American Studies

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The American is that philology , which deals with the language and literature of the United States of America is concerned.

The subject exists almost exclusively in Central Europe , where authors such as Friedrich Schlegel , Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm and Karl Lachmann theoretically founded the concept of philology in the 19th century. The followers of this school were convinced that they could not extract any real meaning from texts if they did not look primarily at the characters and words .

In other parts of the world, the philological idea has hardly found a following. In the English-speaking world, for example, language studies and literature are still separate disciplines. The word Americanistics does exist in English, but is only used to denote the philologically oriented Central European American studies.

Definition of terms

American Studies is to be distinguished from American Studies (German also: Amerikastudien , Amerikakunde ), which as an interdisciplinary cultural subject also deal with the history, politics, society and culture of the United States.

The University of Kiel offers a bachelor's degree in "English / North American Studies" and wants to use this neologism to express that in addition to British and American English, Canadian English is also taken into account. Usually that philology, which deals with the Canadian languages (v. A. English is Quebec French ) and the Canadian literature is concerned, but when Canadian Studies called.

History of American Studies

The word "American Studies " was created as an analogy to the names of older philologies, such as English , German and Romance studies, and can be traced back to the late 19th century.

However, American studies was only able to establish itself as a university subject late. In 1936 a chair for American studies was established for the first time at the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin. The professorship was filled with Friedrich Schönemann , a " fallen in March " and loyal follower of the NSDAP , who had completed his habilitation at the University of Münster in 1924 as the first German in the history of literature and culture in the USA. Like all Americanists of the time, Schönemann turned against the one-sided privileging of British English and English literature in German education. In addition, he also represented an integrative, international academic approach and advocated American studies that should use not only literary, but also historical, economic and social science methods, with the aim of a comprehensive cultural analysis of the USA. Schönemann then placed the criticism of the American values ​​of freedom and democracy at the center of his teaching. With his integrative approach, which boiled down to American Studies rather than American Studies in the narrow sense, he had already been an outsider in the 1920s and was unable to keep up with it beyond the end of the war.

Karl-Heinz Wirzberger (right; 1969)

The GDR made the new beginning of American studies after the Second World War . At the University of Leipzig there was an institute for English and American studies as early as the 1950s; In 1955, Karl-Heinz Schönfelder became head of the American Studies department , whose assistant Eberhard Brüning was appointed full professor of American studies at the same university in 1969. In 1960 Peter Genzel published a short bibliography for studying English and American studies . Georg Kartzke taught at the Humboldt University in Berlin and, after his death (1958) Karl-Heinz Wirzberger . In 1977 Horst Ihde followed as a full professor at the same university . Heinz Wüstenhagen taught at the University of Potsdam .

One of the pioneers of American studies in the Federal Republic of Germany is Hans-Joachim Lang , who from 1967 held one of the first chairs in this subject at the University of Erlangen . Klaus Lubbers , English professor at the University of Mainz , published a first introduction to the study of the subject in 1970.

Study opportunities

At German-speaking universities that offer American Studies, English and American Studies are often found under the same faculty, but sometimes there are separate institutes (for each of the two subjects) that work independently and only offer joint courses in the field of linguistics . Overlaps with Latin American Studies arise primarily with regard to Hispanics in the USA, for example in Chicano Studies .


In Germany, courses in American Studies are currently (2019) offered at the following universities:

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts (teacher training)
  • as English / American studies: Ruhr-Uni Bochum, Uni Erfurt, Uni Münster, Uni Wuppertal
  • as English / North American Studies: Uni Kiel
  • Master of Arts
  • as English / American studies: Ruhr-Uni Bochum, Uni Chemnitz, Uni Wuppertal
  • as English and American Literatures, Cultures, and Media: Uni Kiel
  • as English and American Studies / English and American Studies: Uni Kassel


In Austria , American studies courses are currently (2019) offered at the following universities:

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Master of Arts
  • as linguistics, major in English and American studies : University of Salzburg
  • as literary and cultural studies, focus on English and American studies : University of Salzburg
  • as English / American studies: University of Innsbruck, University of Klagenfurt
  • as Anglophone Literatures and Cultures : University of Vienna


In Switzerland there are currently (2019) no courses offered in American Studies.

