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Transatlantic Crossings and Transformations

German-American Cultural Transfer from the 18th to the End of the 19th Century


Kurt Mueller-Vollmer

This volume attempts for the first time a comprehensive view of the momentous process of German-American cultural transfer during the 18 th and 19 th centuries, which played an important part in the formation of an American national and cultural identity, a process to which the New England Transcendentalists contributed some of the decisive ingredients, but which has largely escaped the attention of German and American scholarship. In each chapter a specific problem is treated systematically from a clearly defined perspective, deficiencies of existing translation theories are exposed, so that in the concluding chapters 13 and 14 (with an unpublished memorandum by Alexander von Humboldt) a cohesive view of the entire process emerges. A comprehensive bibliography will facilitate further scholarly pursuits.
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6. The Significance of Anne Germaine de Staël’s Germany for a New Program and a New Direction of Anglo-American Literature


6.1 The American Significance of de Staël

When the first American edition of Anne Germaine de Staël’s De L’Allemagne appeared in New York in 1814, only one year after its initial publication in London, the name of its author was already well known to the American reading public. Following on the heels of her spectacular successes in England, her book On Literature Seen in Relation to Social Institutions and her romantic novel Corinne had been well received and were widely discussed in this country. But it was her work Germany that firmly established de Staël as one of the principal authors of the period. Until the publication, in 1836, of Emerson’s Nature, the inaugural text of New England Transcendentalism, more than forty articles on de Staël, her opinions, her writings, her reputation and her influence were published in American journals and literary magazines.1 In addition, American editions of her major works were issued.2 She was hailed by the critics as “an extraordinary woman,” “a female author of the foremost rank in modern literature,” and even “the greatest woman who has written and lived for the public.”3 ← 147 | 148 → Moreover, as Alexander Everett stated in 1822, “it would be difficult to find a name that can come into competition with hers since the time of Voltaire and Rousseau.”4 What seemed most striking to the critics was the appeal that her books enjoyed with the non-specialized general reading public. In 1820 one...

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