Show Less
Open access

The International Turn in American Studies

Series:

Edited By Marietta Messmer and Armin Paul Frank

The volume is a contribution to the ongoing debate on the internationalization of American Studies. The essays by European, American and Latin American scholars provide critical evaluations of a wide range of concepts, including trans-national and post-national, international, trans-atlantic, trans-pacific, as well as hemispheric, inter-American and comparative American studies. Combining theoretical reflections and actual case studies, the collection proposes a reassessment of current developments at a time when American nations experience the paradoxical simultaneity of both weakened and strengthened national borders alongside multiple challenges to national sovereignty.
Show Summary Details
Open access

A Rationale for a Comprehensive Study of the History of United States Literary Culture

| 231 →

Armin Paul Frank

Göttingen University, Germany

A Rationale for a Comprehensive Study of the History of United States Literary Culture

International connections of American literature written in English have often been studied, sometimes in extensive bilateral surveys. American writings in a number of languages other than English have also received attention – recently in a few plurilateral explorations of remarkable compass.1 Yet international courage tends to dwindle, even to disappear, as does international expertise, when literary history is the object of study. There are some respects in which historiographical nationalism is more insistent now that the new Cambridge History of American Literature has appeared than at the time of the old.

In an effort to call attention to this scaling down of the scope of literary historiography and to suggest an alternative approach, I offer a set of ideas that originated in a cooperative project on an international history of literatures in the Americas in which I had the honor and pleasure to participate for a number of years.2 They also apply, I submit, to more limited projects such as an international history of literatures written in different languages in the colonies of North America and in the subsequent United States and Canada.3 A case in point is Ole Edvart Rölvaag’s work. It is true that I do not read Norwegian and am but poorly versed in Norwegian literature in translation. These shortcomings, however serious, are, perhaps, offset by the fact that Rölvaag is the one US American minority writer who is not only best connected but also best examined in English, pace Friedrich Gerstäcker, Charles Sealsfield, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. I gratefully acknowledge Fritz Paul’s expert advice in Norwegian matters. Errors are, of course, my own fault.

Rölvaag has been quoted to the effect that Norwegian-American writers are American authors using Norwegian as their literary medium.4 His career suggests an alternative possibility: that he is a Norwegian author who resided in the North Central United States and wrote on the fate of immigrants from Norway. Whatever the case may be, these two extremes circumscribe the following discussion. ← 231 | 232 →

1. American Beginnings According to American Literary Historiography

The beginning of an American literature in a language in which the literature of an overseas country has been written for centuries causes an obvious problem: When and how did American literature written in this language begin? The extant histories of US American literature in English usually opt for a mythical moment. The editors of the Literary History of the United States (© 1946) felt that

the literary history of this nation began when the first settler from abroad of sensitive mind paused in his adventure long enough to feel that he was under a different sky, breathing new air, and that a New World was all before him with only his strength and Providence for guides.5

It is a mythical moment because it is ascribed great national importance but offers hardly a clue to an answer to the seven topical questions which circumscribe an action: Who did what, where, when, how, with what instruments, and why?

The editors of the Columbia Literary History of the United States (1988) are even less helpful because they retrojected contemporary concepts onto prehistory:

The literary history of this nation began when the first human being living in what has since become the United States used language creatively. Presumably, that moment occurred many centuries ago when one of the members of the numerous Native American tribes formulated a poetic expression or told a story.6

What if this mythical culture hero was himself a “settler from abroad?” Possibly hailing from Asia? Or from Egypt?

The new Cambridge History of American Literature (first volume 1994) overlaps with the other two since the geographical scope is also “the United States, or the territories that were to become part of the United States.”7 The editors insisted that “[o]ur History is fundamentally pluralist: a federated histories of American literatures.” Yet what are the articles of this literary confederation? Furthermore, the pluralism is quite a limited one, for the Cambridge History focuses on “writing in English in this country – ‘American literature’ as it is commonly understood here and abroad in its national implications.” America thus figures as “a semiotics of exclusion, closing out not only the Old World but also all other countries of the Americas, North and South, as well as large groups within the United States.” The limitation of US literary citizenship to English-speaking Americans results ← 232 | 233 → in a version of “American” literary history that is, if not merely convenient, based on staunchly held presuppositions and ingrained prejudices.

