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 Dr. Sebastian M. Herrmann 

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Dr. Sebastian M. Herrmann
Assistant Lecturer for American Studies
Room 3503 | Phone: (0341) 97-37337
Office Hours: by appointment



Born and raised in Freiburg im Breisgau, I moved to Leipzig in 1999 to study American Studies and Computer Science and was able to stay in the years after. Like many other American Studies students, I also studied abroad: In 2003/04 I did course work at the English Department of Cornell, Ithaca, USA. I graduated from Leipzig University in 2006 and completed my dissertation on Presidential Unrealities: Epistemic Panic, Cultural Work, and the US Presidency in 2012. I am now working on a project on early "data imaginaries" in the 19th century.


I teach American Studies Literature and Culture courses, both in the BA program, such as in the introductory LC-I and the advanced, topical LC-II and LC-III modules, and in the MA, mostly on media and society. In my teaching, I am especially interested in helping students discover the productivity and fascination of theory and its relevance for their own life.

I am also strongly interested in new and experimental teaching formats that help students develop their own scholarly interests, positions, and voice. Starting in 2007, I co-developed and taught an MA project seminar that resulted in the graduate journal aspeers: emerging voices in american studies, the first and currently only graduate-level peer-reviewed journal for American studies in Europe. The project has quickly become an integral part of ASL's MA program and annually gives a group of MA-level student editors the opportunity to practice one complete editing cycle of the journal and publish the work of fellow MA-students from all over Europe. In 2015, I started working on SHRIMP, a project that explores the didactic possibilities of social hypertext.


Broadly speaking, my research interests are organized around the politics of textuality, i.e. the cultural work of narrative (and non-narrative) symbolic forms. In my dissertation, I looked at how post-50s popular texts—novels, films, semi-fictional writing, and tv-series—use the US presidency to negotiate concerns over different forms of signification, concerns that are often expressed in a worry about 'realness.' My primary interest was how these texts become increasingly aware of tensions between what they tend to call 'fact' and 'fiction'—a tension between empirical and social reality, and how they thus tap into what might best be described as a post-modern 'epistemic panic.' Investigating Presidential Unrealities allowed me to look at both fictional and semi-fictional texts to scrutinize how they address and dramatize the tension between the elusiveness and the power of the executive. In my current project, I am interested in how 'data' emerged as a cultural object in the nineteenth century, in how a 'data imaginary' gained cultural salience, and in how far literature at the time can be read as negotiating early 'big data' shifts.

As part of this larger research interest, I have also coedited a volume on Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres and one on the Poetics of Politics, and I am also a founding member of the Dresden-Leipzig Research Initiative Selbst-Bewusste Erzählungen.

In addition, I am very much interested in the teaching of American studies, or teaching at the post-secondary level in general: The possibilities of eLearning and digital scholarship, the opportunities (and challenges) of the BA/MA system, as well as the social and political implications of the classroom setting, of the texts we read, the methods we employ, and the discussions we have.

Community Service

I work to intensify the interaction between the institute, the American Studies community, and the wider public through the American Studies Leipzig homepage.

As founding head editor of aspeers and head editor of number of issues, I have also worked to intensify the exchange among the community of MA-level American studies students across Europe, and I continue to do this as the president of the aspeers e.V. that supports the journal's work. I was a member of the PGF 2010 organizing team, and I am a founding member of the DGfA’s Digital American Studies Initiative.

