“Amerika gibt es nicht” – On the Semiotics of Literary America in the Twentieth Century

Simons, Oliver

From Alexis de Tocqueville's arrival in Manhattan and his amazement at the artificial façades of houses on the East River, we can observe a specific semiotic model in depictions of America: America does not exist, which is to say, the referent often becomes questionable in these texts. All the more frequently descriptions of America hew to a metonymic mode of writing; they deal with signs which refer to other signs, with accounts reporting mostly what has been read elsewhere. With Franz Kafka and Wolfgang Koeppen this essay shows how America has become the setting of poetological self-determination; America is a textual construct in which the significatory nature of language is itself negotiated. Under these conditions, how can another America novel be written at the end of the 20th-century? In the concluding passages, this essay discusses how contemporary authors Thomas Meinecke and Michael Roes succeed in resurrecting America's narrative possibilities.

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The German Quarterly

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Academic Units
Germanic Languages
John Wiley and Sons
Published Here
May 4, 2015