Greta Olson (Gießen/Bonn): The Centrality of the Constitution to US American Culture – Arguments from the Left and the Right

(in cooperation with the North American Studies Program)


The Constitution - note the capitalized spelling - plays a starring role in American cultural politics. Both the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement have recurred to the Constitution to justify their aims; and knowing one's rights - a reference to the Constitution's Bill of Rights (1791) and subsequent amendments - is a central part of American identity.
This talk traces historical reasons for the centrality of the Constitution to American life and cultural identity; it offers examples of how constitutional interpretation has been employed to pursue a variety of political and social aims. Further, it compares the visibility of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justices and the publicity of Supreme Court decisions to perceptions of the Federal Constitutional Court Justice of Germany, its justices, and its rulings.

Prof. Dr. Greta Olson

Curriculum Vitae

Greta Olson studied philosophy and studio art at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, as well as art history and philosophy at University College London and holds a master's degree in philosophy and English from the University of Freiburg. There she also received her PhD in English, philosophy, and comparative linguistics as well as the venia legendi in American and English literature and cultural studies for her habilitation thesis "'Criminal Beasts' and the Rise of Positivist Criminology - From Shakespeare to Dickens". From 2000 to 2002 Greta Olson worked as a lecturer at the University of Freiburg and was a guest lecturer at the Universities of Innsbruck (2001) and Basel (2003). From 2002 to 2003 she was a guest professor in American studies at the University of Bonn. In 2004, she became assistant professor under the auspices of a German Research Foundation grant at the University of Freiburg, before she moved to Giessen, where she became Professor of English and American literature and cultural studies at Justus Liebig University in 2009. Professor Olson is a general editor of the European Journal of English Studies (EJES), and, with Jeanne Gaakeer, the co-founder of the European Network for Law and Literature. Her research interests include Law and Literature/Culture, punitivity and security studies, critical cultural narratology, posthumanism, and feminist and gender studies. Since April 2014 Greta Olson is fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities "Law as Culture".