Archive for March, 2009

Mar 07 2009

Obama "Speaking in Tounges"

“Aren’t there by now enough articles on Obama’s rhetoric, the way he uses language and his politics on this blog?” you might wonder. Well… the answer is no – at least this one is clearly missing. It’s missing, because in her very rich paper “Speaking in Tounges“, British novilist Zadie Smith takes a very different approach to looking at the new President’s rhetoric than any of the articles so far. She takes a writer’s perspective, draws parallels to Shakespeare but also thinks about the role of race in language and discusses Mr. Obama’s ability to speak in different registers. There are too many noteworthy thoughts to quote them all, but here are two brief extracts:
Smith finds that Obama presents an astounding variety of people in his book Dreams from My Father:

Obama can do young Jewish male, black old lady from the South Side, white woman from Kansas, Kenyan elders, white Harvard nerds, black Columbia nerds, activist women, churchmen, security guards, bank tellers, and even a British man called Mr. Wilkerson [...].

Concering the use of pronouns in his speeches, she argues that

[Dream City is] the kind of town where the wise man says “I” cautiously, because “I” feels like too straight and singular a phoneme to represent the true multiplicity of his experience. Instead, citizens of Dream City prefer to use the collective pronoun “we.” Throughout his campaign Obama was careful always to say we. He was noticeably wary of “I.”  By speaking so, he wasn’t simply avoiding a singularity he didn’t feel, he was also drawing us in with him. He had the audacity to suggest that, even if you can’t see it stamped on their faces, most people come from Dream City, too. Most of us have complicated back stories, messy histories, multiple narratives.

Interestingly, George Lakoff offers, although coming from a completely different direction, somewhat similar insights into Obama’s language: both scholars emphasize the importance of empathy.

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Mar 06 2009

'Gran Torino' Now Playing

In his new movie, which he also directed, Clint Eastwood plays an aging, conservative Korean-war veteran with nationalist and racist tendencies. To his discomfort the neighborhood that he lived in basically all his live is changing and a lot of immigrants are his neighbors now. However, when the son of one of these unwanted neighbors unsuccessfully tries to steal his 1972 Gran Torino and is subsequnetly forced by his family to work off the damage he caused around the protagonist’s house, the old man starts to see things a little differently and also begins to reflect more on his own life.

The movie touches upon many issues present in American Studies, especially many themes that can be found in Asian American literature can be recognized.

Gran Torino is on at the Cinema Arthouse in Osnabrück now, the original English version will be screened this weekend.

Check out the movie on the IMDB, log on to the official website and take a look at the trailer (although, at least to me, the movie is way more sensitive than the trailer can make you believe).

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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Mar 01 2009

March –


The website, set up by the Academy of American Poets, provides us with a huge collection of poems, poet-biographies, audio-clips of poems, essays, interviews and other material on poetry. It also features a section ‘For Educators’ that provides teachers with resources on poetry. is a very rich resource, check it out!
The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 to support American poets and to enhance appreciation of contemporary poetry.

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