The excluded groups consist of readers, speakers, and writers of languages other than English or of those who have learned to do their daily business in English but continue to write in their native language. O. Øverland’s “complete narrative” of Norwegian-American literature (1996) begins with a characteristic though not unique immigrants’ genre: letter writing. Many of the private experiences were of public interest. Letters also speak to prospective emigrants outside the family circle, and they can equally serve interests that aim at dissuading emigration. According to Øverland, the first important group of published letters was compiled by G. G. Hovland and dates from the spring of 1835, when continuous, large-scale migration from Norway was finally under way.8

It is hard to tell whether US literatures in other languages are not yet ready for a survey such as Øverland’s or whether there is no scholar or small group of scholars willing and able to undertake such a project. In the case of German-American writing, there are not only a number of special studies on record but also the comparatively more tentative, problem-oriented collection of essays edited by W. Fluck and W. Sollors in 2002.9 A French companion piece might take its departure from the cultural surveys through 1900 by H. M. Jones and H. Blumenthal, and from a number of doctoral dissertations.

Taking note of this one-language, one-literature approach to writing in the United States, one may well begin to wonder whether literary life was equally departmentalized. Did Americans writing in whatever language remain isolated in their particular reading culture? Or were they aware of each other across language, literature, and culture lines? What do the plots tell about possible cooperation or counteroperation across these dividing lines? Did American authors, in the writing of their own works, make use of literature written in other languages? In the original or in translation? Given the state of research and documentation, what can be gathered about such interrelations and interactions? I suggest to pursue one and a half strands of the “federated histories of American literatures” invoked but not undertaken in the new Cambridge History.

2. Causes of Plurality

A literary culture promoted by immigrants (and, later, their descendants) begins when the literate and the literary minded among their number bring along their ← 233 | 234 → tastes and favorite texts. Whatever the settlers’ impression of the different sky may have been, they had, for good reasons, a tendency to hold on to these familiarities, these cultural securities. Far from being a burden, their literary past remained a presence that they cherished in their own writings or translations, as did, for instance, the early Massachusetts Bay colonists when they made the Bay Psalm Book (1640) conform to their idea of true doctrine at the expense of ornament.

The formula of tastes and texts – admittedly a bit flashy – follows the distinction between objects of the mind and material objects. Taste includes such things as reading habits, reading preferences, and ideas about reading matter. A text, when read, goes beyond its evident materiality.

The following argument also depends on a distinction between reading matter that is ideally accessible and that which is physically so. In principle, readers are qualified to read everything in the language(s) they are familiar with. Yet in practice, they have access only to what is available at their place and time. This practical limitation applies in particular to the time prior to the global mobility of the twentieth century. It remains to be seen whether the instant global accessibility of the electronic age will make this distinction obsolete. In this perspective, there are, in the settlement of North America, three causes of literary plurality, two of them of major historical significance. To begin with the less important one:

2.1 The pre-Columbian population

Enjoyed a variety of oral literatures employing a number of recording systems short of alphabetical script. As such, they did not have much of a chance to survive. To the best of my knowledge, the most advanced was Sequoiah’s syllabary, which contributed significantly to the part English, part Cherokee political and literary culture of the Cherokee nation. It became a historical reminiscence after most of the Cherokee people and their culture were brutally eradicated by US authorities in the late 1820s.

2.2 Importation of printed matter

If colonists hail from different language communities, each bringing along literary tastes and favorite texts of their own, the result is a co-existence not of the entire literatures of origin but of the imported parts. A good way of studying these matters is to regard the literate and literary transactions in a given language community as its “reading culture.” It consists of five distinctive activities: the making, distributing, reading, discussing, and the evaluating and preserving of written and printed material as well as sound recordings; a sixth kind, transfer, with translating as its most distinctive form, serves to establish connections between ← 234 | 235 → reading cultures. Each of these activities is based on reading, and five go beyond it in characteristic ways.

The transfer from country of origin to colony is more than just a move across geographical space. To bring part of one’s literature along is, on the whole, to preserve its homogeneity. And yet, insofar as this is only a part, the colony’s literature is but a synecdoche writ large, whose component parts do not have the same relative weight as back home. The plain style in early New England writings can, of course, be identified by the same criteria as in Old England. But in the colony, it was culturally more central because other modes of English literature were marginalized or entirely omitted. There are, of course, good reasons why Renaissance and Elizabethan theater, flourishing in London, did not, could not find a place in Boston. Fragmentation in transfer, it appears, is equally a form of transformation.

