For most students, exposure to the English language is largely restricted to the chalky classroom and – outside the classroom – to watching movies or series in English. Yet there’s so much more to work with – just think of the digital world and its potential. Have you heard of the rather political “Pod Save America” or “S-Town” with its Southern Gothic story? The list of podcasts is sheer endless. So why not jump on the podcast train and use it for didactic purposes? You wonder how? Alright, let me give you an idea:
“Our story is about a town. A small town. And the people who live in that town” are the first words we hear on Riverdale (2017 – present). These words are spoken by a narrator who turns out to be a seventeen-year-old boy – with a beanie that looks sort of like a crown – sitting in a diner booth, typing away at his novel in the works.
His name is Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), and the people living in the small town of Riverdale are Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), who’s torn between being a high school jock and a sensitive musician; the good girl Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) as well as rich rebel Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). And, of course, all their friends, enemies, frenemies, and parents.
These names may or may not ring a bell because Riverdale and its ensemble of characters are based on the Archie Comics, which have been published since 1942 and have reached iconic fame in the USA. Since then, the characters have appeared in several shapes and forms, even as a virtual band called “The Archies” with their most popular hit song “Sugar, Sugar” from 1969. Read more
On Friday, October 16, our group of five – two master students, three bachelor students, and I – set out from the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Oldenburg for a four-day excursion to the ecological field station of the University of Potsdam in Gülpe. This small village is located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Potsdam, or circa 85 kilometers northwest of Berlin, along the eastern border of the Nature Park and Dark Sky Preserve Westhavelland. Here, we wanted to study, debate, and directly experience darkness in an area that still afforded a phenomenon that is increasingly lost to our brightly illuminated European continent: dark night skies. The plan for this long weekend was to have the afternoons set aside for text discussions and to venture out into the dark after the moon had set. The mornings were free to either recover from our nocturnal activities or to explore the wetlands of our immediate surroundings.
Included in our considerable amount of luggage – the ecological field station requires self-catering – were three seminal texts for our ecocritical studies of darkness: Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (2005); Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (2013); and the chapter entitled “Ridge” from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (2007). Although the titles of the first two books express a sense of loss and therefore suggest a yearning for an earlier, better, more “natural” life, Louv and Bogard both investigate the Anthropocene with an attitude that combines curiosity, fascination, and pragmatism rather than regression, nostalgia, and moralizing. Read more
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
The bright blue letters appear on the big black screen. Reverent silence fills the movie theater. Maybe you’ll hear the sound of cheering somewhere in the back, but mostly you can feel the tense thrill of anticipation. After two years of waiting, STAR WARS – THE LAST JEDI, the eighth episode of the most beloved sci-fi fairy tale of all time and the second movie of the new trilogy, is only seconds away … Read more
In 2017, just five years after a Minnesota art exhibition marked the 150th anniversary of the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota Sioux men at Mankato, that grisly event drew new public attention. Well-known multi-media artist Sam Durant – whose installations often focus on events from American history – erected his latest work, a two-story wood-and-metal sculpture entitled Scaffold, in the garden of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis.
On October 28, the Hallmark Channel launched its annual “Countdown to Christmas.” During the eight weeks before Christmas, the channel will broadcast 21 original movies that are all about Christmas and the spirit of the holidays. Established in 2001, the Hallmark Channel is a subsidiary of the company that has provided many Americans with sappy greeting cards for all occasions. The Christmas movies continue with the company’s tradition of kitsch, especially romantic kitsch, as shown in not-so-subtle titles, such as A December Bride (2016), My Christmas Love (2016), or Marry Me at Christmas (2017). Christmas, it seems, is not primarily about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ – or, like in my family, food – but about finding love in the midst of snowy landscapes, hot cocoa, and conveniently hung mistletoes.