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Good Girls, Good Germans

Good Girls, Good Germans: Girls' Education and Emotional Nationalism in Wilhelminian Germany

Jennifer Drake Askey
Volume: 134
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Good Girls, Good Germans
    Book Description:

    The age of nationalism in nineteenth-century Germany generally conjures up images of the Prussian military, Fürst Otto von Bismarck, and Hohenzollern kings who welded together a nation out of disparate principalities through war and domestic social policy. Good Girls, Good Germans looks at how girls and young women became "national" during this period by participating in the national community in the home, in state-sponsored Töchterschulen, and in their reading of Mädchenliteratur. By learning to subordinate desires for individual agency to the perceived needs of the national community -- what Askey calls "emotional nationalism" -- girls could fulfill their class- and gender-specific roles in society and discover a sense of their importance for the progress of the German nation. Informed by recent historical research on nineteenth-century nationalism, Good Girls, Good Germans demonstrates how the top-down construction of a national identity, especially in girls' education, came to be experienced by reading girls. Chapters in this book examine literature published for and taught to girls that encouraged readers to view domestic duties -- and even romance -- as potential avenues for national expression. By aligning her heart with the demands of the nation, a girl could successfully display her national involvement within the confines of the private sphere. Jennifer Drake Askey is Coordinator of Academic Program Development at Wilfrid Laurier University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-849-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Emotional Nationalism and Germany’s Daughters
    (pp. 1-27)

    The protagonist of Gabriele Reuter’s 1895 novel Aus guter Familie (From a Good Family, 1999), Agathe Heidling, receives two books for her religious confirmation, and the reactions of Agathe’s family and that of her pastor to these gifts reveal much about the landscape of gender and nationalism in which Agathe, a typical upper-middle-class girl, lived and was educated.¹ Her cousin Martin gives her Georg Herwegh’s Gedichte eines Lebendigen (Poems of one who is alive)² and her friend Eugenie presents her with Friedrich Rückert’s Liebesfrühling (Springtime of love).³ Her pastor and her father are visibly dismayed at the revolutionary political nature...

  5. 1: Nationalist Education and Prussia’s höhere Töchter
    (pp. 29-57)

    The unification of Germany and the founding of the second German empire in 1871 under Prussian chancellor Bismarck and Emperor Wilhelm I ushered in a period of great national pride. Prussia’s successful wars against Denmark, Austria, and France culminated in the proclamation of the German empire in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and contributed to a general feeling of German national destiny that inextricably linked the fate of Prussia and the Hohenzollern dynasty with the fate of Germany as a whole. This increased national confidence, along with the expansion of the Prussian state bureaucracy into new areas of empire,...

  6. 2: Father’s Library: German Classics in Girls’ Schools and the Ownership of German Culture
    (pp. 59-101)

    The preceding examination of Lesebücher reveals that the German classics, that is, literature of Weimar classicism, occupied a position of highest importance in the educational mission of the höhere Mädchenschule in imperial Germany. Celebrated both as the greatest literature Germany had to offer and as a testament to the development of the German Kulturnation, classical works by Goethe, Schiller, and Lessing dominated the German curricula of the girls’ school. Knowledge of canonical literature from the age of Goethe marked young middle-class women as well educated and respectable, and a close familiarity with works such as Hermann und Dorothea, Wilhelm Tell,...

  7. 3: Mädchenliteratur I—Backfischbücher and Historical Novels
    (pp. 103-141)

    The era of the rise of the girls’ school and the expansion of Prusso-German national feeling under King Wilhelm I of Hohenzollern (1861–1871; Emperor, 1871–1888) coincided with—and contributed to—a veritable explosion of the literary marketplace and its segmentation. This growth was especially visible in the children’s and youth reading market, where schoolbook publishers took advantage of their strong market position and their trusted status with parents, clergy, and educators to expand their business beyond Lesebücher into popular fiction. And, indeed, book catalogs of the era classified youth literature not as belles lettres but as pedagogy, making...

  8. 4: Mädchenliteratur II—Queen Luise
    (pp. 143-182)

    Luise of Prussia, wife of Friedrich Wilhelm III, Queen of Prussia from 1797 until her death in 1810, was a popular subject for historical novels and biographies for young women. Her life story could easily be told in terms of the fairy tale and classical romance, from her comparatively modest childhood as a princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz whose mother died when she was merely six years old, to her triumphant entrance into Berlin and her marriage to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm III, ending with her early death at thirty-four at the end of her family’s exile from Prussia during Napoleon’s occupation....

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-188)

    This study has demonstrated the relationship between the situation of girls’ schooling in the late nineteenth century and related pedagogical priorities of the German literature classroom and girls’ reading material both inside and outside of school. The primacy given to the German classics in the Töchterschule—the idolization of Goethe and Schiller as writers and the authority accorded their interpretations of ideal German femininity—supported the conservative social agenda of Prussian pedagogues and was felt far beyond the classroom walls. The German feminine ideal as interpreted from classic literary texts had a social presence in Wilhelminian Germany that was not...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  11. Index
    (pp. 199-202)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)