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Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
The seeds of the American Studies Journal were sown in 1960 when a small publication of twenty mimeographed and stapled pages containing news and articles about the U.S. was distributed to English teachers in the state of Baden-Württemberg by the Cultural Affairs Unit of the United States Information Service (USIS) in Stuttgart (the full history is available here).
The Journal now provides a forum for intellectual debate about social, cultural, and political life in the United States. Its goal is to present challenging research in the humanities to global academic and non-academic audiences. The site is made up of three elements: the American Studies Journal, a thematically-focused scholarly journal; ASJ Occasional Papers, a web space for those subjects that don’t fit into the thematically-focused issues of the Journal, and an American Studies Blog, with observations and comments about present-day U.S. society and culture.
Each issue of the Journal consists of articles written around a central theme. For example, the most recent issue available at the time of this review, Number 58 (2014), is titled, New Ways of Teaching English. It discusses the U.S. Embassy School Election Project, a teaching project in which 1,400 German EFL students in over 100 courses across Germany participated in an interactive project to predict the outcome of the American Presidential election. The issue includes an Introduction outlining the project and the articles: “What We Can Learn About America from the 2012 Presidential Election,” “Political Cartoons in the EFL and American Studies Classroom,” “Web 2.0 Tasks in Action: EFL Learning in the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012,” “Racing to Reform in the United States and Germany,” and “Results from the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012.” All are targeted at German secondary school EFL educators, but will be of interest to a much broader audience, as well, that being anyone wanting to experience American culture from a non-American perspective.
The ASJ Occasional Papers include such standalone articles as, “The American Century and its Evangelical Christian Fiction Legacy,” “Western History as (Post-) Colonial Studies?,” “’Making America’: On A New Literary History of America,” and “The Peculiarities of American Culture,” all concentrated on different aspects of American history, society, and culture. These will be of interest and accessible to academics and general readers alike.
The American Studies Blog is dynamic and fresh, with frequent posts in such categories as Access America (Popular Culture, History, and Current Events), Best Books & Fabulous Films (Reviews and More), Creativity Corner (All About the Arts), and Teaching Tools (Tips, Tricks, and Tools of the Trade). Sample posts include: “Various Varieties: How to Teach English Accents” (a Teaching Tools post), “Is Serial Over? A New Phenomenon on Public Radio” (an Access America post), “The Ultimate Christmas Movie Playlist” (a Best Books & Fabulous Films post), and “An Early Halloween Treat – Patricia Briggs at Leuphana” (a Creativity Corner post). Posters are the young and the seasoned, academic and non, journalists and teachers. It’s a great blog that addresses both the familiar and the quirky in American culture from a wide variety of viewpoints.
This journal, and this site, should be on the main screen of every educator’s experience. Tell one and tell all about it – it’s good, substantial, entertaining, and informative.