analysing literary and cultural artefacts – be it a novel, a film, a picture, or any other object of study. Every lecture is given by a different doctoral, postdoctoral or senior scholar who will explain a method of studying and analysing literary and/or cultural artefacts with the help of concrete examples, such as case studies drawn from their own research.

The goal of this lecture series is to introduce students to a range of methods that are available in literary and cultural studies, to create an awareness of how methods enable and structure research and to provide students with methodologies in various areas of interest or research, particularly in connection with their own specialisations or term and exam papers. Ideally, students should be able to create research questions of their own and make appropriate methodological choices when working in their own field of interest.

12.04.2018: Ways to Reach the Goal: Using Methods as Systematic Strategies to Solve Problems

Prof. Dr. Ansgar Nünning


19.04.2018: Fictionality, Autobiography, and Autofiction: How to Do Things with Narrative Theory and Narratological Terminology


Alexandra Effe is a postdoctoral research fellow at the GCSC and a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford and at King’s College, London. Her research interests include life writing and literary and narrative theory, especially narrative ethics, metafiction, and fictionality. She has published a monograph on J. M. Coetzee and articles on life writing and on narrative theory. She is currently working on a monograph on fictionality in self-narration, providing a diachronic perspective on the genre of autofiction, and developing a new project in the field of medical humanities.

From text to theory to text to theory. This is the trajectory of the approach called “theorypractice.” [1] In this approach narrative theory is employed to better understand a set of texts, which, in turn, are the basis on which theory is challenged, revised, and extended. It is an approach that acknowledges the importance of narrative theory, important not in itself but to allow us a better understanding of the texts we read. It is an approach that moreover acknowledges the provisionality of theory, and the fact that texts continue to challenge our theoretical accounts of them. It is an approach that brings theory and interpretation of narrative together. This is how insights into specific texts and into narrative in general are engendered, which then ultimately allows the theoretical insights gained to travel to other texts, contexts, and disciplines, where the theoretical concepts will again be challenged, revised, and extended. In this lecture, I will illustrate this approach at the example of fictionality, autobiography, and autofiction, describing how a set of texts have led me to engage with these concepts, how the concepts enrich my reading of these texts, and how these texts ultimately make me rethink the theory.

[1] Phelan, James, and Peter. J. Rabinowitz, eds. “Introduction: Understanding Narrative.” Understanding Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1994. 1-15


26.04.2018: Text as artefact and heuristic tool in the ethnographic analysis of culture


Dominique Autschbach

Before joining the International Graduate Center for the Study of Culture, Dominique studied Cultural Studies, Political Sciences and Sociology in Frankfurt/Oder (Germany) and Lille (France). His PhD project on the notion of stress combines an analysis of self-help literature with participant observation in stress management classes. Besides ethnographic methods, he is most interested in practice theory and the cultural sociology of health, emotion and the body.

Text is one of the central elements of ethnographic inquiry: On the one hand, there are reports written by informants, fieldnotes the ethnographers generat during their observations and documents or books they come across during her field research. On the other hand, symbolic forms and rituals themselves can be understood as a form of text and hence be read as one. What can be learned from this complicated relationship between ethnography and text? The lecture will revolve around some methodological queries deriving from this tension that have been or might be of interest beyond the narrow audience of those writing ethnographies themselves. It will firstly look at note-taking and thus the process of indwelling and participation in the experience of everyday life, which lies at the heart of ethnographic research. Text then is the product of a somewhat messy immersion into an unfamiliar setting. Secondly, the lecture will turn towards the interpretative paradigm in ethnography and Geertz’ call for a “thick description” of culture which ultimately lead to the problematization of ethnographic authorship and the process of othering.

Recommended readings

Clifford, James (1983): On Ethnographic Authority. In Representations (2), pp. 118–146.

Geertz, Clifford (1993): Thick Description. Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture. In Clifford Geertz (Ed.): The Interpretation of Cultures. London, New York: Fontana Press, pp. 3–30.

Ortner, Sherry B. (1984): Theory in Anthropology Since the Sixties. In Comparative Studies in Society and History 26, pp. 126–166.


