Nostalgia, argues Sabine Sielke, is not so much a psychological disposition as a phenomenon of modernism and modernization entwined with technologies.

Cartoon Wave of Nostalgia by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands.
Cartoon Wave of Nostalgia by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands.

Deutsches Haus at NYU will present a talk by its DAAD visiting scholar, Professor Sabine Sielke, on the subject “Nostalgia for the New”—Friday, Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at 42 Washington Mews (corner of University Place), New York, N.Y.

Events at Deutsches Haus are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend this event, please send an email to deutscheshaus.rsvp@nyu.edu. As space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event to ensure you get a good seat.

Currently, nostalgia is an omnipresent phenomenon. This goes for popular culture, where retro aesthetics has turned into a dominant mode of design, as much as for political decision making processes which – like parts of the race for the U.S. American presidency or the BREXIT – are driven by “longings for a time that never was.” Yet how does nostalgia work? Why does it sell? And what do we actually talk about when we talk about nostalgia?

In her talk, Sabine Sielke will explore the complex cultural work nostalgia manages to accomplish in times of (supposed) acceleration and multiply motivated cultural anxieties. Nostalgia, she argues, is not so much a psychological disposition or a characteristic of certain objects, but a phenomenon of modernism and modernization inextricably entwined with the rise of technologies of reproduction. Nostalgia"‘arrests" and spatializes temporality, shapes affects, and is inextricably entwined with processes of commodification and consumption. Delineating how U.S. American culture is inspired by a nostalgia for the new – a serial longing to begin again, to start over, to innovate – Sabine Sielke shows that nostalgia is not so much about the past than about the future, a mode of “remembering forward” with the potential for both compliance and resistance.

Sabine Sielke is Chair of North American Literature and Culture, Director of the North American Studies Program and the German-Canadian Centre, as well as spokesperson of the Zentrum für Kulturwissenschaft/Cultural Studies at the University of Bonn. Trained in American studies and biology at the Freie Universität Berlin (FUB) and Duke University, she received her PhD and her post-doctoral degree at the FUB’s John F. Kennedy Institute for American Studies. Her research at Brandeis and Harvard University was supported by grants of the DAAD, the ACLS, and the German Research Council, among other institutions. She taught at the John F. Kennedy Institute and the Peter Szondi Institute for Comparative Literature in Berlin and at the Universities of Hamburg, Lodz, and Freiburg. Her publications include Fashioning the Female Subject (Ann Arbor 1997) and Reading Rape (Princeton 2002), 120 essays and book chapters, the series Transcription, and 18 (co-)edited volumes, among them Knowledge Landscapes North America (2016), New York, New York! (2016), American Studies Today: New Research Agendas (2014), and Beyond 9/11 (2013). Currently, she works on nostalgia, ecologies of knowledge, and projects at the crossroads of cultural studies and the sciences.
 

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