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Cultures of Solitude

Loneliness – Limitation – Liberation

Edited By Ina Bergmann and Stefan Hippler

This collection of essays comprises cultural analyses of practices of eremitism and reclusiveness in the USA, which are inseparably linked to the American ideals of individualism and freedom. Covering a time frame from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, the essays study cultural products such as novels, poems, plays, songs, paintings, television shows, films, and social media, which represent the costs and benefits of deliberate withdrawal and involuntary isolation from society. Thus, this book offers valuable contributions to contemporary cultural discourses on privacy, surveillance, new technology, pathology, anti-consumerism, simplification, and environmentalism. Solitaries can be read as trailblazers for an alternative future or as symptoms of a pathological society.

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Acknowledgments (Ina Bergmann / Stefan Hippler)

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This collection of essays comes out of an international and interdisciplinary conference on “Cultures of Solitude,” held at the University of Würzburg, Germany in July 2015. The conference was funded by the Bavarian American Academy, Munich, and by the Department of American Studies, University of Würzburg, Germany. Of the original nine papers given at the conference, seven were selected for publication in this volume. Nine additional contributions by internationally renowned scholars of American Studies and/or experts of American cultures of solitude have been commissioned solely for this collection.

Initial funding for research conducted by Ina Bergmann at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, and at Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA was provided by the “Forschungsfonds” of the Faculty of the Humanities, University of Würzburg, Germany during 2014/15. During 2015/16, Ina Bergmann was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, USA to conduct on site research.

We thank all the authors for their brilliant contributions to this volume, their enthusiasm for the project, and their excellent cooperation. We also wish to convey our thanks to the efficient staff at Peter Lang. We thank Birgit Wörz of Photography and Media Technology at the Department of Art History, University of Würzburg, Germany for the photograph of the cover image. We are very grateful to the Siblings Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation for the Humanities for the generous funding of the printing costs of this essay collection. Last but not least, a very special thank you goes to our colleague at the Department of American Studies, University of Würzburg, Germany, Sonja Bonneß, M.A., for her assistance in preparing the manuscript and particularly the index.

December 2016

Ina Bergmann and Stefan Hippler