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Sophie Discovers Amerika

Sophie Discovers Amerika: German-Speaking Women Write the New World

Rob McFarland
Michelle Stott James
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Sophie Discovers Amerika
    Book Description:

    In a 1798 novel by Sophie von La Roche, a European woman swims across a cold North American lake seeking help from the local indigenous tribe to deliver a baby. In a 2008 San Francisco travel guide, Milena Moser, the self-proclaimed "Patron Saint of Desperate Swiss Housewives," ponders the guilty pleasures of a media-saturated world. Wildly disparate, these two texts reveal the historical arc of a much larger literary constellation: the literature of German-speaking women who interact with the New World. In this volume, cultural historians from around the world investigate this unique literary bridge between two hemispheres, focusing on New-World texts written by female authors from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. Encompassing a broad range of genres including novels, films, travel literature, poetry, erotica, and even photography, the essays include women's experiences across both American continents. Many of the primary literary texts discussed in this volume are available in the online collections of Sophie: A Digital Library of Works by German-Speaking Women ( Contributors: Christiane Arndt, Karin Baumgartner, Ute Bettray, Ulrike Brisson, Carola Daffner, Denise M. Della Rossa, Linda Dietrick, Silke R. Falkner, Maureen O. Gallagher, Nicole Grewling, Monika Hohbein-Deegen, Gabi Kathöfer, Thomas W. Kniesche, Julie Koser, Judith E. Martin, Sarah C. Reed, Christine Rinne, Tom Spencer, Florentine Strzelczyk, David Tingey, Petra Watzke, Chantal Wright. Rob McFarland and Michelle Stott James are both Associate Professors of German at Brigham Young University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-898-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Gisela Brinker-Gabler

    In many ways, the collection of essaysSophie Discovers Amerika: German-Speaking Women Write the New Worldis a groundbreaking contribution to the emergent field of German Transatlantic Literary Studies. It is a lively and engaging book that seeks to confirm the important role that women writers have played in the transatlantic experience. The volume brings together an impressive, wide range of essays on German women authors from the eighteenth century to the present and their various encounters with and depictions of the New World. It examines fiction, for example by Sophie La Roche, Mathilde Franziska Anneke, Gabriele Reuter, Anna Seghers,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Rob McFarland and Michelle Stott James
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)
    Rob McFarland and Michelle Stott James

    In Christa Wolf’s final novel,Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud(City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud, 2010), a very recognizable dissident writer from the former East Germany is invited as a guest artist of the so-called “Center” near Los Angeles. The narrator initially intends to use her year in America to further her writing, but instead she must watch helplessly from across the ocean as her reputation is destroyed by revelations about her connections to the former East GermanStasi(short forStaatssicherheitsdienst,or State Security Service). Trying to explain her predicament to...

  6. 1: “Schwimme mit mir hinüber zu den Hütten unserer Nachbarn”: Colonial Islands in Sophie von La Roche’s Erscheinungen am See Oneida (1798) and Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie (1788)
    (pp. 16-29)
    Linda Dietrick

    Sophie von La Roche’s America novel,Erscheinungen am See Oneida(Phenomena at Lake Oneida, 1798), centers on a French aristocratic couple from Flanders who go to live on a remote island in upstate New York.¹ Carl and Emilie von Wattines have fled to the United States from the French revolutionary Terror, in which several of their relatives lost their lives. On advice from a Quaker friend in Philadelphia, they find their way to an island in Oneida Lake. There they live without contact with other Europeans for four years, producing two children and making a modest life for themselves, before...

