Sascha Pöhlmann's monographs and edited volumes

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Vote with a Bullet: Assassination in American Fiction

Stadt und Straße: Anfangsorte in der amerikanischen Literatur

Future-Founding Poetry: Topographies of Beginnings from Whitman to the Twenty-First Century

Pynchon's Postnational Imagination


Playing the Field: Video Games and American Studies

Unpopular Culture

America and the Musical Unconscious

Electoral Cultures

Gründungsorte der Moderne: Von St. Petersburg bis Occupy Wall Street

Revolutionary Leaves: The Fiction of Mark Z. Danielewski

Against the Grain: Reading Pynchon's Counternarratives



Vote with a Bullet: Assassination in American Fiction. Camden House, 2021. 

Vote with a Bullet is the first systematic study of assassination in American fiction. It proffers not only a fundamental overview of the genre but also an argument about its larger cultural, aesthetic, and political significance in the present moment as well as in the respective historical contexts of the works themselves.
The study argues that American assassination fiction is a symbolic condensation of the larger conflict between individual and society that is at the heart of modern democracy, and that has been especially contested in the democratic culture of the US. Starting with Henry James's The Princess Casamassima (1886) and ending with Noah Hawley's The Good Father (2012), the chapters analyze twelve works ranging from canonical classics to popular genre fiction. A conclusion considers Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (2006). The book describes the loose continuum of assassination fiction as an imaginary laboratory in which fantasies of individual empowerment and social unity play out in different ways, negotiating the tension between individualism and mass society in a democracy that is based on the former but must restrict it to preserve the latter. Furthermore, the study connects the imaginary of assassination with a variety of related themes such as hegemonic masculinity and whiteness, electoral and non-electoral political choice, agency panic, subjectivity, as well as conspiracies and conspiracy theory.



Stadt und Strasse

Stadt und Straße: Anfangsorte in der amerikanischen Literatur. transcript, 2018. 

Stadt und Straße – wie und warum werden gerade diese Orte oft zu außergewöhnlichen literarischen Anfangsorten gemacht? Sascha Pöhlmann wendet sich in doppelter Absicht an ein Publikum, das sich für US-amerikanische Literatur (etwa von Walt Whitman, Don DeLillo, Jack Kerouac oder Kathy Acker) interessiert, aber nicht den akademischen Fachdiskurs verfolgt. Erstens will er dieser Leserschaft ein Konzept nahebringen, das zentral für die amerikanische Kulturgeschichte ist: nämlich die Idee des Anfangs. Zweitens will er dadurch eine neue Perspektive auf bekannte Klassiker der amerikanischen Prosa eröffnen und zugleich weniger bekannte, aber nicht minder bedeutsame Texte erschließen.



Future-Founding Poetry

Future-Founding Poetry: Topographies of Beginnings from Whitman to the Twenty-First Century. Camden House, 2015.

Although issues of futurity have become more and more central to literary and cultural studies in recent years, especially in environmental criticism, no scholarly work has yet addressed the topic of beginnings in American poetry in sufficient scope or detail or with adequate theoretical background. This book is a study of how beginnings are made in American poetry. It borrows Walt Whitman’s term “future-founding” to establish a theory of poetic beginnings that asks how poetry relates to notions of the future and how it imagines, constructs, and influences this future in the present. Furthermore, it seeks to change the way literary scholars think about futurity with regard to American poetry: they most often conceive of it in terms of newness alone, yet a deeper theorization of beginnings must open up new ways of understanding the complexities of this relation. With chapters on Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser, Allen Ginsberg, and future-founding poetry after 9/11, this book explains how American poetry makes its beginnings, with what means and to which political and aesthetic ends, and how it addresses fundamental questions about the nature of futurity itself.



Pynchon s Postnational Imagination

Pynchon's Postnational Imagination. Winter, 2010.

Pynchon’s Postnational Imagination is the first monograph to critically analyze Thomas Pynchon’s novels with regard to issues of nations, nationality, national identity, nationalism, and the very idea of the national: nation-ness. It argues that Pynchon’s fiction can best be conceptualized as postnational, that is, as working towards dismantling the hegemony of nation-ness as a metanarrative. The study seeks to establish a critical theory of postnationalism that helps conceptualize this complex literary practice. It combines established theories of nation-ness with recent attempts to think beyond the nation, drawing on the ideas of Renan, Gellner and Anderson as well as Habermas, Albrow, Appadurai, and Hardt and Negri in order to offer a viable postnational theory that is as pertinent to literary studies as to other fields. It presents various postnational strategies, most notably that of parageography, to show in detailed critical readings of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) and Mason & Dixon (1997) that Pynchon’s novels both exemplify and describe a postnational imagination.


