W- Seminar English visits University of Regensburg

W-Seminar English visits University of Regensburg 

Futuristic Cowboys and -girls venture into American Exceptionalism of old 

    Deep down in the proverbially urbanized surroundings of what participants of this sci-fi seminar could refer to as ´New Ratisbon´, we were both enlightened and delighted by Prof. Dr. Depkat of the Department of American Studies in more than one sense. Rather than simply following a standardized lecture on American Exceptionalism in general and the Wild, Wild or perhaps bewilderingly mythicized West in particular, we were informed very early on in our communication with the lecturer that this was about the real thing: the publishing of a brand-new monography of his.

    The mere fact that the whole lecture revolved around the upcoming major work Die Geschichte der USA by Volker Depkat himself naturally made the whole experience nothing short of amazing, as the topic of the session was to be a surprise owing to the writing process and, much to our immediate pleasure, hit the spot in terms of course and curriculum requirements.

    The main issue could be summed up as the link between the frequently romanticized triumph of the American Frontier or Great West and the more global movement toward an Empire of Liberty and American Way of life. Such concepts and principles obviously tie in well with the content of a seminar on Utopian and Dystopian scenarios. Related conceptions such as modes of travel, incessant expansion, biologistic theories, antipathy to control and folk democracy were expounded, too. Writers treated closely during the meeting included Frederick W. Turner and Clyde A. Milner.

     Other than learning about important aspects of the American Westward Movement and the forging of Manifest Destiny, Professor Depkat made time for an extensive Q/A talk dealing with such topics as careers in the field of English and American Studies, but also History and Cultural Studies. In the wake of the recent surprise at the, then and now, notorious US presidential elections, he let us in on how significant, even deeply meaningful, work done by graduates of such fields is for corporate interrelations or interconnections between cultural institutions. It goes without saying that such lines of work or careers are going to gain importance in economic terms as well.

     To be sure, Prof. Depkat, who is a trained historian (and expert on German History) as well, and who is often asked to do interviews with radio stations on current issues in American policy, filled us in on the all but true notion that German writings on North America and the USA have been historically focused on, to put it plainly, a quasi-Utopian self-analysis of Germany on the basis of a potential America, which may or very well may not have to do very much with actual events or developments. The limited range of a President´s executive orders, which not everybody overseas seems to fully comprehend, is just one clear if only the most infamous case in point.

    This is why it remains especially important to study in an English-speaking country for at least one semester when choosing English or American Studies (B.A., M.A. or state exam) as one´s major course.

    As in the year before we would like to thank Prof. Dr. Depkat, who again managed to have us take notes during the one part of the lecture which was particularly connected with the seminar topic and at the same time enabled us to become part of his very own scholarly book in the making.

 Axel Ossner featuring W-Seminar


LMU-Einladung für W- Seminar Englisch 

From first Mohicans to last Avengers 

    Reloading the words of Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville, parts of the lecture American Indian HistoryThe Iroquois Confederation and the neighboring Algonquin tribes at Munich University´s America- Institute proved to be ´horrible to relate´ and unearthed ´the terror of their name´, which is, to be fair, quite appropriate if one considers the title of our seminar: Utopian and Dystopian scenarios.

   The lecture was given by Prof. Dr. Michael Hochgeschwender, lecturer in North American Cultural Studies and Cultural Anthropology, Vice Director of the Department of English and American Studies, and very noticeably, Dean of Studies, as he invited us to his lecture within a utopian record time of 8 minutes after the actual inquiry.

    He elaborated on the enormous and therefore dystopian bloodshed between and even within some Eastern Native American tribes as early as the High Middle Ages, a long time before the first English settler set foot in the New World. In fact, archeologists have discovered that, shockingly, mass murder reached genocidal proportions even at that earlier period.

    The lecture proceeded at pell-mell pace and provided pupils and students alike with numerous enthralling details, events, drawings and maps to identify and illustrate the warring Iroquois (notoriously called ´killer people´) and Huron tribesmen, founding myths and historically proven development of such tribes as the Mohicans, the Mohawk and the Pequot, who would later reemerge in Pequod, the name of the ship that has to undergo and go under Moby Dick´s might. As a consequence, the misconception of ´Red Indians´ either given to savagery or being noble savages as part of a romanticized wilderness was worked out in the process of taking down information. The legend of Deganawida, a precolonial Huron shaman and ´great peacemaker´ was even reinterpreted to accommodate Christian beliefs in the 1900s.

    Other than that the set-up of the settlers´ colonies unveiled the surprising complexity of, for instance, the various single New England and Mid-Atlantic colonies. Much rather than arriving as part of one great wave or recurrent waves of colonists, the so-called English companies in North America did not even necessarily cooperate closely or coordinate matters with each other all too willingly. There were a number of cases in which competing colonial leaders each allied with Indian tribes who had been on the warpath before to attack or sabotage other English-dominated areas.

    At times, English colonial forces were just as much drawn into as expanding into already existing indigenous rivalries between rather sizeable native confederations, which could be seen as highly organized political bodies with a workable diplomacy, stable townships with longhouses or log cabins and, sadly, precolonial slavery. Again, any overly romantic idea of teepee dwellers belonging to single tribes and living a nomadic life of freedom and harmony naturally goes against the grain of any truly scholarly finding so far. Yet, more generally speaking, the lecture treated the intricate nature of intertribal as well as English- native contact and enmity on a masterly level.

   Pupils will have considered the sheer number of well-known and powerful American Indian tribal groups and groupings including their leaders fascinating or at least exotic galore. Just savor these very few names of tribes mentioned in the session: Onondaga, Pawnee, Kickapoo, Pottawattamie, Wyandot, Susquehannock, Narragansett! During the talk which was offered by Prof. Dr. Hochgeschwender after the lecture, he turned out to be well-versed in yet another field of utopia-related studies, namely the X-Men and Avengers movie series. Even more so, he let us catch a glimpse of the possible future of the Marvel motion picture era, because he felt that their recent performance suggests that at least their heyday may be over.


Prof. Dr. Hochgeschwender and seminar participants in front of a map of Midwestern Native American tribes