  7. 2: “Hier oder nirgends ist Amerika!”: America and the Idea of Autonomy in Sophie Mereau’s “Elise” (1800)
    (pp. 30-44)
    Tom Spencer

    Born in 1770—the same year as Hölderlin and Hegel—Sophie Schubart married the very persistent librarian at the University of Jena, Karl Mereau, on 4 April 1793. He was not a poet, she told him she did not love him, but he continued to woo her on the merits of his colleagues. Schiller, Reinhold (soon to be replaced by Fichte), Goethe, Herder, and Wieland were all in Jena or nearby Weimar, and more talent soon followed: the Schlegels, Schelling, Novalis, Hölderlin, Jean Paul, Tieck. For an aspiring writer whose opportunities were limited by her sex, the temptation of such...

  8. 3: A “Swiss Amazon” in the New World: Images of America in the Lebensbeschreibung of Regula Engel (1821)
    (pp. 45-55)
    Julie Koser

    On 13 September 1816, Regula Engel boarded a passenger ship in Le Havre, France, and set sail for the New World. After seventy-six days at sea, the woman later called the “Swiss Amazon” reached the eastern shore of America. The journey that brought Engel to the coast of New York had begun more than forty-two years earlier in Zürich, Switzerland, when the thirteen-year-old Regula Egli ran away from home.¹ At the age of seventeen, she married Florian Engel, a young Swiss soldier, who would rise to the rank of lieutenant in Napoleon’s army. Engel’s life over the next thirty-eight years...

  9. 4: Amalia Schoppe’s Die Auswanderer nach Brasilien oder die Hütte am Gigitonhonha (1828)
    (pp. 56-64)
    Gabi Kathöfer

    Amalia Schoppe (1791–1858) was one of the most productive authors in the nineteenth century: the “Erzählerin, Kinder- und Sachbuchautorin, Übersetzerin, Herausgeberin, Journalistin sowie … Lyrikerin, Dramatikerin und Opernlibrettistin” (novelist, author of children’s books and nonfiction books, translator, editor, journalist as well as … poet, playwright, and librettist)¹ published more than a hundred books and worked for over forty newspapers and magazines. Her works ranked among the most desired items in German libraries.² After her death in 1858, however, the popularity of Schoppe, called a “Wundermädchen” (child prodigy) by Justinus Kerner, quickly diminished and her reputation sank to that of...

  10. 5: Inscribed in the Body: Ida Pfeiffer’s Reise in die neue Welt (1856)
    (pp. 65-80)
    Ulrike Brisson

    November 5, 1853. Ida Pfeiffer, an Austrian traveler, is on her way to a village north of Crescent City in California, and the main purpose of her visit to this region is, as she claims, to see Indians. What she finds instead are ethnically hybrid Native Americans:

    Nichts erschien mir komischer als die sonderbaren Anzüge, denn auch hier lasen sie alle von den Weißen weggeworfenen Kleidungsstücke auf. So sah ich einen Indianer, welcher ein Beinkleid, eine sehr schadhafte Mantille und einen zerknitterten Frauenhut trug. Ein anderer hatte weiter nichts als einen Frack an, den er nach eigenem Geschmacke auf der...

  11. 6: Mathilde Franziska Anneke’s Anti-Slavery Novella Uhland in Texas (1866)
    (pp. 81-91)
    Denise M. Della Rossa

    A volume on German-speaking women who wrote about the Americas would not be complete without a chapter on the German 1848ers. In both countries, the mid-nineteenth century was a time of social upheaval that constituted an important political, historical, and cultural turning point. While the German states were on the eve of a democratic revolution, legislative battles began in the United States to end slavery and fulfill the promise of becoming a country of free citizens. The participants in the German revolutions of 1848 demanded the establishment of a representative federal government, a constitution ratified by the people, freedom of...

  12. 7: “Ich bin ein Pioneer”: Sidonie Grünwald-Zerkowitz’s Die Lieder der Mormonin (1887) and the Erotic Exploration of Exotic America
    (pp. 92-101)
    Sarah C. Reed

    Die Lieder der Mormonin (Songs of the Mormon Woman) was first published anonymously in 1887 by Hermann Dürselen in Leipzig and also (at least as claimed on the frontispiece) by A. Booth in Utah. The first edition was not in book form, but was a scroll, with poems printed on both sides of paper, glued together and attached to two ornately carved wood spindles. The narrative formed by the hundred poems follows the sexual journey of the protagonist and her husband—from their initial flirtation to the coupling climax, followed by his departure and abandonment in favor of another wife....