Though the agencies and institutions differ in colony and metropolis, they continue to cooperate in the same reading culture. The transfer of tastes and texts is more than a matter of new beginnings. Because of the paradoxes of transfer, modes of homogenization and transformation and their outcome go on to form part of the interliterary processes. For if literary innovation happens in the former home country, even a literary “revolution” such as the Romantic Reversal has a modest local beginning and becomes truly revolutionary in literary terms only in a complex, extended, and controversial process of reception and further development. But when it is brought along into a colony or a former colony that is beset by problems that go to the very roots of its existence, this literary revolution will come at a later point in the historical process. Therefore, it is likely to appear more as a surprising innovation than as the continued contribution to trans-oceanic homogeneity, which it is as well.

2.3 Writing strategies

Undoubtedly, the most important differentiation of a reading culture occurs when writers feel moved to assert a new identity in literary terms. In the long run, this impetus resulted in the making of distinctive American literatures in the languages of the older European counterparts. The dissociation of the Atlantic reading culture in English into an American and a British sphere has been studied in some detail. To put it succinctly: Programmatic statements – “declarations of literary independence” – are important primarily as documents of aspiration, not of achievement. As far as literary achievements are concerned, the actual writing strategies permit a classification under five categories that fit in with the morphology of the German verb for writing, schreiben: nachschreiben, weiterschreiben, ← 235 | 236 → umschreiben, gegenschreiben, and vorbeischreiben. Not all of them contribute to dissociation; but it may be of interest briefly to survey the entire range.

Both Nachschreiben and Weiterschreiben are a writer’s methods of keeping the Atlantic reading culture homogeneous. An American work either remains completely within the scope of a model taken from the European literature written in the same language (Nachschreiben) or goes somewhat beyond it, but always in keeping with the telos of the model (Weiterschreiben). Another form of Weiterschreiben is for the American writer to take more than one model and to combine them without going beyond them. Umschreiben is a half-way house in which the American writer adopts a model from the respective European literature but adapts it to an American subject-matter, while at the same time adapting the subject-matter to the model. Gegenschreiben and Vorbeischreiben, finally, are methods of dissociating the Atlantic reading culture. The first subsumes a variety of ways of linking the emergent American work with one or several written overseas in the same language in such a way as to reduce the latter from model to point of departure for a literary structure or pattern which alienates the European correlative work or works as part of a foreign literature. Vorbeischreiben, finally, amounts to linking the emergent work to one in a different language so that whatever is being brought into the American literature in question by writing, translating, paraphrasing, etc. differs to begin with. Activities of this nature have been studied for both British and German to English-American transfer; there is published evidence that the distinctions also work in the Italian to English-American and Spanish to Spanish-American domains.10 I see no reason why it should not work in the other areas as well, at least in some respects.

3. Cultural Islands, Enclaves/Exclaves, and Dividing Lines

A good starting point for developing the conceptual framework of a comprehensive study of the reading cultures which, combined or separated in cooperation, counteroperation, or in ignorant, benign, or proud disregard, make up North American colonial and, subsequently, United States and Canadian literary cultures, is the idea of a cultural island. It was mentioned in passing in the chapter that made far-reaching claims on United States literatures written in languages other than English, which a team directed by H. A. Pochmann contributed to the Spiller Literary History.11 If I prefer the term enclave, I do so remembering one of Pochmann’s examples, Willa Cather’s immigrant novels. There, the lives of the ← 236 | 237 → Nebraska Czechs and Germans are not only lived within their own group and in relation to Irish and other English-speaking Nebraskans, but are also linked – even if only in memory and surviving habits, but often by letter-writing, too – in an exclave relation with their relatives and acquaintances in the region or country of origin. Though English “enclave” and “exclave” refer primarily to tracts of land separated from the land they belong to and enclosed by foreign parts, the enclave/exclave situation, in a dynamic migrants’ society, differs in two important respects. It is not determined by geographical borderlines alone, and perhaps not even primarily by considerations of habitat, but by linguistic, literary, cultural, religious dividing lines as well as by borders of national consciousness. And the cultural centers of such an en/exclave are, as a rule, more easily identified than the location of a dividing line. Points of contact and transfer that link en/exclaves are important for the literary life in a plurilingual situation. My emphasis is on mental spaces rather than geographical space.

