July 2021

Maria Sulimma is reading Nineteenth-Century Serial Narrative in Transnational Perspective, 1830s−1860s  (2019) edited by Daniel Stein and Lisanna Wiele. Following the unprecedented success of Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris, serialized in the newspaper Le Journal des Débats between 1842 and 1843, newspapers across Europe and the United States started publishing city mysteries. These serial fictions rightfully carry the city in their name: they utilize their various urban settings to sensationalize urban life in all its facets. The contributions to this collection explore some of the most popular city mysteries, their production and reception contexts. This reading helps me reconsider the ways that seriality is relevant for urban scripts and scripting, especially in the context of popular culture.

 

Chris Katzenberg is reading Unfinished Business: Michael Jackson, Detroit, and the Figural Economy of American Deindustrialization (2017) by the dance scholar Judith Hamera. Her award-winning book explores the connections between postindustrial change and race, dance performance and political economy. She considers the artistic work and public image of Michael Jackson alongside the fate and representations of (post-)industrial Detroit. Hamera treats both as deindustrial icons, indicative of wider trends in the political economy and affective climate of the United States in the transitional period from an industrial to a finacialized economy. To this end, she coins the concept of the "deindustrial, " which thinks together this ongoing "transitional period" and the "'historical sensorium,' representational repertoires and affects" its stark changes have brought with them (4). I find inspiring how Hamera manages to connect cultural representations and affects with (post-)industrial socioeconomic changes, exploring their shared "figural economies" (5).

Juliane Borosch is reading American Odyssey, a history of Detroit from colonial settlement in 1701 up to 1970 by journalist and historian Robert Conot. While already published in 1974, this study offers a detailed and especially for the time critical and progressive contextualization of the history and struggles of Detroit, and by proxy urban America. Coming out of the work on the Kerner Commission, that was meant to get to the roots of the racial uprisings and protests of the 1960s, was one of the first to diagnose white racism as the root of continued urban unrest, but was cut short for political reasons, Conot extended upon that research to write this history. It embeds the lives of individuals of different origin and standing into the history of their city and contextualizes it with national and global developments so far making for an interesting in-depth analysis from the perspective of pre-/mid-crisis Detroit and up to the 1970s.

Our Past Reading
Prof. Dr. Josef Raab passed away on November 10, 2019 after a long battle against terminal illness. / © L. Raab

Thank you,

to our colleague, advisor, and mentor Josef Raab, who sadly passed away last weekend after a long and brave battle against terminal illness. Josef Raab was the chair of American Literary and Media Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He paved the way for the discipline of Inter-American Studies, significantly shaping its core debates. As a champion and supporter of the Ruhr Center for American Studies, he was also a pivotal figure for the establishment of our City Scripts research group. Josef Raab was a fighter of the good fight, never shy of supporting his students and of positively endorsing as well as tackling his colleagues. He never eschewed an argument he believed in. While he had to take a step back from in-person participation in recent months due to his illness, he was with us in thought and during our research. We lose a professor and mentor, who has accompanied and supported some of us since our bachelor’s degree, a colleague, who challenged us in academic discussions, and most of all a sincere and warm human soul.

All that is left for us to say now is, thank you and safe travels.