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 Sophie Spieler 

 

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Dr. Sophie Spieler
Assistant Lecturer for American Studies
Room 3503 | Phone: (0341) 97-37337
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 12-1 pm (Summer Term 2019)

http://americanstudies.uni-leipzig.de/faculty/spieler
sophie.spieler@uni-leipzig.de
 

Bio

Born in Kiel; studied German, English, and American Studies in Greifswald, Dresden, and Fairfield, CT (2006-2012). Doctoral studies at the Graduate School of the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies (2013-2017, title of dissertation: “The Wealthy, the Brilliant, the Few: The Discourse of Elite Education in 21st-Century America”).

Teaching

At ASL, I teach classes on American literature and culture in both the BA and the MA programs. I have previously taught a number of topical classes on gender and recreation, fun in the nineteenth century, elite education, and popular culture. It’s important to me to create an open and supportive atmosphere that encourages critical thinking and productive dialogue.

Research

My research interests can be divided into three main groups. The first developed while I was a student at TU Dresden and Fairfield University and revolves around Edith Wharton, feminist theory, and the construction and performance of gendered identities. My final thesis (Examensarbeit)—“‘Mrs. Wharton Struggles With Masculinity’? Ambivalent Masculinities in Summer and Ethan Frome”—was published in 2015 in Constructions of the Gendered Self Across the Media, a volume I co-edited with Ulrike Kohn and Wieland Schwanebeck. I also published a feminist reading of the Twilight series, “Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series and the Post(-)ing of Feminism,” in the 2012 edition of Aspeers: Emerging Voices in American Studies.

The second main focus of my research developed during my time as a doctoral student at the graduate school of the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, and revolves around the keywords eliteness, (in)equality, class, education, the campus, and semiotics. In addition to writing my dissertation I published a number of articles on the topics mentioned above: a discussion of eliteness and deception in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities (“Die Elite im Fegefeuer der Eitelkeiten: Lüge und Täuschung als die großen Gleichmacher?”); an article on the contemporary campus novel (“Between Meritocracy and the Old Boy Network: Elite Education in Contemporary American Literature”); an in-depth reading of the political potentials of Rich Kids of Instagram (“‘Our Everyday is Better Than Your Best Day’: Spectacle and the Politics of Ambiguity on the Tumblr Blog Rich Kids of Instagram,”); and two articles on one of the first American campus novels, Owen Johnson’s Stover at Yale (1911): “The Contingency of Knowledge: Stover at Yale and the Debate on US Elite Education” and “No Longer the ‘Text-Book’ of any Generation: Stover at Yale and the Non-Canonical.”

The third research interest is the one I am developing now in the context of my new project: Fun in Postbellum American Culture. This is still very much in an exploratory phase, but broadly speaking I am interested in the emergence of a culture of ‘fun’ during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and specifically within the context of the advent of industrial capitalism, increasing immigration, and a burgeoning mass culture.