Selected Publications, Papers, and Presentations

  • Workshop on "Big Data, Algorithms, and the Cultural Work of Surveillance Panic" at the Surveillance Cultures conference at the GCSC Gießen, 7. July 2017.
  • Panel “Play, Narrative, and American Modernities.” Workshop at the 2017 Annual DGfA/GAAS convention, Hannover, 9. June 2017.
  • “The 19th-Century US Data Imaginary.” Poster and presentation at the Herrenhausen Conference "Society through the Lens of the Digital," 30. May. 2017. Presentation.
  • Response and Discussion at "Salon Digital." 10. May 2017. <doi.org/10.5446/31127>. Presentation.
  • “(Re-)Politisierung? Zur Situation der Wissenschaft in den USA.” Address at the Leipzig "March for Science," 22. Apr. 2017. Presentation.
  • “Post-Fact Elections? Reality, Postmodernism, and the US Presidency.” Guest Lecture at the Regensburg European American Forum (REAF), 29. Nov 2016. Presentation.
  • “Politik als Wissensverwaltung: The West Wing und die epistemischen Mühen der amerikanischen Präsidentschaft.” Keynote zur Konferenz “Von Game of Thrones bis House of Cards: Politik in Fernsehserien,” Dresden, 29. Oct 2016. Presentation.
  • With Katja Kanzler and Stefan Schubert. “Historicization without Periodization: Post-Postmodernism and the Poetics of Politics” (modified version of the introduction to the edited volume Poetics of Politics, also available via DNB/Qucosa).
  • “Reading With an Index: Power's “Diagram and Statistical Record” and the Emerging Data Imaginary.” Presentation at the Workshop "American Media/Knowledge at the Turn of the 20th Century," Berlin, 13. July 2016. Presentation.
  • “Interactive Reading: Nineteenth-Century Databases as Narratively Liminal Symbolic Form.” Presentation at the 2016 ISSN Conference, Amsterdam, 16. June. 2016. Presentation.
  • "Voting Doesn't Count For a Goddamn Thing"? Inszenierungen der politischen Meinungsbildung im Film Swing Vote untersuchen. Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch 141 (2016): 40-46. Print.
  • “The Law as Algorithm: Legal Discourse and the Rhetoric of Data in Nineteenth-Century Abolitionism.” Presentation at the 2016 Annual DGfA/GAAS convention, Osnabrück, 21. May. 2016. Presentation.
  • “Early (Big) Data.” Presentation at the 2015 Regional Colloquium, Dresden, 16. Oct. 2015. Presentation.
  • “Imagining (Big) Data.” Fellow's Talk at the American Antiquarian Society. Worcester, MA. 23. Sep. 2015. Presentation.
  • “Wrestling with the Real: Politics, Journalism, History in Frost/Nixon, and the Complex Realism of Kayfabe.” Amerikastudien – American Studies 61.1 (2016): 11-31. Print.
  • “Theorizing Popular Culture.” Guest Lecture in the Lecture Series “Popular Culture and the Canon.” Leipzig. 29 April 2015. Presentation.
  • “What is Popular Culture?” Guest Lecture in the Lecture Series “Popular Culture and the Canon.” Leipzig. 22 April 2015. Presentation.
  • “‘How Is It Possible that this Was Kept a Secret?’: Representation, Realism, and ‘Epistemic Panic’ in The West Wing.” Amerikanische Fernsehserien der Gegenwart: Perspektiven der American Studies und der Media Studies. Ed. Heike Paul and Christoph Ernst. Bielefeld: transcript, 2015. 225-48. Print.
  • “‘To Tell a Story to the American People:’ Elections, Postmodernism, and Popular Narratology.” Electoral Cultures: American Democracy and Choice. Ed. Georgiana Banita and Sascha Pöhlmann. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015. 323-39. Print.
  • With Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, Stefan Schubert, and Frank Usbeck. Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015. Print. American Studies - A Monograph Series.
  • With Katja Kanzler and Stefan Schubert. “Introduction: The Poetics of Politics.” Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture.
  • “Foggy Realisms? Fiction, Nonfiction, and Political Affect in Larry Beinhart’s Fog Facts and The Librarian.” Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture.
  • Panel "Fandom and the Public Sphere: Textuality, Affect, and Social Relevance" and Introduction "Fan Citizens? Theorizing Affect and the Public Sphere." Annual Conference of the American Studies Association. Los Angeles, 6-9 Nov. 2014.
  • Presidential Unrealities: Epistemic Panic, Cultural Work, and the US Presidency. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. Print. American Studies - A Monograph Series.
  • "The Unpopular Profession? Graduate Studies in the Humanities and the Genre of the 'Thesis Hatement.'" Presentation at the conference Unpopular Culture, Munich 1 Nov. 2013.
