Sunday, June 29, 2008

Migration and Literature

An increasingly hot topic in literary studies and in the area studies fields, such as American Studies is the relationship between writing, place, identity and belonging. Evidence of this agenda getting more and more important can, for instance, be found in the proposed topics for conferences and seminars worldwide. In Denmark the next big Am. Studies event, the Nordic Assosciation for American Studies' biannual conference, has as its theme Cosmospolitanism. Among the many questions the conference invites us to contemplate is the following:

Does the prominence of writers such as Junot Dìaz, Francisco Goldman and Jamaica Kincaid-or the focus on border regions and bilingualism in the works of older writers like Cormac McCarthy-suggest a cosmopolitan turn in contemporary "American" literature?

Hopefully by May 2009 many scholars and students will have thought of topics and papers that will help illumminate this and many other issues pertaining to migration, writng and cosmopolitanism (and its opposites)...

Nearer in time Copenhagen University offers a one-day course in Migration and Literature on September 26. While designed for secondary school teachers and librarians, the event is also open for students in limited numbers. The program can be perused here.

The course concludes with an extremely exciting event at the Literaturhaus in Møllegade, Copenhagen. This event is a triple reading by the following authors:

Ha Jin, representing China and the US, author of Waiting and Under the Red Flag.

Shadi Bazeghi, Iran and Denmark - a young poet writing in Danish.

Rubén Palma, born in Chile, residing in Denmark, writing in Danish, translated into English and published by Curbstone Press in New York (The Trail We Leave).

Palma is little-known in Denmark, but has intriguing comments about what made him become a writer once he realized that he had become a transnational subject:

From author interview:


I grew up in a poor Chilean barrio with a strong, old-fashioned macho culture. I would not say that I found writing feminine. In fact, I always found writing an interesting activity. But I just did not consider it to be masculine enough. As a boy, and later as a teenager, all I wanted was to be a football player or a boxer. With
those images in my mind, I do not think I would ever have become a writer in Chile.


The idea of writing began taking shape after I had been in Denmark for eleven years, when I realized that maybe I was never going to return to Chile. At that point, I understood that Chile was left behind, and that Denmark was no longer a transitory place in my existence. It sounds paradoxical but I felt a kind of emptiness which nevertheless liberated a lot of new feelings. Suddenly I was able to look back and ahead, to look at myself in a new way.

Read more here...

I hope some of our readers will find their way to this twice transatlantic event in September!

See also...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Caption Needed Birthday

Robert Hariman and John Lucaites recently posted the one year anniversary of their fantastic blog, No Caption Needed.

You can read Bent's review of both the blog and their seminal book by the same title here.

They're experiencing some "growing pains", something we are familiar with here.

It’s been a year since we began this blog. We had no idea what we were getting into. The initial idea was to put up an ad for the book. Not a great idea, but then we thought that we could write a few posts to thicken the ad. After all, neither one of us had the time to do this on a regular basis. One thing lead to another, and soon we had created a monster: we loved writing the posts and seeing the audience grow, but we still didn’t have the time, so we told ourselves that we’d do it for a year and then quit. It’s been a year and we don’t want to quit, but we need to make some changes.

I encourage you to stop by and leave your comments or drop them an email, or better yet both. This is one of the little jewels out in the academic blogosphere (and a service to the public at large). Both blog and book have been a source of inspiration for me personally as I have become increasingly drawn into visual culture, semiotics and that emerging niche that Bent refers to as iconicity studies.

Best of luck and continued success with No Caption Needed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Since the early 60s, Raymond Federman has been one of the most important American writers. In his highly experimental fictions - works that bear such titles as Take It or Leave It, Double or Nothing, and The Twofold Vibrations - he has explored cultural and personal memory, invented intricate narrative strategies, and above all has given readers an experience that exceeds the ordinary. Creating situations that make one really think and really laugh is a tall order for any writer. But Federman did it. He is one of the few writers to truly have achieved this.

