It is one of the founding myths of “German Americana” that the first migrants from German-speaking territories arrived on October 6, 1683, on North American soil. Unsurprisingly, German Americans have always sought to celebrate this particular date in order to promote and to secure German American traditions and interests. Such celebrations, formerly often called “German Day,” flourished during the 19th century and ceased after the world wars. After the 1983 tricentennial, German American stakeholders were able to revive and to continue the celebrations: On August 18, 1987, Congress approved a joint resolution to designate October 6, 1987, as German-American Day.
Since that time, most American presidents have issued annual proclamations to celebrate the achievements and contributions of German Americans to our Nation with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs. Also, German American societies have taken on the ‘task’ and included annual German-American Day celebrations into their calendars, often in combination with the famous Oktoberfest.
Now that the national holidays of both Canada (July 1) and the United States (July 4) are upon us, it’s time to check how well you, our readers, know both countries. In my seminar, “Introducing North American Studies,” I’m always pleased with how much my students know about the States and, at the same time, shocked at how little they know about Canada. Let’s see if you fare better….
Let’s start off with a few telling facts: The origin of the word “racism” stems from the French word racisme which appeared during the last decades of the 19th century. In English, however, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “Racism appears to be a word of recent origin, with no citations currently known that would suggest the word was in use prior to the early 20th century.” Now, let that sink in. The people at Webster are also quick to point out that just because the word is “fairly new” doesn’t mean that “the concept of racism did not exist in the distant past.” No wonder we – and with we, I mean all societies – have a problem with racism. So let’s get to the root of it and root it out.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 (10:47 a.m.)
Lydia Davis (1947- ) is a lover of language and an American writer, probably in that order. She’s best known for her minimalist writing style and works of brevity (short stories, flash fiction, and narratives made up of only a couple of lines). One of my favorite prose poems is “A Mown Lawn.” It is literally one-of-a kind. Well, almost. I think Davis wrote two political pieces, of which “A Mown Lawn” is one. If you aren’t familiar with it, please read it, otherwise this blog might not make sense (see image below).
As some of our loyal readers might recall, my colleague Maria Moss has written several blogs on how to teach poetry, including “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost and Haikus. But I’m not like her. To be honest, I’m somewhat leery of the long faces students often make when they hear the word ‘poetry.’ Determined to give it a try, I prepared a lesson that would hopefully help my students appreciate Davis’s poem, engage with the topics, and think about language – the power of language, or should I say, the lack thereof? Anyway, here are my notes:
Off to class. Let’s see how it goes.
With this fifth blog, we are coming to the end or our series on digital teaching tools. We hope that you’ve been inspired by some of the American Studies links ranging from the heart-warming and hilarious antics of humans and animals to the more scholarly posts on Academic Earth.
Google Lit Trips
By Carolyn Blume
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain