“They looked German, albeit with even tighter pants and uglier shoes, but there was something different about them”: The Function of East and West Germany and the Fall of the Berlin Wall in Paul Beatty’s Slumberland


  • Elisa Schweinfurth




The essay examines Paul Beatty’s novel Slumberland“ (2008) as representative for a still neglected field of American literary expression: American literary representations of Germany after 1989 which address issues of Germany’s former division into East and West, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and German reunification. It argues that the function of the German setting is not used to affirm a U.S. American identity through the othering of Germany but that it critically addresses controversial issues in the United States through the use of displacement.

Author Biography

Elisa Schweinfurth

Elisa Schweinfurth studied at the Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB), majoring in British/American Studies and Media Studies. She received her M.A. with honors in 2008 with a thesis on contemporary African American science fiction (title: “‘My Tormentors Were My Own People. They Were Human’: Race, Aliens, and the U.S. Government in Contemporary African American Science Fiction“). From June 2002 to July 2003, she spent a year abroad in Berkeley, California. Since 2007, she has worked as a research assistant at the Chair for American Studies at the RUB, teaching courses on Critical Whiteness Studies and Poor Whites, Cultural Studies, Urban Studies, and the Black Liberation Movement. Her research interests are African American Literature and Culture, Critical Race Theory & Critical Whiteness Studies, Cultural Studies, and transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States. Since 2009, she has been working on her PhD project entitled “Germany in the American Imagination after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.“


How to Cite

Schweinfurth, Elisa. “‘They Looked German, Albeit With Even Tighter Pants and Uglier Shoes, But There Was Something Different about them’: The Function of East and West Germany and the Fall of the Berlin Wall in Paul Beatty’s Slumberland”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 11, Mar. 2012, doi:10.5283/copas.123.