As he has just turned 80 and is being celebrated around the world, some of us here in Denmark have decided to mark the event. That Federman is still around, publishing, blogging, answering private emails, and engaging with readers of all sorts, can indeed be considered a gift of the highest quality. Just check his blog - [the laugh that laughs at the laugh] - to get a sense of how important it is for him to situate himself not only vis-à-vis literary history, in which he is by now well recognized and firmly consolidated, but vis-à-vis the kind of literary history that allows readers to come close to writers and thus engage in a 'communal' act of writing themselves. Put it differently, we read Federman to write about him as he writes about us through his own experiences. Federman is a round kind of writer.

In response to such generosity, I've put out a collection of essays written in collaboration with colleagues at Aalborg University. The volume presents four scholarly articles, and as indicated on the poster (make sure to enlarge it so that you can see the table of contents to begin with), it also offers readers a special treat in the form of unpublished texts by Federman. The book Federman Frenzy: the 'cult' in culture, the 'me' in memory, the 'he' in history - encounters with Raymond Federman is published as a web publication by Research News, Dept. of Language and Culture, Aalborg University.

Friday, June 20, 2008

CFP: Jack Kerouac, Kerouac’s On the Road and the Beats

Following up on our spring sequence of posts on The Beats (conveniently collected here), we'd like to help announce a two day conference to be held at the University of Birmingham in December. Scholars will meet and give papers on aspects of the Beat Generation with a particular focus on Kerouac's novel On the Road. But perhaps even more enticing is that the original scroll manuscript of that novel will be present in Birmingham as well, in a rare European visit (the scroll has mostly been on display in US cities). I am very excited to finally get to see the Holy Grail of Beat artefacts up close. My paper, btw. will probably investigate Neal Cassady, the real life model for the novel's protagonist, con-man, Holy Goof, culture hero, Dean Moriarty...

Here is the CFP in its entirety:

A two day conference at the University of Birmingham UK

(Thursday 11 December 2008 and Friday 12 December 2008)

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road’s publication in the UK, in 1958 (following its 1957 publication in the US). The University of Birmingham has arranged for the 1951 original typescript manuscript of On the Road - the world-famous scroll of 1951 - to come to the Barber Institute at the University during December 2008 and January 2009. A series of events is planned to celebrate this, including a Film Event (during the evening of 11 December) timed to coincide with this two-day conference, which will likely include the UK premiere showing of One Fast Move and I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur, produced by Jim Sampas.

The conference will take as its focus the ‘Beats’ and their relations to On the Road and its themes - travel, jazz, sexuality and gender, rebellion, disaffiliation and alienation, class and ethnicity.

Plenary speakers will include Tim Hunt, Matt Theado and Oliver Harris

Please do come along to this exciting event and - if you wish - deliver a paper.

CFP: If you want to deliver a paper please submit a title for your paper and an abstract of between 100 and 250 words for consideration to: by 31 October 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alice B. Toklas Brownies

I was surprised recently in my relentless pursuit of Beat scholarship to learn of a connection between Brion Gyson, who invented and later taught William Burroughs the cut-up technique, and Alice B. Toklas, who was Gertrude Stein’s long-time companion and muse.

Even more surprisingly the connection turns out to revolve around a recipe for ‘Haschisch Brownies’ which Toklas (apparently unwittingly) included in her 1954 cookbook - a recipe that was actually given to her by Gyson…

Here is Gyson's joking description of the cakes:

“This is the food of paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradise: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morrocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter, ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by un evanouissement reveille!”

It may be a little too late for a weekend treat to bake the brownies tonight, but if you insist here is the recipe:

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful each of de-stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of cannabis sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

In pop culture these so-called 'Alice B Toklas brownies' gave rise to ample references, not least the title and main plot device of the 1968 Peter Sellers farce, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas... This clip can (possibly) also be enjoyed without having partaken of any sort of cookie shaped stimulant:

If not, you can always grab a Big Mac:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Caption Needed

Recently we at The Atlantic Community have been honored by a bit of attention from the excellent photo journalism and public culture blog No Caption Needed. NCN is run by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites who authored one of the only sustained books charting the emergent field of cultural iconology, No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture and Liberal Democracy. Hariman is a professor in the Dept. of Communication Studies at Northwestern U.; Lucaites is a professor of rhetoric and public culture at Indiana U. Together they have created an indispensable volume for anyone interested in the functions and construction of iconic images in the public sphere. Here is a reproduction of the table of contents:




