The Aesthetics of Authenticity

I am pleased to announce The Aesthetics of Authenticity: Medial Constructions of the Real, an essay collection co-edited by two of my colleagues, Wolfgang Funk and Florian Groß, along with Irmtraud Huber from the University of Berne. The book will appear in early May with German publisher Transcript. Here is a short abstract for the collection:

“As a concept that increasingly gains importance in contemporary cultural discourse, authenticity emerges as a site of tearing tensions between the fictional and the real, original and fake, margin and centre, the same and the other.

The essays collected in this volume explore this paradoxical nature of authenticity in the context of various media. They give ample proof of the fact that authenticity, which depends on giving the impression of being inherent or natural, found not created, frequently turns out to be the result of a careful aesthetic construction that depends on the use of identifiable techniques with the aim of achieving certain effects for certain reasons.”

And here is the Table of Contents:

“Exploring the Empty Plinth. The Aesthetics of Authenticity” (Wolfgang Funk, Florian Groß, and Irmtraud Huber)


“Authenticity as an Aesthetic Notion. Normative and Non-Normative Concepts in Modern and Contemporary Poetics” (Susanne Knaller)

“Found Objects. Narrative (as) Reconstruction in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad” (Wolfgang Funk)

“Monolithic Authenticity and Fake News. Stephen Colbert’s Megalomania” (Seth Hulse)

“Authentic Bodies. Genome(s) vs. Gender Norms in Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and BioShock” (Sven Schmalfuß)


“‘The Real Thing.’ Authenticating Strategies in Hemingway’s Fiction” (Melanie Eis)

“Real Lives – Living Wild. Authenticity, Wilderness, and the Postmodern Robinsonade in James Hawes’s Speak for England and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (Francesca Nadja Palitzsch)

“Monica Ali and the Suspension of Disbelief” (Melanie Mettler)


“Poet and the Roots. Authenticity in the Works of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah” (David Bousquet)

“The Dilettantish Construction of the Extraordinary and the Authenticity of the Artificial. Tracing Strategies for Success in German Popular Entertainment Shows” (Antonius Weixler)

“‘Brooklyn Zack is Real’: Irony and Sincere Authenticity in 30 Rock” (Florian Groß)

“Authentic Simulacra or the Aura of Repetition. Experiencing Authenticity in Tom McCarthy’s Remainder” (Irmtraud Huber and Sophie Seita)

Florian Groß, “‘Quality TV’ and ‘Graphic Novel’: What’s in a Name?”

Abstract for Florian Groß’s talk at “Cultural Distinctions Remediated: Beyond the High, the Low, and the Middle” (Leibniz University of Hannover, 15-17 December 2011):

‘Quality TV’ and ‘Graphic Novel’: What’s in a Name?

Florian Groß (American Studies, Hannover)

The terms Quality TV and Graphic Novel have become almost synonymous with a broad revaluation of television and comics, two media that have traditionally been related exclusively to popular, even mass, culture. And yet, both terms are less about a democratization of taste than about new forms of cultural distinction. Reminiscent of, though by no means identical with, historical processes of cultural distinction, both Quality TV and Graphic Novel refer to a certain subset of texts with higher aesthetic value and emphasize the role of creativity and education in their production as well as reception. Given the media to which these two categories of cultural distinction are applied and the timeframe in which they have developed, it is necessary to come to terms with their specific forms of distinction, which can no longer be read along the lines of high/low culture, but rather as embedded processes of an ever-expanding popular culture that ultimately have to be considered on their own.

Through an analysis of the terms Quality TV and Graphic Novel with respect to collaborative and individual authorship/production, seriality, and media convergence, this talk attempts to highlight the specific cultural work performed by the terms and thus shed light on related intra-/intermedial developments. Furthermore, it will explore their instrumentality in redefining television and comics, as well as media culture in general, in times of a rapidly changing media landscape.

Florian Groß über 30 Rock: Vortrag in Regensburg

Auch Florian Gr0ß hält einen Vortrag auf der DGfA-Jahrestagung in Regensburg. Hier ist sein Abstract:

A Kinder, Gentler Americanization?: Transnational Cool and 30 Rock

International audiences often consume U.S. television series with surprising effects, as Ien Ang has shown with respect to the subversive global reception of Dallas and audiences’ critical take on the show’s celebration of capitalism. Yet, many recent television series seem to be aware of this subversiveness and deliver it already built-in. Especially genre-bending and style-conscious shows of the high profile Quality TV-variety routinely feature non-conformist characters and voice criticism of global corporate capitalism.

I want to trace this phenomenon through a case study of the television series 30 Rock, a metafictional NBC-comedy about the production of a live-action NBC show. The show mocks, criticizes and debunks corporate America and the global impact of U.S. media while at the same time being an international commodity itself. As such, it perpetuates a development that McGuigan has called “cool capitalism,” whose major aspect “is the incorporation of disaffection into capitalism itself.”

By focusing on 30 Rock’s construction of a particular audience defined by taste rather than nationality, I want to read its mocking representation of U.S. capitalism as a contemporary inflection of Americanization connected more to processes of heterogeneity than a homogenizing ‘Coca-Colonization.’ 30 Rock may never be a global phenomenon on a large scale like Dallas. Still, its international impact shows how contemporary ‘narrowcasting,’ through which certain groups of viewers rather than large masses are addressed, can become a transnational phenomenon. The imagined global community of shows like 30 Rock consists of active and subversive viewers who see themselves as parts of a subculture critical of globalized U.S. capitalism—and nevertheless consume a product tailored to their tastes by a culture industry that imagines a strikingly similar group. I want to argue that this paradox can only be resolved if we find a cultural analysis that mediates between the hope that audiences are critical subversives and the fear that they are passive ‘cultural dupes,’ and comes up with a third way of analyzing consumer capitalism.