Dr. Katharina Gerund (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen): "Contested Canons? Toni Morrison and the Nobel Prize in Germany"

Friday, 10.06.2016, 10:15-11:45 a.m., U5/02.22

Toni Morrison's oeuvre often straddles the borders of canons, categorizations, reading practices, and interpretive communities. Her writings have been claimed for popular canons like Oprah Winfrey's book club, they are firmly established in literature classes, reading groups, and college curricula, and they have been awarded the highest literary awards. This lecture offers an analysis of the German reception of her work in different media, especially around the time of her Nobel Prize in 1993. These discourses attest to a struggle to categorize Morrison and her work within familiar terms, (African) American culture, and the canon of world literature. They resonate with specific notions of literature, literary authority, and reading. And, they interrogate the transatlantic relationship and cultural difference – sometimes implicitly – as they contrast, connect, and construct German and (African) American culture(s). The presentation will zoom in on the strategies of containment, mediation, and familiarization, including the categorization of Morrison's work as women's literature, the exclusive focus on her fictional work, an emphasis on African American literature's sociological quality and the experiential character and affective power of reading, and the (illusion of) transcendence of difference(s) via literature and aesthetics.

Katharina Gerund is currently Assistant Professor (Akademische Rätin a.Z.) for American Studies at the FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg. Until 2015 she was research coordinator of the interdisciplinary doctoral program "Presence and Tacit Knowledge" (funded by the DFG) at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg. She has completed her dissertation "African Americanizations: African American Women’s Art and Activism in (West) German Discourses" at Bremen University in 2012. In this project, Dr. Gerund examines how cultural productions (i.e. literature, film, public speeches, and political activism) by African American women have been received, (re)negotiated, and (re)appropriated in (West) Germany; she particularly zooms in on Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison. Her work establishes (African) Americanization(s) as a useful framework for the analysis of transatlantic cultural traffic and seeks to contribute to an understanding of Germany as part of the Black diaspora and to analyze specific forms of cultural mobility as well as the role of race and gender in the processes of cultural exchange. Dr. Gerund's research interests include (cultural) Mobility Studies, Americanization, African American Studies, Diaspora and Gender Studies. Her postdoctoral project focuses on the rhetoric and practice of sisterhood in US-American (feminist) discourses and, among other things, examines the possibilities and limits of transracial feminist alliances and solidarity. (Profile on BDG Homepage)