3 THE BORDERS OF THE GENRE Migrant Mother and the Times Square Kiss

4 PERFORMING CIVIC IDENTITY Flag Raisings at Iwo Jima and Ground Zero




8 RITUALIZING MODERNITY’S GAMBLE The Hindenburg and Challenger Explosions

9 CONCLUSION Visual Democracy

The blog version of NCN constantly challenges us with new images from a wide range of fields (political culture, for instance the uses and abuses of the US flag; pop culture; sports; cultural geography etc.) The two authors post regularly Monday to Thursday most weeks, and on many weekends the put other, often humorous stuff up, such as their on-going collection of 'sight gags'.

I guess The Atlantic Community is stepping into similar territory with our many recent posts on political iconography in connection with the Presidential election campaign, and also with our research into the function of historically specific icons, such as my work on icons of transgression. Indeed, we are happy to link to NCN in our blog roll, and honored that they have included us in theirs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas Democratic Party State Convention Tribute to Ann Richards

via Sivacracy

I looked at some of the images from this montage in this post here if you're interested. One of the things that seems pretty apparent across the US political landscape, is that Democrats are actively reclaiming historical and cultural narratives and effectively appropriating them into their political campaigns.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Wiki Way

Noam Cohen has an interesting piece, The Wiki-Way to the Nomination, at the NY Times on the online activism behind the Obama campaign. It's a bit simplistic but it provides some good background if you haven't been following all the online activity. Doesn't everything happen online today?

It's also interesting how techno jargon is becoming more mainstream. The Wiki-Way. I guess terms like grass-roots activism just sounds too analogue.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Ninth Annual Honora Rankine-Galloway Address

“Will Race Survive in the US? The Possibilities and Impossibilities of the Obama Phenomena”

By Professor David Roediger,

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sponsored by the Embassy of the United States, Copenhagen

Center for American Studies

University of Southern Denmark, Odense

Thursday, September 25, 2008

14:15-16:00, Room 100

This lecture, based on David Roediger’s shortly forthcoming How Race Survived United States History (Verso), sets the historic presidential candidacy of Barack Obama within longer patterns of white supremacy in the U. S. past. It argues that the successes of Obama’s candidacy register important, though contradictory, changes in racial attitudes in the post-1965 U.S. At the same time, the “Obama Phenomenon” also obscures the extent to which the structural factors leading to race-thinking persist and raises critical questions regarding the political challenges of moving past a view of race predicated on the simple dualism of black and white.

Professor Roediger teaches history and African American Studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His books include Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Become White (New York: Basic Books, 2005); Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Class, and Politics (London and New York: Verso Books, 1994); and The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Rev. ed. London and New York: Verso Books, 1999).

All Welcome!

For further information, please contact Dr. Benita Heiskanen, Center for American Studies, SDU-Odense, email, tel. +45-6550 3133.

Working in the Coal Mine

Whatever metaphor we may use, this is "crunch time" for many of us writing, editing, and grading papers, preparing for exams, getting out those last minute proposals, dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

In the weeds, the jungle, buried in paperwork, up against the clock, 4th and goal. Well, you get the idea.

I always liked Devo's cover of Allen Toussaint's "Working In The Coal Mine" from their 1981 album New Traditionalists and thought this as good a metaphor as any. Perhaps some of you may vaguely remember this track from the soundtrack of the animated movie, Heavy Metal.

This is dedicated to all the summer slaves of academe.

"When my work day is over I'm too tired for having fun........."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama Clinches

See the Agonist for more.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Rock Pioneer Bo Diddley Dies at 79, June 2, 2008 - One of the fathers of rock 'n' roll died Monday at the age of 79. Bo Diddley was born Ellas Bates in Mississippi and grew up in Chicago, where he played guitar on street corners before being discovered by Chess Records. He leaves behind a sound that helped build a musical movement.

What made Bo's music so unique? I don't know exactly but if I had to assign to it just one adjective it would be, crunchy. Yeah, what a wonderful crunchy sound.