Martin Butler, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
Of ‘Commen Men’ and ‘Working Class Heroes’:
The Glorification of the Ordinary in Times of Crisis
It seems that, whenever US-American society was shaken by moments of crisis in the course of the 20th century, one could witness a proliferation of the ‘common man,‘ who, in times of social, economic, and political instabilities, embodies an ideological alternative to ‘those in power.‘; The deliberate revival of this type in times of upheaval can thus be regarded as an efficient strategy of sense-making and restoring the idea of a collective (national) identity. Apart from this romanticization of the ‘common man,‘ moments of crisis also fostered the glorification of social and political underdogs as ‘working class heroes, ‘ i.e. outstanding individuals who set out to fight a system which is usually conceived of as being corrupt.
Against the backdrop of these observations, my presentation aims at uncovering various forms and functions of the discursive and performative construction of these American types, particularly focusing on the time of the Great Depression.
Prof. Dr. Martin Butler has been assistant professor for American Literature and Culture at Carl von Ossietzky Universität since 2010. He studied English and Sociology at Universität Duisburg-Essen, where he received his Ph.D. in 2007. As a guest lecturer and visiting researcher he has been invited to New York (USA), Joensuu (Finland) und Nijmegen (Netherlands) among others.