American Exceptionalism states that the United States are a unique and exemplary country in terms of democracy and personal liberty. However, the paradox lies in the strong undercurrent eschatological anxieties (anxieties in biblical literature) that are also involved in the matter. The lecture will look into this paradox, starting with the religious sermons of the Puritan settlers in the seventeenth century, that tied the success of their colonies to a rhetoric of destruction and chaos.
The significance of apocalyptic thinking in the cultural history of the United States was still very much evident in the political imagery of the Trump administration and continues to shape public discourses surrounding the global pandemic. Along the way we will pay special attention to various pop-cultural iterations of the American Jeremiad in song lyrics, zombie movies, and post-apocalyptic video games like The Last of Us in order to explore how American culture has frequently interpreted the end of the world as a regenerative and economic possibility.
About the Lecturer
Dr. Jan Kucharzewski held positions as an assistant and associate professor for American Studies at the universities of Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Mannheim. He received his PhD at the University of Düsseldorf for a thesis on the relationship between literature and science, focusing on the works of the contemporary American novelist Richard Powers. The dissertation was awarded with a publication grant by the German Research Foundation. His current research project examines the connection between masculinity, liminality, and exceptionalist ideologies in American film and literature from 1800 to the present.