Borderline Cases: The Frontiers in/of American Literature and Culture

„The European moderns are all trying to be extreme. The great Americans just were it“.
D.H. Lawrence

In his famous frontier thesis Frederick Jackson Turner argued that American democracy „came out of the American forest and gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier.“ Similarly, D. H. Lawrence was convinced that American literature too is constantly on the move, continuously advancing to new and more extreme areas.
In this seminar we want to trace the different American frontiers, both as geographical zones and mental states in which narratives get both rejuvenated but also put at risk. We will look at texts and films which are explicitly set at the borders of America but which, at the same time, seem also to tamper with the borders and limitations of their own medium.
Apart from the above mentioned Turner and Lawrence we will look at the way theorists like Gilles Deleuze and Richard Slotkin engage with the concept of the border. Among others we will discuss novels such as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym or Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian as well as the poems by Walt Whitman. Finally, we will also analyse the cinematic borderlands as depicted in Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, in the HBO-TV-Series DEADWOOD or the films LIMBO and LONE STAR by independent director John Sayles.



Borderline Cases: The Frontiers in/of American Literature and Culture

FS 2013 / Tuesday 10:15-12:00




* Frederick Jackson Turner.

“The Significance of the American Frontier”


*John G. Neihardt. Black Elk Speaks (Excerpts)


  1. *Introduction from Richard Slotkin. Gunfighter Nation.


Sam Peckinpah. The Wild Bunch


Cormac McCarthy. Blood Meridian


* D. H. Lawrence. Studies in Classic American Literature.

* Gilles Deleuze. “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature” from Dialogues (together with Claire Parnet).


Edgar Allan Poe. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket


* Walt Whitman. “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass + Prose Texts


HBO Series Deadwood. First Season


John Sayles. Lone Star


John Sayles. Limbo


*Norman Mailer. Of a Fire on the Moon / MoonFire (Excerpts)



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