  13. 8: Seductive and Destructive: Argentina in Gabriele Reuter’s Kolonistenvolk (1889)
    (pp. 102-110)
    David Tingey

    Written just prior to her more well-knownAus guter Familie(From a Good Family, 1895), Gabriele Reuter’s novelKolonistenvolk(The Colonists, 1889) offers a complex representation of Argentina through direct description of the region’s natural features and peoples, as well as indirectly through a close look at the successful and unsuccessful German immigrants. For the colonists, this New World is a place of excitement, adventure, opportunity, freedom, hard work, even a place of romance, but it is also a dangerous and wild realm of violence, grief, corruption, and superstition, an underworld inhabited by beautiful, faithless temptresses, swindling bureaucrats, and xenophobic...

  14. 9: Inventing America: German Racism and Colonial Dreams in Sophie Wörishöffer’s Im Goldlande Kalifornien (1891)
    (pp. 111-124)
    Nicole Grewling

    In the late nineteenth century, novels by the author “S. Wörishöffer” were best-sellers among young readers, rivaling the works of Karl May in popularity.¹ Although their educational value might be debatable, Wörishöffer’s adventure tales, which were set all over the world, seemed to offer the combination of excitement and exoticism that was attractive to young readers.² In spite of the books’ popularity, however, their readers knew virtually nothing about their author. This was no coincidence; the novelist’s identity was a well-kept secret. It was not a globetrotter writing about his own experiences who was hiding behind the pen name “S....

  15. 10: Aus vergangenen Tagen: Eine Erzählung aus der Sklavenzeit (1906): Clara Berens’s German American “Race Melodrama” in Its American Literary Contexts
    (pp. 125-137)
    Judith E. Martin

    In recent years scholars have given renewed interest to a literary tradition that presents light-skinned African American characters who pass as white, drawing attention to the complex intersections among race, class, and gender that such texts negotiate. As Valerie Smith remarks, these texts represent “sites where antiracist and white supremacist ideologies converge.”¹ The competing racial politics that Smith examines are characteristic not only of early twentieth-century narratives of passing, but also of their nineteenth-century predecessors, often referred to as “tragic mulatto” fiction. These earlier narratives reflected generations of sexual abuses under slavery and the injustices of arbitrary race distinctions and...

  16. 11: “Der verfluchte Yankee!” Gabriele Reuter’s Episode Hopkins (1889) and Der Amerikaner (1907)
    (pp. 138-149)
    Christiane Arndt

    Gabriele Reuter’s textsEpisode Hopkins(1889) andDer Amerikaner(The American, 1907) fall into a historic timeframe that presented German society with the challenge to define itself. Both texts reflect the struggle for a national identity based on a common cultural identity (rather than on an economic collaboration between the wars of 1871 and 1914) and the German state’s unilateral position as a tactical outsider to global imperialism.¹ At the timeDer Amerikanerwas produced, not quite twenty years after the foundation of the German state, the euphoric national climate that united the nation-states against the enemy around the time...

  17. 12: Reframing the Poetics of the Aztec Empire: Gertrud Kolmar’s “Die Aztekin” (1920)
    (pp. 150-161)
    Carola Daffner

    In recent years, the works by the German-Jewish poet Gertrud Kolmar (1894–1943) have found renewed interest among scholars.¹ Raised in the upper middle class of Berlin and fully acculturated in the German cultural heritage, Gertrud Kolmar was persecuted, under the pressure of the National Socialist regime, because of her Jewish roots. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she chose to remain in Nazi Berlin and continued to write until her death in Auschwitz in 1943. Even though her published work spanned the innovative period between 1917 and 1937, Kolmar’s poetic oeuvre from the years 1927 to 1937 has received the...