Outside the German-speaking area

In the English-speaking area and generally outside of the German-speaking area, American Studies is almost without exception the only subject in which - among other things - both the language and the literature of the United States are dealt with.

Only a few universities outside of German-speaking countries offer courses in American Studies, including:

Career prospects

Graduates of American studies courses have career prospects, among other things, as English teachers, as teachers in adult education , as language lecturers , interpreters , translators , publishers , journalists and in research .

Eminent and well-known Americanists

Udo Hebel (2019)


  • Uwe Böker and Christoph Houswitschka (eds.): Introduction to the study of English and American studies , 2nd, revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 2007. ISBN 3-406-56670-7
  • Udo J. Hebel: Introduction to American Studies / American Studies (paperback), Stuttgart: Metzler, 2008, ISBN 3-476-02151-3
  • Ansgar Nünning, Andreas H. Jucker: Orientation English and American studies . Hamburg, 1999.
  • Frank-Rutger Hausmann : English and American Studies in the Third Reich . Frankfurt / Main 2003.
  • Rainer Schnoor (Ed.): American Studies in the GDR: History - Analyzes - Contemporary Witness Reports . trafo verlag, Berlin 1999.
  • Kermit Vanderbilt: American Literature and the Academy. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1986, ISBN 0-8122-1291-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: American studies  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Klaus Lubbers: Introduction to American Studies . Max Niemeyer, 1970, p. 1 .
  2. Uwe Wirth, Kai Bremer: The philological question: cultural-scientific perspectives on the theoretical history of philology. P. 9 , accessed October 4, 2019 .
  3. ^ Biographical Notes . In: Agehanada Bharati (ed.): The Realm of the Extra-Human. Volume 2: Ideas and Actions . De Gruyter / Mouton Publishers, The Hague, Paris 1976, ISBN 90-279-7759-3 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  4. ^ Klaus Lubbers: Introduction to American Studies . Max Niemeyer, 1970, p. 3 .
  5. ^ A b Udo J. Hebel: Introduction to American Studies / American Studies . JB Metzler, Stuttgart, Weimar 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02151-9 , pp. 1 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  6. English / North American Studies (two-subject master’s course). Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  7. ^ ZBS Stricker: Linguistics. Literary history. In: Friedrich Zarncke, Eduard Zarncke (ed.): Literarisches Centralblatt für Deutschland . tape 32 . Eduard Avenarius, Leipzig 1881, p. 27 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  8. ^ A b Phillip Gassert: Before the DGfA: German America Research between the First World War and the early Federal Republic . In: Michael Dreyer, Markus Kaim, Markus Lang (eds.): America research in Germany: Topics and institutions of political science after 1945 . Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-515-08466-5 , pp. 29 f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  9. ^ Karl-Heinz Füssl: German-American cultural exchange in the 20th century: Education - Science - Politics . Campus, Frankfurt, New York 2004, ISBN 3-593-37499-4 , pp. 97 f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  10. ^ Brüning, Eberhard. Retrieved October 3, 2019 .
  11. Peter Genzel: Short bibliography for studying English and American studies . M. Niemeyer, Halle / Saale 1960.
  12. ^ Klaus Lubbers: Introduction to American Studies . Max Niemeyer, 1970.
  13. English and American studies studies. Retrieved October 3, 2019 .
  14. Study English and American Studies / English Bachelor. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  15. Master's programs with keyword American studies. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  16. Bachelor courses with keyword American studies. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  17. Master's programs with keyword American studies. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  18. Netherlands: American Studies - Study in the Netherlands. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  19. Find Bachelor of Arts Programs in American Studies in Europe 2019/2020. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .
  20. American Studies - Studies in the Netherlands. Retrieved October 4, 2019 .