Monday, October 20, 2008

The Lusitania Effect

Join us on Thursday, October 23rd, at the Memorial Union (Tripp Commons) in Madison for the first in a series of events celebrating the MKI's 25th anniversary. A guest lecture will be held by Professor Emeritus of German, Frank Trommler, University of Pennsylvania, followed by a reception. The title of Professor Trommlers talk is:

The Lusitania Effect: German Propaganda and German Identity in World War I

Next to the Titanic no other sinking of a ship has preoccupied so many journalists and historians than that of the British ocean liner Lusitania which was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915. The assault – which took the lives of 128 Americans – caused a rapid deterioration of American-German relations long before Wilson's declaration of war against the German Reich in 1917. It curtailed German propaganda for American neutrality and generated a new attitude of suspicion against German Americans which ballooned into an anti-German hysteria. Trommler discusses this development first in the context of other violent incidents that led to American military engagement in the 20 th century and then explores the deeper roots of the fast spreading confrontation with the German Americans, the largest ethnic group in the U.S. He analyzes the role of culture in the identity struggle of a nation of diverse interests, ethnicities and belief systems and defines the intensity of the fight against German culture – which surprised even critics of Germany – as part of the mobilization for war. Examining the anti-German campaign in light of the struggle for national unity, Trommler points to a larger contest in which American elites, most prominently John Dewey and Randolphe Bourne, used this confrontation for defining the specifics of an American mission, American culture, and the uses of the war.

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