Conference Papers

  • 11/2016 Balancing the Scales: The United States in an Age of Inequality, FU Berlin    
    • Paper (with Katharina Metz): “Inequality and Women’s Higher Education: Wellesley  College in Historical Perspective.”
  • 10/2016 Im/Possibility: On the Production, Distribution, and Articulation of the Possible and Impossible, Universität Kiel                                                                           
    • Paper: “‘Anything Could Happen at Harvard’: The Excess of the Possible in the Self- Dramatization of US Elite Universities.”
  • 04/2016 Regional Colloquium for American Studies, Halle                                       
    • Paper: “The Brilliant, the Wealthy, the Few: The Contemporary Discourse of Elite  Education in the United States.”
  • 06/2015 Knowledge Landscapes North America GAAS Annual Conference, Universität Bonn                                                                                                                
    • Paper: “‘Men of Brains, of Courage, of Leadership’? A Discursive Re-Reading of Owen  Johnson’s Stover at Yale.”
  • 06/2014 Futures of American Studies Summer Institute, Dartmouth College             
    • Paper: “Different From You and Me: Theorizing and Historicizing the American Elite(s).”
  • 04/2014 Created Equal? The Irish Association for American Studies Annual Conference, NUI Galway                                                                                                       
    • Paper: “The Chosen and Their Gatekeepers: Elite Education in Contemporary American  Literature.”
  • 11/2013 1. Dresdner Nachwuchskolloquium Geschlechterforschung, TU Dresden      
    • Paper: “‘Mrs. Wharton Struggles With Masculinity’? Ambivalente Maskulinitäten in Edith  Whartons Summer und Ethan Frome.”
  • 10/2013 Postgraduate Forum of the German Association for American Studies, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg                                                                                     
    • Paper: “Between Meritocracy and the Old Boy Network: Elite Education in Contemporary  American Literature.”
  • 06/2013 Screening Class: Precarious Visions and American Studies, Universität Freiburg 
    • Paper: “Serializing Spectacle: Visualizations of Elite Distinction in Gossip Girl and Rich Kids  of Instagram.”
  • 06/2013 Lüge – Täuschung – Hochstapelei: Eine interdisziplinäre Tagung der Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, TU Dresden                                                
    • Paper: “Die Elite im ‘Fegefeuer der Eitelkeiten’: Lüge und Täuschung als die großen  Gleichmacher?”
  • 09/2012 CAROLS Making Memories Conference 2012, Universität Oldenburg          
    • Paper: “Children of the American Revolution? Collective Memory in American Elite  Culture.”
  • 06/2012 Edith Wharton in Florence: A Sesquicentennial Conference 2012, Florence  
    • Paper: “‘Mrs. Wharton struggles with Masculinity’? Symbolic Spaces and Ambivalent  Masculinities in Summer and Ethan Frome.

Publications

  • 03/2017 “No Longer the ‘Text-Book’ of any Generation: Stover at Yale and the Non-Canonical.” Reading the Canon: Literary History in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Philipp Löffler. Heidelberg: Winter, 2017. 387-403.
  • 08/2016 “The Contingency of Knowledge: Stover at Yale and the Debate on US Elite Education.” Knowledge Landscapes North America. Eds. Christian Kloeckner, Simone Knewitz, and Sabine Sielke. Heidelberg: Winter, 2016. 119-137.
  • 05/2015 “Mrs. Wharton Struggles With Masculinity? Zur Konstruktion von Männlichkeit(en) in ausgewählten Werken Edith Whartons.” GenderGraduateProjects I: Geschlecht, Fürsorge, Risiko. Ed. Stefan Horlacher et al. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2015. 137-155.
  • 04/2015 “‘Our Everyday is Better Than Your Best Day’: Spectacle and the Politics of Ambiguity on the Tumblr Blog Rich Kids of Instagram.” The Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Eds. Sebastian Hermann et al. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015, 291-311.
  • 01/2015 “‘Mrs. Wharton Struggles With Masculinity’? Ambivalent Masculinities in Summer and Ethan Frome.” Constructions of the Gendered Self Across the Media. Ed. with Ulrike Kohn and Wieland Schwanebeck. Leipzig: Universitätsverlag, 2015. 15-85.
  • 09/2014 “Die Elite im Fegefeuer der Eitelkeiten: Lüge und Täuschung als die großen Gleichmacher?” Über die Hochstapelei: Perspektiven auf eine kulturelle Praxis. Ed. Wieland Schwanebeck. Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, 2014. 43-61.
  • 06/2014 “Between Meritocracy and the Old Boy Network: Elite Education in Contemporary American Literature.” Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies 15 (2014).
  • 04/2012 “Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series and the Post(-)ing of Feminism.” Aspeers 5 (2012): 119-144.

Awards and Fellowships

  • 2017/2018 Dahlem Research School HONORS Fellowship
  • Fall 2015 BCGS Scholarship at Princeton University
  • 06/2014 GSNAS Grant for the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth College
  • 12/2012 Victor-Klemperer-Certificate for Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 03/2010 DiMenna Nyselius Library Research Prize for Outstanding Graduate Research, Fairfield University
  • 2009/2010 Fulbright Fellowship

 

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