Reading and Writing

Feyerabend, Britta. Seems Like Old Times: Postmodern Nostalgia in Woody Allen's Work. American Studies: A Monograh Series 157. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009.
  • Doctoral Thesis on Postmodern Nostalgia in Woody Allen's work: drama, prose, and film
  • Woody Allen is one of America’s most prolific authors, actors, and auteur film directors. His oeuvre, which spans five decades, has always been marked by a postmodern play with conventions, experimental techniques, and explorations of the status quo of modern urban lives. Yet, Woody Allen is also a nostalgic who makes the history of his nation, his people, and his individual subjects the constant theme of his work. Whether cryogenically frozen Miles Monroe wakes up in the future only to misinform scientists about the past; whether stand-up comedian Alvy Singer reminisces his relationship to Annie Hall; or, whether ophtalmologist Judah Rosenthal is tormented by his memory of his Jewish rabbinical father after having had his girlfriend killed; the past, whether personal or communal, is always an integral part of Allen’s characterizations and plots. Contrary to the assumption that postmodernity is necessarily linked to the future only and negates all history, the present study argues that postmodern subjects very much depend on an active evaluation of the past and that, through the lens of history, present crises and traumata can be overcome. In this way, nostalgia manages to bring history back into postmodernism.

Auto/Biography and Mediation

Feyerabend, Britta. "Quilting Auto/Biographies." Auto/Biography and Mediation. American Studies Monograph Series 190. Ed. Alfred Hornung. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009. 89-100.
  • core thesis: quilts have often been an alternative to biographic writing for uneducated women, for women, who have been made voiceless and for women who did not have the luxury of artistic expression outside of needleworks
  • in addition, in quilts and through quilts, individual and collective traumata have been worked through (AIDS quilt project, Katrina quilts, 9/11 quilts, memory quilts, friendsship quilts, Civil War quilts, mourning quilts etc.)
  • The essays by American, Asian, Australian and European critics collected here demonstrate the opening up of auto/biography studies to the border-crossing implied by the concept of mediation: processes of social and cultural translation are examined in various forms – from photographic self-representation to oral histories – and practices, from media coverage through marketing of written lives to performing the self. These essays reveal that auto/biography goes much further than the narrow examination of an individual’s life; for instance, life narratives intersect human rights in post-Apartheid South Africa, genomics is haunted by the structure of eugenics, and quilting can reveal a material history to those who can decode it. In mediating these lives, the essays ask us to engage with diverse questions of ethics, gender politics, postcolonial critique, institutional frameworks, and the basic question of how acts of mediation influence the telling and re-telling of lives.

Feyerabend, Britta. "Fabricating Lives: Alice Walker's Quilted Biographies." American Studies Monograph Series 195. Eds. Mita Banerjee et al. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2010. 35-48.
  • core thesis: Alice Walker uses sewing and quilting extensively in her unused filmscript to Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, which was published in The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult (1996). She thereby continues and extends her usage of the quilting metaphor that she has already utilized in her short story "Everyday Use" (1973) and her novel The Color Purple (1982), where it was used to show the strong analogy of material culture and cultural production with identity and now uses it to show how cultural production in the form of sewing and quilting can actually help "patch up" one's life in the process of creating a quilted biography.
  • As a discipline, American Studies has certainly been one of the most dynamic fields not only of research but also of teaching. This volume argues that one reason for this dynamism lies in the refusal of American Studies practitioners, both in the U.S. and around the globe, to separate life from art and criticism. Fields such as postmodernism, life writing, ethnic studies, or ecocriticism derive their potential precisely from the politicized interrelation of personal experience and critical practice.
  • To acknowledge this potential, many scholars of American Studies explore the complex ways in which their own location may inform their work. It is from this tension between lived experience and the textualization of this experience that American Studies derives its greatest productivity. This volume sets out to trace some of these issues, highlighting the many ways in which American Studies scholars have been “living American Studies,” extending their fields beyond the narrow boundaries of traditional academia.