  • "Narrating the 'Crisis of Representation': The Cultural Work of Conspiracy in Larry Beinhart’s Novels on the Bush Presidencies." Conspiracy Theories in the United States and the Middle East: A Comparative Approach. Ed by. Michael Butter and Maurus Reinkowski. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014. 179–93. Print. Linguae & Litterae.
  • "The Cultural Work of 'Presidential Unreality." Erlangen. 3. July 2013.
  • "Fog, Fact, Fiction: Narrative Blurring and Reality Effects in Larry Beinhart’s Fog Facts and The Librarian." Poetics of Politics. Leipzig, 20-22. June 2013. [video]
  • Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture. International Conference. Leipzig, 20-22. June 2013.
  • "Academic Publications, Editing, and Project-Driven Learning: A Talk With the Founding Head Editor of aspeers." Bremen. 5. June 2013.
  • "US Presidential Elections and Popular Narratology." Presentation at the conference Electoral Cultures: American Democracy and Choice. Munich. 3. Nov. 2012.
  • "Frosted Memories: The Remaking of History in Frost/Nixon." Presentation at the conference Remakes. TU Braunschweig. 30. Sep. 2012.
  • With Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, and Frank Usbeck: Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres: The Cultural Work of Contemporary American(ized) Narratives. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2012. Print.
  • With Katja Kanzler and Frank Usbeck: “Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres” in Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres. (cf. above). Print.
  • “Something New and Undefined” in Participating Audiences, Imagined Public Spheres. (cf. above). Print.
  • Workshop "Narrative, Audience, and Transnational Public Spheres." Jahrestagung der DGfA 2011. With Alice Hofmann, Katja Kanzler, and Frank Usbeck.
  • With  Carolin Betker, Stefan Ecke, Katharina Freitag, Christina Harms, Nadezhda N. Panchenko, Marianne Polkau, Bettina Schuster, and Christiane Vogel, eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 4 (2011).
  • "Crude Theories? Larry Beinhart's Novels on the Bush Presidencies as Narrativizations of the 'Crisis of Representation.'" Presentation at the FRIAS conference Conspiracy Theories in the Middle East and the United States, Freiburg (Brsg.). 15 Jan. 2011.
  • With Ines Krug, Andreas Mooser, Julia Neugebauer, Eleonora Ravizza, Stefan Schubert, Bailing Qin, Franziska Wenk, and Maria Zywietz, eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies  3 (2010).
  • "“Ruled By Fiction?” ‘Real’ Deception and Narrative Truth in Frank Rich’s The Greatest Story Ever Sold." copas 10 (2009). <http://www-copas.uni-regensburg.de/articles/issue_10/10_09_text_herrmann.php>.
  • With Tanja N. Aho, Ingrid Betz, Franziska Böhme, Susan Büttner, Benedikt M. Schäfer, Isabel M. J. Simão, eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies  2 (2009).
  • "Narrating Deceit." Presentation at the DGfA Post-Graduierten Forum on 2. October 2008.
  • With Heather Carmody, Alexandra Pitzing, Lisa Sylvia Schönmeier, Lars Weise, eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies  1 (2008).
  • With Anne Koenen, Katja Kanzler, Zoe A. Kusmierz, Leonard Schmieding, eds. Ambivalent Americanizations: Popular and Consumer Culture in Central and Eastern Europe. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008.
  • "A Plastic Modernity?" Ambivalent Americanizations: Popular and Consumer Culture in Central and Eastern Europe. (cf. above).
  • With Leonard Schmieding "Ambivalent Americanizations" Ambivalent Americanizations: Popular and Consumer Culture in Central and Eastern Europe. (cf. above).
  • With Leonard Schmieding. "Studierende lehren im Grundstudium." Studium ist Praxis: Argumente, Anstöße, Erfahrungen. Ed. Doris Flagmeyer. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2004. 95-115.

Awards, Distinctions, and Funds Acquired

  • Theodor-Litt-Preis für besonderes Engagement in der Lehre (following a recommendation by the Fachschaftsrats Anglistik/Amerikanistik). 2016.
  • Lehrpraxis im Transfer: "Social Hypertext Reader & Interactive Mapping." Summer Term 2016.
  • Christoph-Daniel-Ebeling Fellowship: Provided by the American Antiquarian Society and the German Association for American Studies (2015)
  • Laboruni Project on a "Social Hypertext Reader & Interactive Mapping Platform" (www.shrimpp.de) funded by the BMBF / StiL.
  • DAAD Travel Stipend (2014)
  • Fulbright Summer Institute in San Francisco (2007)
  • Grantee of a scholarship by the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst


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