Academic Commons

Articles

“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.

Geographic Areas

Files

  • thumnail for 2009_Simons_Amerika_gibt_es_nicht_German_Quarterly.doc 2009_Simons_Amerika_gibt_es_nicht_German_Quarterly.doc application/msword 86 KB Download File

Also Published In

Title
The German Quarterly
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-1183.2009.00045.x

More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Publisher
John Wiley and Sons
Published Here
May 4, 2015
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.