3.1 Dividing lines: Language barriers

The status of dividing lines differs considerably. Divisions that are mental or spiritual or both are capable of dividing absolutely. Whenever my Czech acquaintances are over their ears in voluble conversation, I stand silently by, admiring the wisdom of their language that made the word for German, němec, so similar to ně, deaf and dumb. It is in the nature of language that its en/exclaves are cut out in mental and in spiritual space, im geistigen Raum, as I would put it in German, a language that ties the English words “mental” and “spiritual” together in a single one: geistig. In Peder Seier (1928, Peder Victorious), Ole Edvart Rölvaag told about what he regarded as the “tragedy of emigration,” the deep human tragedy of language difference disrupting the core family.12 It is the “child that slips into a world where his mother cannot go. She can no longer make herself understood to her own children, while the child has its family roots cut.”

In the opening paragraphs, which focus on the relationship between the American-born son of Norwegian immigrants and his mother, Rölvaag set his major theme in the image of three rooms, two of them defined in terms of language, the third the room of religion.13 In the plot, he traced Peder’s attempts to move from the drab Norwegian family room, where he respected Mother but was ashamed because, after so many years, “she couldn’t talk decent English yet,” to the English room, about which he easily learned at school together with his ← 237 | 238 → pal, an Irish boy. This is the room of his joys, dreams, and aspirations.14 In the logic of Rölvaag’s novel, the two rooms represent the past unreconciled with the future; it is the tragedy of the immigrants’ children and their incapability to lead a satisfying life in the present. Part of Peder’s attempted move coincides with a thoroughgoing refurnishing and refurbishing of the room of religion; ultimately, it is cleaned out completely.

A single prominent instance such as Rölvaag’s suffices to make the point; but there is supporting evidence. Another important Norwegian-American writer, Waldemar Ager, gave religious sanction to the continued use of the Norwegian language among second-generation settlers when he claimed that to speak and write Norwegian was required by the commandment to honor one’s parents, because this was the only way in which they could live on in their children.15 And in a different, in the German-American en/exclave, Edna Fern (i.e. Fernande Richter, born 1861, migrated 188116) evoked the rift between the immigrant and the first American-born generation as the tragedy of Americans of German descent, who suffer a variety of estrangements. In thirty-six lyrical lines under the title “Deutschamerikaner,” the settlers are introduced as estranged from their home without having become children of the foreign land in which they now live. The high aspirations of their youth, associated in their minds and hearts with the rustle of German forests, are now no more than a remembered echo. The center of the poem is, in my reading, the stanza focusing on this estrangement between parents and children (“Deiner Heimat Laute” refers to the parents’ native language):

Und dies, worauf Dein Hoffen baute:

Die Kinder – achten, wo Du liebst,

Sie kennen Deiner Heimat Laute,

Doch fremd ist ihnen, was Du giebst [!].17

Indeed, for the second generation merely to respect what the immigrants lovingly cherish and to experience as foreign what their parents have to offer is precisely what happens in the family in Rölvaag’s novel: It is rent apart by the hyphen. For even if the parents come to love the country of their children’s birth, there is no longer a path for the whole family to walk on side by side. According to Fern: “doch ist der Weg verloren, / Auf dem ihr eng zusammengeht.” In the contemporary world ← 238 | 239 → of accelerated change, the alienation between generations no longer depends on migration.

Incidentally, the language barrier between American English and German has been hilariously depicted in light verse: by Kurt M. Stein (Die schönste Lengevitch, 1925) the way it looks and sounds from the German side and by Dave Morrah (Fraulein Bo-Peepen and More Tales Mein Grossvader Told, 1953), from the English.18

