My Life in American Studies – Memories and Expectations


  • Heinz Ickstadt



American studies, memories


I am now in that phase of life when old people like me tend to reminisce and give account. Since my long academic life was committed to American Studies, I wondered how this came about, and although I am aware of the inevitable mix between coincidence and symbolic self-construction, I believe that my career was rooted in certain moments of experience: a seminar on Melville, the physical exposure to “America,” and the significance America had for me from childhood on. I also believe that a temperamental affinity to an idea of democracy built on communication led me to embrace the democratic belief that is at the core of American Studies. At the same time, my own process of disillusionment ran parallel to the critical redefinition of American Studies that has characterized the development of the field during the last forty years or so. In what follows, I have tried to reflect on my original enthusiasm, and on where I stand now, in an effort to be realistic and optimistic at the same time.

Author Biography

Heinz Ickstadt

Heinz Icksadt is professor emeritus of American literature at the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. He has published widely on North American poetry, fiction, and art, and he wrote the commentary for the German language edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Ickstadt served as president of the German Association of American Studies and the European Association of American Studies. For his work and engagement, he has received numerous awards and honors from Fulbright, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Canadian Government, and from various universities, most recently receiving the Volkmar and Margret Sander Prize from the Deutsches Haus at NYU.




How to Cite

Ickstadt, H. “My Life in American Studies – Memories and Expectations”. New American Studies Journal: A Forum, vol. 74, Sept. 2023,