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Popular Fiction in the Age of Bismarck

E. Marlitt and her Narrative Strategies


Terry May

E. Marlitt was a bestselling author of the late nineteenth century whose romance novels dominated the German literary market between 1865 and 1888. Her novels appeared in thirty languages, with as many as five different English translations circulating simultaneously in the United States alone. While her name is virtually absent from histories of German literature, recent scholarly studies of individual novels suggest the need to reassess her contributions.
This study is the first in English to examine E. Marlitt’s complete fiction. It situates her prose against the backdrop of women’s discourse and nineteenth-century historical developments in the German Empire. It synthesizes findings of both American and German scholarship to show how her social constructs advanced a liberal political agenda while resisting the conventional view of «natural» gender roles. The book provides a context for recognizing Marlitt’s clever use of the conventionality and acceptability of the romance genre to reposition the image of middle-class women. Her emphasis on personal autonomy, educational opportunities and new fields of professional engagement for women advanced altered images of family, class and national identity. Ultimately, this study of a popular author illuminates domestic, middle-class issues that underwent significant transformations equal to the Empire’s public developments under Bismarck’s politics.
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A Note on Sources


Textual citations in English are my own renderings of the original German of Marlitt’s texts, closely following translations of A. L. Wister published by J. P. Lippencott and Co. The original German is included throughout. Pagination refers to the unabridged versions of E. Marlitt’s Gesammelte Romane und Novellen (Leipzig: Verlag von Ernst Keils Nachfolger, 1897) unless otherwise noted, for this edition is accessible via online postings at . Individual novels are identified in the citations with the abbreviations referencing the original German title as noted below. Numerous English-language translations of E. Marlitt cause an element of confusion because of the variation in their titles for a work. While I cannot correct the publication history, I can opt for clarity and simplicity for all who wish to read Marlitt in English. To foster this aim, I have chosen to use the English titles currently available online at .

Sources and abbreviations:

E. Marlitts gesammelte Romane und Novellen. 10 Bde., Leipzig: Verlag von Ernst Keils Nachfolger, 1897

Vol. 1 Das Geheimnis der alten Mamsell (GM) or The Old Mam’selle’s Secret

Vol. 2 Das Heideprinzeßchen (HP) or The Little Moorland Princess

Vol. 3 Reichsgräfin Gisela (RG) or Countess Gisela

Vol. 4 Im Schillingshof (SH) or In the Schillingscourt

Vol. 5 Im Hause des Kommerzienrates (HdK) or At the Councillor’s

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