  18. 13: Synthesis, Gender, and Race in Alice Salomon’s Kultur im Werden (1924)
    (pp. 162-170)
    Christine Rinne

    Alice Salomon is best known for her pioneering ideas in the emerging field of social work and her critical role in the feminist movement during the first half of the twentieth century. She was crucial in establishing several international committees and organizing conferences in order to promote global dialogue and collaboration in both areas.¹ The focus of this essay is one of Salomon’s lesser-known texts,Kultur im Werden: Amerikanische Reiseeindrücke(Culture in the Making: Impressions from Travels in America, 1924), in which she presents her impressions from two trips to the United States, one in the summer of 1923 for...

  19. 14: Land of Fantasy, Land of Fiction: Klara May’s Mit Karl May durch Amerika (1931)
    (pp. 171-182)
    Maureen O. Gallagher

    Images of Karl May’s America are no doubt familiar to most readers of German literature. Who doesn’t recall the stories of “der Greenhorn” in the American West, shooting, surveying, hunting buffalo, and taming wild mustangs? Who can forget the noble savage Winnetou and his lifelong companion Old Shatterhand? Even those who have not readWinnetoulikely know Karl May, former crook and swindler and arguably the most widely read German author of all time. Although he wrote prolifically about the United States, May only visited North America once; his westernmost destinations were Buffalo, New York, and Niagara Falls, and even...

  20. 15: An Ideological Framing of Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s Racialized Gaze: Writing and Shooting for the USA-Reportagen (1936–38)
    (pp. 183-204)
    Ute Bettray

    Swiss photojournalist and author Annemarie Schwarzenbach was born in 1908 into the family of the wealthy Swiss silk manufacturer Alfred Schwarzenbach and his wife Renée Schwarzenbach-Wille and died under tragic circumstances in 1942. Schwarzenbach’s life was marked by her travels to the United States, the Orient, Africa, and through Europe. In this context, during her lifetime Schwarzenbach gained recognition for her travel writing and journalism within Switzerland. For example, her work was regularly published inZürcher Illustrierte, National-Zeitung, Luzerner Tagblatt, Thurgauer Zeitung,and the journalABC.¹ As recent scholarship has emphasized, “her travel writings consist of a wide range of...

  21. 16: “Fighting against Manitou”: German Identity and Ilse Schreiber’s Canada Novels Die Schwestern aus Memel (1936) and Die Flucht in Paradies (1939)
    (pp. 205-218)
    Florentine Strzelczyk

    Travel, as Kristi Siegel has pointed out, “generally entails going to another culture, and travel writing is—in large measure—the record of what oneseeson that journey.”¹ Yet what one “sees,” Peter J. Brenner argues, is never just about the discovery of the foreign, but always also about homegrown fears and fantasies²—so much so that travel literature has been characterized by Klaus Wolterstorff as “a particularly authentic way of self description.”³ Patterns of perception, assert Siegel and Wulff, are shaped by the horizons of expectation before traveling, social-cultural pressures and conflicts at work in society and in...

  22. 17: Mexico as a Model for How to Live in the Times of History: Anna Seghers’s Crisanta (1951)
    (pp. 219-229)
    Thomas W. Kniesche

    For most readers today, Mexico in the work of Anna Seghers is probably not more than a mere backdrop—if even that. Her best-known novel,Das siebte Kreuz(The Seventh Cross, 1942), is set in Nazi Germany and there is no reference to Mexico; when Mexico is mentioned in the novelTransit(1944), it only figures as a mysterious place of refuge never to be reached by the protagonist (21), and in “Der Ausflug der toten Mädchen” (The Excursion of the Dead Girls, 1946), a stereotyped Mexican landscape merely serves as an alien topography for the narrative frame of the...