3.2 Dividing lines: Cultural barriers

If the rise of disruptive language barriers is an experience that immigrant writers focused on, cultural dividing lines combined with geographical ones are another important theme in their art. As I see it, there is a communal and a personal aspect of culture to be taken into account. In its communal application, I suggest to regard 1culture1 as the aggregate of acts of thinking, doing, and making, either habitual or exceptional, enacted in accordance with, in opposition to, or in disregard of, pertinent norms, characterized by degrees of permanence and change, on the part of members of a given community acting either in or outside the pertinent institutions, together with the results and products of these acts. Focusing on persons, I take 2culture2 to embrace the actions of the intellect and the imagination as well as the training of the sensibilities which identify a person as a member of a given 1culture1, and also the resultant state of mind and feeling, irrespective of whether the particular person makes contributions to 1culture1 or not. An important idea and practice originated with Herder, Goethe, Schiller, and Jean Paul: Selbstbildung, usually rendered as self-2culture2.19 It caught on with many nineteenth-century American writers, particularly those of a transcendentalist persuasion.

In this understanding of culture, the long years of severe depression suffered by Beret, the central mother figure in Rölvaag’s settler saga, are an extreme form of culture shock. From the very first page, Nature constantly exerts an overwhelming power over culture, though it will eventually be tamed and cultivated. In the beginning, though, the prairie almost literally swallows up the Hansas’ westering wagon as the trampled grass, strong and resilient, rises up again in its wake, and “instead of widening out astern it close[s] in again.”20 Their eventual adoption of a family name, Holm, to replace the husband’s patronym Hansa/en is a first sign of Americanization. ← 239 | 240 →

Whereas Per Hansa/Holm is always guided by his conviction that a rich farmer’s future awaits them – the Biblical “Pastures of Goshen” –, his wife is constantly beset by a great, vague fear that “here something was to go wrong.”21 She is convinced that the Great Plains are not fit for humans to live on, and she finds her fears confirmed time and again. Thus, when a huge swarm of locusts, which are “fiendish shapes” for her and which the American West is still capable of producing in mitigated form, destroys most of the harvest, anyone who has experienced such a calamity will not be surprised that Beret, half-crazed, hides within a material remnant of her native culture, the Norwegian heirloom of a big sea chest, with which she blocks the door of their sod shanty. Her first words when her husband finds her are: “Hasn’t the devil got you yet? He has been all around here today.”22 In terms of her pietistic Protestantism, she senses the presence of the “evil one” out there so intensely that she continuously lives in hell.

If readers should feel that for Beret to live in the Dakota Territory is to have crossed all geographical, cultural, and spiritual dividing lines in one go, they will find a confirmation in one of the poor woman’s experiences. Shortly after her arrival, when her husband is away on an errand, she is alone with her children for a few days. Returning from a lookout point,

the air of the place had suddenly filled with terror and mystery. The wagons had floated like grey specks in the dust; and all at once it had seemed as if the whole desolation of a vast continent were centring there and drawing a magic circle about their home. She had even seen the intangible barrier with her own eyes … had seen it clearly … had had to force herself to step across it.23

On a later occasion, Beret felt that she was imprisoned by the surrounding line of the horizon – a potent image of captivity since the horizon can never be reached nor stepped across because it moves with the person who observes it.

3.3 Dividing lines: Literary matters

Interliterary differences are of a nature that makes it inadvisable to think of them in terms of barriers, though they surely are demarcations in mental and imaginative space. One of the reasons is that literary matters are closely bound up with language differences, although they do not end there. Every reader of a foreign text has made the experience that there is a stage when basic language difficulties – in vocabulary, morphology, syntax, etc. – need to be cleared up before literary ← 240 | 241 → inferents – narrative situation, plot, character, thought, etc. – can become meaningful. Progress in foreign-language competence is easier to ascertain than in literary competence. The number of unfamiliar words will noticeably decrease in the course of time, but there is no easy gauge for assessing what a reader continues to miss in literary terms.

Among the easiest literary matter to miss are references to extant literature inscribed into the writer’s own work. Together with other literary devices, they have a tendency to disappear in translation. But where they show, interliterary difference looms large. In Peder Victorious, whenever Beret opens her Bible, the reader comes upon a Black Letter text:

Having dressed as usual, she took the Bible, paging a long while before she found what she was looking for:

Und it was so, when the dayes of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning […].24

Some readers may have difficulties spelling this out, to begin with. Even when mastered, the passage is bound to produce an impression of quaintness. It will probably appear old-fashioned and outdated.