03.05.2018: Horror, Memoirs of Trauma, and the Graphic Novel: Contextualizing Fringe Topics to Cultural Studies Using ODL and Blended Learning

Shane Frankiewicz (Freiburg)


10.05.2018: Christi Himmelfahrt

17.05.2018: Embodied Visions: Towards a Phenomenology of Works of Art

Flaß Alexander Flaß is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) and the International PhD Programme Literary and Cultural Studies (IPP) at the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. In his dissertation project, he probes the points of intersection between Merleau-Pontian existentialist phenomenology and feminist perspectives upon embodiment and their significance for literary and cultural criticism. He received his M.A. in English and American Studies from the Ruhr-University Bochum in 2016. His research interests include phenomenology, feminist theory, gender studies, new realism, and disability studies.

As human beings, we are bodily situated in the world, and it is through our bodies (rather than our “minds”) that we perceive and make sense of our surroundings. In this lecture, I invoke phenomenological perspectives upon embodiment to ponder their relevance for doing literary and cultural studies. Phenomenology, as I will suggest, offers a fresh interpretative orientation through which the study of art works (and culture more generally) can be enlarged, diversified, and particularized.

The philosophical tradition of phenomenology, i.e. the study of basic human experience, is characterized by a strong attentiveness to the first-person perspective and focus on the ways in which phenomena disclose themselves to the embodied subject. The fundamental position of phenomenology is that we are never in a position to step outside of our bodies, and so the terms of our lived experience must always set the parameters for what is (and what is not) meaningful to us. Yet, within the field of literary and cultural studies, there is tendency to operate on theoretical scaffolds that either occlude or imply the experiential meaning of our embodied situatedness. In light of a growing scholarly skepticism towards poststructuralist and deconstruction theory, however, the phenomenological method has recently been welcomed by a range of literary scholars to give more weight to our body’s active role in meaning-making.

In order to rethink bodily matters beyond discursive imaginations, I offer an introduction to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodiment to arrive at a better understanding of forms of artistic expression. Such a focus, I suggest, may help us to recognize that the meaning of art cannot be separated from specific forms of embodied experience and to bring more nuance to the intricate ways works of art can enter our lives and connect us to the social world.


24.05.2018: Sociological Rhetoric as a New Way to Read Self-Help Books for Love & Work


Thorn-R. Kray is a doctoral candidate at the Giessen Centre for the Study of Culture. His dissertation project focuses on advice literature & romantic love. His interests include the sociology of emotions, qualitative methods, the sociology of literature & aesthetics.

The talk begins with the diagnosis of two trends in contemporary society: a) the rising importance of emotional labor and emotional, “soft” skills in the work-place, and b) the ever-intensifying economization of romantic love (think of consumer goods for love & couples therapy). Against this backdrop, I explain why self-help books are an interesting source to look at these trends more closely. Since the lecture series focuses on methods, I then proceed with giving a short overview of possible methods to study this type of literature. Introducing the distinction between thin and thick methods, I offer my own approach, Sociological Rhetoric, which merges some of those introduced earlier. To give some rather practical directions, the talk will point to three concrete units of analysis of– metaphors, narratives, and classifications – that can be used to survey the symbolic infrastructure of advice books and possibly other kinds of literature. For illustration, I will give some examples from the corpus of my project and interpret them during the session while inviting the audience to contribute ideas. Concluding remarks interrogate the limits of the Sociological Rhetoric and reflect critically on the purpose and problems of qualitative methodologies.

31.05.2018: Fronleichnam

07.06.2018: Tracing Native American and European Forms of Historical Time in a Chronicle from Colonial Mexico


Richard Herzog is a PhD candidate in early modern history at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture Gießen. For his B.A. in History and English he studied in Kiel and Salamanca. Richard finished his M.A. in Global History in Heidelberg. He is especially interested in colonial history, Spanish America, as well as decolonial and transcultural approaches. In his PhD project he studies political conceptions of native authors of early colonial Mexico.