  23. 18: East Germany’s Imaginary Indians: Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich’s Harka Cycle (1951-63) and Its DEFA Adaptation Die Söhne der Großen Bärin (1966)
    (pp. 230-239)
    Petra Watzke

    A group of Indians, wielding guns, bows, and tomahawks, attacks a group of soldiers who are guarding covered wagons. A furious battle ensues, and in the end, the Indians and their chief stand as proud winners. In the foreground, a wagon lies on its side with the wheels spinning. This scene out of Josef Mach’s filmDie Söhne der Großen Bärin(The Sons of Great Bear), produced by the Deutsche Film Aktien Gesellschaft (DEFA) in 1966, shows stereotypical images of the Wild West in the German imagination. Although the film was produced in the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) as...

  24. 19: Finding Identity through Traveling the New World: Angela Krauß’s Die Überfliegerin (1995) and Milliarden neuer Sterne (1999)
    (pp. 240-252)
    Monika Hohbein-Deegen

    The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of Germany in 1990 allowed East Germans to finally travel freely to western countries. This new freedom to travel to the West not only impacted the worldview of many former GDR citizens, but also found its way into the writings of East German authors throughout the 1990s and into the present. In her study on contemporary German literature around the turn of the twenty-first century, the literary critic Christine Cosentino examines several tendencies by which contemporary German authors deal with America in their texts. One tendency she describes is...

  25. 20: Discovery or Invention: Newfoundland in Gabrielle Alioth’s Die Erfindung von Liebe und Tod (2003)
    (pp. 253-260)
    Silke R. Falkner

    “Man kann nur entdecken, was man sich vorstellen kann” (One can only discover what one can imagine), pronounces a character in Gabrielle Alioth’sDie Erfindung von Liebe und Tod(The Invention of Love and Death, 2003).¹ Is discovery, then, manipulated by imagination? Or does one rather discover that which independently exists in space, “an immutable given,” as the geographer Patricia Price-Chalita calls it in her seminal paper “Spatial Metaphor and the Politics of Empowerment: Mapping a Place for Feminism and Postmodernism in Geography”? Price-Chalita ends her article with the insight that “spatial metaphor is overwhelmingly central for a wide range...

  26. 21: Tzveta Sofronieva’s “Über das Glück nach der Lektüre von Schopenhauer, in Kalifornien” (2007)
    (pp. 261-274)
    Chantal Wright

    “Über das Glück nach der Lektüre von Schopenhauer, in Kalifornien” is a cycle of six poems by the Bulgarian-German poet Tzveta Sofronieva written in 2005 and first published in 2007 in the German literary journalAkzente. The cycle, prompted by the poet’s reading of Schopenhauer—perhaps the ultimate representative of European pessimism—during an extended stay in California, attempts to define happiness amid the surroundings of the New World, reflecting on the extent to which happiness can exist independently of place and on the cultural and linguistic parameters of the concept ofGlück. The first and last poems in the...

  27. 22: “Amerika ist alles und das Gegenteil von allem. Amerika ist anders.” Milena Moser’s Travel Guide to San Francisco (2008)
    (pp. 275-286)
    Karin Baumgartner

    The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (New Zurich newspaper), Switzerland’s most prestigious German-language daily, labeled Milena Moser the “literary mother of desperate Swiss housewives.”¹ Moser’s novels address the daily lives of Swiss women, stuck between self-inflicted expectations, perfectionism, and conformism, and offer their readers “creative lines of escape.”² In 1998, Moser and her family emigrated to San Francisco, where she attempted to find a new home for her family and her protagonists. The result was mixed: after eight years Moser reluctantly returned to conservative Switzerland, having been unable to secure a green card and permanent status in the United States through her...

  28. Bibliography: The New World in German-Language Literature by Women
    (pp. 287-298)
  29. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 299-304)
  30. Index
    (pp. 305-312)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)