In the original Norwegian text, however, the implications of the Bible passages in Dano-Norwegian Black Letter were different. For this is how the well-thumbed family Bible looked. This is what they were familiar with, what they loved, this was their religious home, and, by extension, that of their family. By the later nineteenth century and in Rölvaag’s novels, the clergy was divided. To Beret’s chagrin, Reverend Gabrielsen, in Peder Seier/Peder Victorious, gave away English Bibles to young Norwegian-Americans whom he wanted to encourage to live a Christian life. He would, no doubt, have agreed that the Norwegian text is outdated. Yet in Den signede dag/Their Fathers’ God, Reverend Kaldahl (whose English was “downright terrible”25) extolled the glory of Viking traditions and stood by the traditional Bible. The name reminded E. Haugen of J. N. Kildahl, “Rölvaag’s first college president and admired hero.”26 The implication, I submit, is that this minister speaks with particular authority.

In Rölvaag’s Norwegian text, the Bible passages in Black Letter pinpoint a significant religious controversy between an unquestioningly heartfelt and soul-saving adherence, on the one hand, and, on the other, a rejection for being ← 241 | 242 → inappropriate to modern, to American ways. Neither the English text – even if explicated – nor its Norwegian source can now convey the immediacy and intimacy that the Norwegian text had for many of Rölvaag’s contemporaries. It is the fate of every literary work that eventually its meaningful context needs to be recovered.

If borderlines, lines of demarcation, are places and instruments for identifying difference, such discriminations, in the logical sense of the term, are made in the context of lingual, literary, cultural, national, and geographical space and must take the time factor into account as well.

4. En/Exclave Relations of Vesterheimen

By bringing along their native language and parts of their nation’s literature and culture, and often a sense of national identity, immigrants inevitably establish their settlements as cultural extensions of their countries of origin. But insofar as the focus – le foyer – of their lives is now their new home in America, and since they are now subject to the laws and regulations and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the customs and habits of their adopted land, a degree of adaptation, though not necessarily assimilation, is inevitable. For the language of communication outside the immigrant community is always English. Staunch religious groups such as the Old Order Amish in Pennsylvania, who even today live the simple life and speak a variant of a German dialect of the seventeenth century, certainly adapted, but never assimilated to their “English” neighbors with whom they traded. As pacifists, they resisted ideological and political pressure, even when it was particularly strong during international crises such as the First World War. In sum, I find it helpful for focusing on a particular en/exclave literature to observe how the settlers were able to graft their American experience on a particular old-country term and idea: The Norwegian-Americans began to think and feel about their new Western home as vesterheimen, the Old Norse word for America. The term, O. Øverland explained, became current in the late 1870s and “was used by Norwegian Americans as a fond epithet for their own vaguely defined and unstable ethnic niche within the larger, multi-ethnic Western home.”27 He noted that Jul i Vesterheimen was the name of a Christmas annual from 1911 to 1975.

As long as it existed, vesterheimen was triply related: to Norway, to English-speaking America, and to other en/exclaves. Yet its culture, Øverland asserted, was marginal and transitory.28 This means that, in the course of time, the connection with the country of origin weakened significantly. Norway was the “Old Home” ← 242 | 243 → of the immigrant generation only. The real home even of the first American-born generation is a part of America, and their relation to Norway has become indirect: It is, at best, their family’s former home. To the extent that the language of their schooling and socialization was English, their mother tongue became more and more remote, indeed, foreign. Even if the old country kept up a special interest in its emigrants and if this interest was reciprocated by residents of vesterheimen, it was bound to diminish. Overseas family ties fade, and cultural ties tend to become formulaic, epiphenomenal. I remember a Chicago Oktoberfest in 1959. Catching up with a young man who wore a kind of blazer sporting an eagle and the inscription Turnverein, I addressed him in German but drew a blank: He did not speak the language. It was obvious that he did not have the slightest inkling of the historical importance which these athletic organizations had in post-Napoleonic times, when they campaigned to overthrow the monarchies and to establish a democratic and unified German republic.

The historical fact is that the connections which residents of vesterheimen had with English America became more extensive and intensive, and not merely in practical terms or for administrative purposes. In literary terms, a fundamental turn took place when members of a nationality gave up their native language for English not only as the sole means of communication but also as a literary medium. From this moment on, they contributed to English-American literature.