How can a seemingly abstract physical unit such as „time“ be used for concrete historical and literary analysis? Fruitful methods have been put forward since the late 20th century that question disparate ideas of „historical time“ (historische Zeit) and temporality as well as their relations to personal and official narratives. Pioneering works by Reinhart Koselleck focused on the social and political contexts of temporal units within European history.[1] More recently, the need to pay equal attention to different linear and cyclical time conceptions inside and outside of Europe has been highlighted as an antidote to a modern Western discourse of one supposedly universal time.[2]

The talk will trace some of the key concepts and methods relating to historical time and operationalise them via an example from early colonial Mexico: The works of the native Mexican author Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl (ca. 1578-1650). Excerpts from one his best-known chronicles [3] showcase how temporal conceptions from both Iberian and native American (Nahua) traditions co-existed in his writings – with a cyclical Nahua creation story being masked by a seemingly more linear, European approach to chronicling history. His example showcases the usefulness of analysing historical time, especially in order to valorise non-European notions of space and time.

[1] Koselleck, Reinhart: Vergangene Zukunft. Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeit, Berlin 1988.

[2] Cf Friese, Heidrun: Times, History and Discourse, in Rethinking History. Time and History. The Journal of Theory and Practice, 14/3, 2010; also Chakrabarty, Dipesh: Provincializing Europe. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton NJ 2000.

[3] Alva Ixtlilxochtil, Fernando de: Obras Históricas, 2 Vols., Edmundo O'Gorman (Introd. and tranls.), Mexico City 1975.


14.06.2018: Thinking–&–Feeling–Photography: A Toolbox for a Queer Reading of Radically Ambiguous Photography


Oliver Klaassen is a PhD student at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at the Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany, where he works on his dissertation project I spy my eye with! A Queer Reading of Radically Ambiguous Politics of Representation in Contemporary Photography. In 2016 Klaassen received his M.A. degree with Honors in Art and Media Studies from Carl Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, Germany, and was previously a short-term visiting scholar in the Department of Art at the State University of New York at Buffalo, USA. His broader research interests include history and theory of photography, contemporary art theory in conjunction with queer studies and critical curatorial studies, queer abstraction, politics of aesthetics, and ethics of visuality. Apart from his teaching experience and public lecturing, Oliver Klaassen has been engaged in the fields of art museum education, curating, and museum management.

In order to articulate new visions, phantasies and dystopias, as well as varied experiences of gender, sexuality and desire, it is necessary to cross boundaries by using our power of imagination in the field of visual culture. In my talk, I will start by introducing queer art studies and its critique of identity and politics of visibility as an interdisciplinary research field. I will then move on by suggesting a toolbox for a queer reading of contemporary photography, an oppositional reading strategy that combines a semiotic (critique of representation) with an affective approach (the potential of fantasy and desire in the process of reception). In the third part, I will exemplify my methodological framework by looking at a 'radically ambiguous' photo series: Freischwimmer (since 2011) by Wolfgang Tillmans (born 1968). In particular, in one of Tillmans’s installations (2004-09) in the Panorama Bar of the Berlin nightclub Berghain it is the interdependence of different image realities – two of his abstract Freischwimmer-photographs next beside to a photograph of a human genital area – which, as a performative strategy in the process of reception, not only entails anticipatory and transformative potential but also empowers the viewer for a queer reading. By considering not only the tensions between visibility, identifiability, and intelligibility, but also the political and aesthetic dimensions, I want to answer the following question: To what extent does Tillmans’ Panorama Bar installation set in motion hetero- and homonormative politics of representation? The installation brings forward a heterotopic playground, in which norms of visibility are negotiated in a way that eludes normative modes of representation. I will end my presentation by weighing the pros and cons of my suggested methodological approach.


21.06.2018: From 2019 to 2049: Visual Culture and Blade Runner


Rieke Jordan arbeitet als wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin im Institut für England- und Amerikastudien an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. Dort habilitiert sie und lehrt in den Bereichen der amerikanischen Literatur-, Kultur- und Medienwissenschaft. Sie wurde 2016 an der Graduate School of North American Studies der FU Berlin promoviert. Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen unter anderem auf zeitgenössischer Populärkultur, Kultur- und Medientheorien und film noir.