Edited and co-edited volumes


Playing the Field

Playing the Field: Video Games and American Studies. De Gruyter, 2019. (Paperback, 2021)

American Studies has only gradually turned its attention to video games in the twenty-first century, even though the medium has grown into a cultural industry that is arguably the most important force in American and global popular culture today. There is an urgent need for a substantial theoretical reflection on how the field and its object of study relate to each other. This anthology, the first of its kind, seeks to address this need by asking a dialectic question: first, how may American Studies apply its highly diverse theoretical and methodological tools to the analysis of video games, and second, how are these theories and methods in turn affected by the games? The eighteen essays offer exemplary approaches to video games from the perspective of American cultural and historical studies as they consider a broad variety of topics: the US-American games industry, Puritan rhetoric, cultural geography, mobility and race, urbanity and space, digital sports, ludic textuality, survival horror and the eighteenth-century novel, gamer culture and neoliberalism, terrorism and agency, algorithm culture, glitches, theme parks, historical guilt, visual art, sonic meaning-making, and nonverbal gameplay.

Contributions by Jon Adams, Nathalie Aghoro, Alexandra Ileana Bacalu, Jacqueline Blank, David Callahan, Sebastian Domsch, Manuel Franz, Michael Fuchs, Henning Jansen, Veronika Keller, Martin Lüthe, Patricia Maier, Dietmar Meinel, Sabrina Mittermeier, Andrei Nae, Michael Phillips, Sascha Pöhlmann, Damien B. Schlarb, Stefan Schubert, Doug Stark, Stefan Rabitsch, and Mark J. P. Wolf.

See for the larger collaborative research project, other publications and future conferences.



Unpopular Culture

Unpopular Culture. Amsterdam University Press, 2016. (with Martin Lüthe)

This collection includes eighteen essays that introduce the concept of unpopular culture and explore its critical possibilities and ramifications from a large variety of perspectives. Proposing a third term that operates beyond the dichotomy of high culture and mass culture and yet offers a fresh approach to both, these essays address a multitude of different topics that can all be classified as unpopular culture. From David Foster Wallace and Ernest Hemingway to Zane Grey, from Christian Rock and Country to Black Metal, from Steven Seagal to Genesis (Breyer) P-Orridge, from K-pop to The Real Housewives, from natural disasters to 9/11, from thesis hatements to professional sports, these essays find the unpopular across media and genres, and they analyze the politics and the aesthetics of an unpopular culture (and the unpopular in culture) that has not been duly recognized as such by the theories and methods of cultural studies. Download the introduction here.



America and the Musical Unconscious

America and the Musical Unconscious. Atropos Press, 2015. (with Julius Greve)

Music occupies a peculiar role in the field of American Studies. It is undoubtedly recognized as an important form of cultural production, yet the field continues to privilege textual and visual forms of art as its objects of examination. The essays collected in this volume seek to adjust this imbalance by placing music center stage while still acknowledging its connections to the fields of literary and visual studies that engage with the specifically American cultural landscape. In doing so, they proffer the concept of the ‘musical unconscious’ as an analytical tool of understanding the complexities of the musical production of meanings in various social, political, and technological contexts, in reference to country, queer punk, jazz, pop, black metal, film music, blues, carnival music, Muzak, hip-hop, experimental electronic music, protest and campaign songs, minimal music, and of course the kazoo. Download the book here.

With contributions by Hanjo Berressem, Christian Broecking, Martin Butler, Christof Decker, Mario Dunkel, Benedikt Feiten, Paola Ferrero, Jürgen Grandt, Julius Greve, Christian Hänggi, Jan Niklas Jansen, Thoren Opitz, Sascha Pöhlmann, Arthur Sabatini, Christian Schmidt, Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank, Gunter Süß, and Katharina Wiedlack.



