This Wednesday, Sept. 30, 4:30-6:00, Downey Lounge, the American Studies major and English major will be hosting a very special guest, Florian Sedlmeier, a young professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Free University (Freie Universitat), Berlin, Germany. (Delicious treats will be served.) He is really eager to meet Wesleyan students and faculty. The “JFK” is the greatest American Studies center in Europe. I am going to have a dialogue with him about the kind of critical edge one can develop by doing American Studies and American literary studies outside (yes, outside) of the U.S.! This subject is close to my heart because my first full immersion in American Studies–my intellectual conversion–was when I did an M.A. in American Studies at the University of London. Several Europeans–Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, D. H. Lawrence, Antonio Gramsci–have given us some of the most astute analyses of how America “ticks” as a power structure and culture (and popular culture, for instance, Francois Truffaut on Westerns). And many Americans–Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and others–went to Europe to bust out of the American bubble critically and artistically. Florian Sedlmeier and I want to spark a conversation–that we will open up to everyone once we raise some concerns and questions–about what’s at stake in thinking about this. American Studies became a big deal in Europe after World War II as part of America’s–the U.S. Information Agency’s–“free world” Cold War propaganda campaign. But European American Studies has had a way thinking critically about the U.S., partly because of its own radical traditions.
Florian will also tell us more about the famous “JFK.” This amazing institute is located in the gorgeous neighborhood of Dahlem, in Berlin, and ALL CLASSES–undergraduate and graduate–ARE IN ENGLISH. You might wish to consider being an exchange student at the “JFK” at some point. And if you consider doing graduate work in American Studies there–say, an M.A.–you should know that THE TUITION IS FREE (you just have to pay for your lodging and food). It was my privilege to be a visiting professor at the “JFK” in 2012 and I loved it. It’s very comprehensive. There are five departments within American Studies: Culture, Literature, History, Political Science, and Economics. The faculty–as you’ll see when you meet Florian–are brilliant, accomplished, and a lot of fun. The courses that each department offers are wide-ranging and fascinating. And Berlin is an absolute BLAST!
So please come and please bring any friends! You’ll learn some surprising stuff. Florian is really psyched about coming to Wes!