“From 2019 to 2049: Visual Culture and Blade Runner“, focusses on visual culture as one key methodological approach to the analysis of literary and cultural objects. Reading the Blade Runner movies through methods of the visual is to ask what the can be revealed and concealed in the 21st century. Los Angeles in the 21st century seems to be overloaded with advertisements and blinking lights, yet the films challenge if we can really trust our eyes. Is what we see actually what is there? This talk will apply terms and methodologies of visual culture to the Blade Runner movies and highlight the importance the technological, compositional, and social structures of images.


28.06.2018: Moving from Multi- to Interdisciplinarity to Understand Comics and What They Do: The Case of Graphic Medicine


Christina Maria Koch is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Philipps-Universität Marburg. Her project is tentatively entitled “Patient Lines: Understanding Illness Experience in and through Graphic Narratives.” She has published on political iconography in the context of Anonymous and Occupy, graphic memoirs and disability, canon debates and Toni Morrison’s writing, and the use of grotesque imagery in graphic illness narratives. Besides the study of illness narratives and critical medical studies, she is also interested in feminist theories and social movement studies.

Academic interest in comics has been growing for years, but most comics scholars are “something else” by training: they arrive at comics from media, film, literature, art (history), linguistics, sociology, or cultural studies departments. Together with fan and artist discourse, this gives us a vast diversity of methodologies, spaces, and audiences. Sometimes, however, a new genre will allow a field of study to emerge and methodological strangers to talk to and learn from each other.

The exemplary case will be a project in Graphic Medicine, the study of illness narratives in comics form, one of the many young “hyphenated” or “compound” fields of research. The lecture will show an attempt to combine theories, approaches, findings, and tools from different disciplines: an interest in aesthetics and form leads to intermedial close readings; an interest in context means engaging with critical medical studies (cultural studies). The reason for this integration is the project’s attention to the cultural status of and discourse around graphic illness narratives. The aim is to demonstrate what can help us as students of comics to answer questions that go beyond “the representation of X in Y.”


05.07.2018: People Are No Artefacts: Decolonial Methodology and How to Conduct Research When the "Object of Study" Is a Human Being


María Cárdenas, M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies (University of Marburg), is a PhD student at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany. In her doctoral project, she is exploring together with Colombian ethnic(ised) activists the relationship between political activism, identity construction and articulation, and its potential for renegotiating the social order in the context of the current transition period in Colombia. Using a decolonial and participatory approach as methodology, she sees the political activists as experts of their field and works closely together with them in the empirical and analytical knowledge production process. Before joining the GCSC, María Cárdenas worked in the area of conflict-sensitive development cooperation in Germany and overseas.

Qualitative research is inter alia guided by the principle of openness. This aim is in conflict with reality: the politics of location of the researcher, their subjectivity while perceiving the field, and their inescapable role as co-constructer of reality and of the data they analyze; all have inevitably limited this openness already beforehand. This epistemological problem of the hermeneutic circle requires constant reflection outwards (a reflection of what is interesting for our research purpose), and inwards (a reflection of our subjective, personal pre-understandings, its constitution and change; Breuer 2010: 40-41). Reflecting on post- and decolonial perspectives, knowledge production needs to be understood as epistemic violence that is embedded in hegemonic narratives about the world that foregrounds one possible interpretation while – not necessarily with intent – obscuring others, more often than not with social and political implications. This points to the sensitive issue of ethical responsibility of the researcher. While text and artefacts can’t possibly object to a researcher’s analysis and interpretation nor can they contribute to a more proper analysis of the source, people can. Montero (2015: 225f.) thus argues: "the inclusion of the Other is the origin of fresh ways to develop methods. […] It is necessary to build both from the Self and the Other collaborative producers of knowledge, united by a relationship of equality.” A decolonial perspective on methodology may contribute to a more inclusive and equal relationship when it comes to processes of knowledge production. Various methodological possibilities lie at hand that need to be balanced with research ethics, pragmatism and opportunities. I will discuss the implications, advantages and challenges of a decolonial methodology approach drawing on the example of my ongoing participatory research about political articulation of ethnic(-ised) activists within the peace process in Colombia.

12.07.2018: Klausur