Electoral Cultures

Electoral Cultures: American Democracy and Choice. Winter, 2015. (with Georgiana Banita)

Presidential elections are essential to US culture, shaping the nation’s stability and global influence. This volume is the first to establish an interdisciplinary platform for a broad investigation of election mechanics and legacies. Historians, political scientists, literary scholars, and cultural theorists shed light on the narratives of election successes and failures. Beginning with the struggle for voting rights and extending to current representations of candidates and campaigns, Electoral Cultures examines elections as complex cultural phenomena. Analyzing political processes and personalities from Lincoln to Obama, the chapters query assumptions about democracy in the United States. The resulting survey significantly alters how we perceive the paradoxical American ideals of equality, individualism, and authenticity. In its sweeping scope and rich detail, the book opens up an incisive new scholarly field concerned with US political culture and its place in the world today.



Gruendungsorte der Moderne

Gründungsorte der Moderne: Von St. Petersburg bis Occupy Wall Street. Wilhelm Fink, 2014. (with Maha El Hissy)

Was ist ein Gründungsort? Wie werden solche Orte gemacht und gepflegt? Was für Geschichten werden mit ihnen erzählbar und für wen? Welche Widerstände oder Widersprüche fordern sie heraus? Der Band präsentiert die Ergebnisse des internationalen Abschlusssymposiums der Forschergruppe »Anfänge (in) der Moderne« an der LMU München. Die Beiträge befassen sich mit fiktiven wie realen Gründungsorten des 19. bis 21. Jahrhunderts. Ob St. Petersburg, Jerusalem, Washington/D.C. und Florenz oder die Künstlerkolonien in der Bretagne, die Inseln der Südsee und die Occupy-Camps oder aber auch Tlön, Wolkenkuckucksheim und der literarische Spaziergang – die Anfänge sind so vielfältig wie die Orte, an denen sie stattfinden. Die Autoren betrachten diese gemeinsame Konstruktion von Anfang und Ort in verschiedenen Medien in Hinblick auf ihre symbolische, politische, historische, kulturelle und ästhetische Bedeutung.



Revolutionary Leaves

Revolutionary Leaves: The Fiction of Mark Z. Danielewski. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Mark Z. Danielewski is routinely hailed as the most exciting author in contemporary American literature, and he is celebrated by critics and fans alike. Revolutionary Leaves collects essays that have come out of the first academic conference on Danielewski’s fiction that took place in Munich in 2011, which brought together younger and established scholars to discuss his works from a variety of perspectives. Addressing his major works House of Leaves (2000) and Only Revolutions (2006), the texts are as multifaceted as the novels they analyze, and they incorporate ideas of (post)structuralism, modernism, post- and post-postmodernism, philosophy, Marxism, reader-response criticism, mathematics and physics, politics, media studies, science fiction, gothic horror, poetic theory, history, architecture, mythology, and more. Download the book here.

With contributions by Nathalie Aghoro, Ridvan Askin, Hanjo Berressem, Aleksandra Bida, Brianne Bilsky, Joe Bray, Alison Gibbons, Julius Greve, Sebastian Huber, Sascha Pöhlmann, and Hans-Peter Söder.



Against the Grain: Reading Pynchon’s Counternarratives. Rodopi, 2010.

Against the Grain: Reading Pynchon’s Counternarratives is the first book that critically addresses Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day, published in 2006. The nineteen essays collected in this volume employ a large variety of approaches to this massive novel and also take it as an opportunity to reevaluate Pynchon’s earlier works, analyzing Against the Day in relation to V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Vineland, Mason & Dixon, as well as Pynchon’s short stories and essays. The authors—younger and established scholars from eleven countries—address these works with regard to issues of modernism and postmodernism, politics, popular culture, concepts of space and time, visuality, sexuality, identity, media and communication, philosophy, religion, American and global (literary) history, physics, mathematics, economics, and many more. Their insights are as profound as they are diverse, and all provide fresh views on Pynchon’s fiction that will be useful, fascinating and entertaining for researchers and fans alike. Download the introduction here.

This volume includes essays by Hanjo Berressem, Ali Chetwynd, William D. Clarke, Francisco Collado-Rodríguez, Inger H. Dalsgaard, Simon de Bourcier, Lovorka Gruić Grmuša, Leyla Haferkamp, Michael Harris, Heinz Ickstadt, Jessica Lawson, Clément Lévy, Georgios Maragos, Manlio Della Marca, Keith O’Neill, Sascha Pöhlmann, Toon Staes, Rodney Taveira, and Celia Wallhead.

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