The awareness of, and the interrelations with, other en/exclaves have so far not received the attention they deserve. The focus of research has, after all, been primarily on single American reading cultures. Part of my purpose is to pick up the few desultory observations that exist on Norwegian-American literature in the hope of coming at least upon traces of the “federated histories of American literatures.”

4.1 Norwegian settlement

“Migration from Norway to the United States began in 1825,” Øverland wrote in 1996.29 In 1990, A. W. Andersen had, more cautiously, described this arrival of a group of Quakers on the sloop Restauration as the beginning of “group migration” from Norway.30 At any rate, the “America fever” did not strike in earnest before the 1830s. Not in absolute figures but in relation to a native population, in 1845, of 1.3 million living in a poor agricultural country, emigration from Norway was ← 243 | 244 → surpassed only by that from Ireland.31 R. B. Morris listed almost 475,000 Norwegians migrating to the United States through 1900, and noted that statistics from 1820 to 1868 show combined figures for Norway and Sweden.32 The peak decade was the 1880s. Another 325,000 – or more than 10,000 per year – arrived through 1930, when there was an unprecedented drop to less than 5,000 in the entire next decade. Norwegians settled for the most part in agricultural Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and South and North Dakota, with an overspill to the Pacific Northwest.

4.2 Norwegian-Americans as readers and writers

Norwegian settlers, most of them members of the Lutheran State Church, were particularly avid readers, certainly of the Bible and devotional literature, and turned out to be prolific writers on all sorts of topics. Both the periodical press and the book market attest to a vibrant Norwegian-American reading culture.

4.2.1 The Norwegian-American periodical press

As far as Norwegian-language newspapers are concerned, N. T. Eckstein asserted that they were essential to communications in and between the numerous isolated rural settlements.33 Factual observations offered by A. W. Andersen provide a good outline:

About five hundred titles came and went in the seventy-five years following 1847, the year in which Nordlyset (Northern Light) was founded in Racine County, Wisconsin. The average life span was ten years. About one-third survived a year or less. Cities most productive in publication were Minneapolis with about one hundred newspapers; Chicago with about seventy; and little Decorah, Iowa, with over thirty. A number of denominational periodicals, mainly Lutheran, were among the publications. Leading states in Norwegian-American journalism were Minnesota with about two hundred newspapers, Illinois and Wisconsin with about eighty, North Dakota and Iowa with over fifty, and Washington and New York with thirty-five and twenty-five, respectively. […] Apparently the peak of publication came between 1877 and 1906. Since then the establishment of new journals has declined sharply. In the 1980s, only three Norwegian-language papers were being published, with much of their content in English.34 ← 244 | 245 →

Most newspapers, it appears, were weeklies or bi-weeklies, with an annual subscription fee of $ 1 or $ 2 at the most. The number of dailies was extremely small. A complementary corpus, Øverland’s, which, as part of a comprehensive literary history, lists individual contributions of a literary nature to serial publications of all types, confirms the geographical spread and the relative importance of the countryside as against the large urban centers.35 Some very few Norwegian-Americans were also published in Norway. A comparison with the German-American en/exclave pattern is of some interest because it suggests possibilities of cooperation.

The number of German-American periodicals exceeded five thousand.36 Both the problems and the historical contour of the en/exclave press appear to have been similar. L. J. Rippley asserted that success in introducing German immigrants to American ways often resulted in the neglect of matters pertaining to the old country. As each generation of immigrants became one of old settlers, editors were caught between their German-American interests and the European-German preferences of the newcomers. The mortality rate of German-American newspapers was about the same as that of Norwegian-American ones.37

But the “golden age of German-language newspapers” between 1848 and 1860 does not have a precise counterpart in the Norwegian-American en/exclave, mainly because immigration history differs. Disgruntled and persecuted supporters of the failed German revolution of 1848 arrived in numbers. Their radical democratic ideas found an outlet in journalism. There were approximately forty German newspapers in the United States in 1840, nearly twice the number at the end of the decade, and well over 250 in 1860. At the same time, the number of subscribers jumped, in the case of the daily New York Staatszeitung, from 4,800 in 1851 to 15,300 in 1856. Rippley also noted “major improvements in tone, substance, quality of editing, and layout.”38

Rippley’s account of the peak period at the end of the nineteenth century is similar to A. W. Andersen’s summary of the Norwegian-American press between 1877 and 1906 cited above:

We note that in 1876 there were seventy-four German dailies, which had a total circulation of just under 300,000. There were 374 weeklies, which had a combined list of subscribers in excess of one million. Thirty-one monthlies accounted for an additional 156,000 subscribers. In 1885, German papers represented 79 percent of all foreign-language publications in the United States. In 1890, the sum of German publications ← 245 | 246 → reached 727 – and this rose further to over 800 in 1894 [which in a single year amounts to 160 percent of the Norwegian-American press during its entire run]. This was the summit year for German journalism in the United States. Thereafter a decline set in, gradual at first, then more rapid.39

English-language magazines of the time also included a considerable number of extremely short-lived ones40; but there was no decline around 1900. In fact, both the number of magazines and their circulation figures steadily increased at a very high level of incidence. For 700 magazines (excluding newspapers) in 1865 and 1,200 in 1870, J. Tebbel and M. E. Zuckerman recorded more than 5,000 in 1895, and slightly over 6,000 in 1905.41 In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Ladies’ Home Journal was the first magazine to reach a total circulation of one million, and in 1918, the Saturday Evening Post bested it with two million, with a few one-million magazines close behind.42 The decline, after 1900, of both the German-American and the Norwegian-American press appears to have had different reasons. For the number of German immigrants decreased, whereas Norwegian immigration continued at a very high level. There may also have been a common cause for the decline of the non-English press: Perhaps the almighty advertising dollar that now went into the English-language press made the difference.

After so many figures – what was the content of the Norwegian-American press? The immediate predecessors of early Norwegian-American newspapers – Øverland mentioned the very first one, Nordlyset (Muskego, Wisconsin, 1847) and, later, Skandinaven (Chicago, 1866) – started as correspondence societies formed in order to correct false perceptions of America.43 Newspapers were printed in the customary Black Letter, a font difficult to come by in the United States. This holds true also of the weekly Emigranten (Inmansville and Madison, Wisconsin), whose title looks back to the old country. This particular newspaper is characteristic in another respect, too. Run by the Scandinavian Press Association, it was, like many other and later periodicals, also a place for book publications.44 The periodical press contributed to the dissemination of literature in a more specific sense: The first of a large number of serialized novels is Julius Monson’s Pleiedatteren (The foster daughter) ← 246 | 247 → in Faderelandet (1867).45 In some instances, such serials seem to have helped tide over a newspaper during a lull in subscriptions.

The emphasis on letter writing in many periodicals suggests that the Norwegian-American press was not always a one-way communication. And it was not restricted to American matters. Of course, there were “new-country headline stories”; but there was space for “old-country lore” as well.46 Norwegian-language newspapers continued to look to their readers for the prototypical immigrants’ writing, i.e. letters telling of their experience of cutting loose, of crossing the ocean, of getting there, of struggling to make it, and finally of settling down or failing to do so.47 Rölvaag’s first work consists of such fictional – though near-autobiographical – letters attributed to one P. A. Smevik and published under the name of Paal Mørck (the dark one) in 1912 (English version 1971). Letters, as O. T. Gulliksen has pointed out, were also received from regular correspondents whom Norwegian-American newspapers retained in those districts of Norway from which a large number of immigrants had come.

In Eckstein’s view, the Norwegian-American press also served an important national purpose. The American township community had enabled Norwegians to keep essential parts of their native bygd culture alive: the dialects and regional customs of rural life in Norway. And though there was a revival of bygd regionalism in the early twentieth century, the press, according to Eckstein, was instrumental in finding a common denominator in the settlers’ identity as Norwegians.48

4.2.2 The Norwegian-American book market

A good way of assessing the Norwegian-American reading culture is to compare it with the most extensive en/exclave literature, the one in German. Since no comparative studies exist, something like a rough sketch must do. Unfortunately, there is, in research, a constant discrepancy between what ought to be done and what can be done. No doubt, a good quantitative indicator would be book production – number of titles as well as sizes of print runs – in relation to the number of potential readers. Yet total publication figures of any precision are unavailable, and even basic statistics are wobbly at best. ← 247 | 248 →

Much depends on who is recognized as an en/exclave author. Øverland included writings in Norwegian and, late in the career of some of these writers, in English, by “those who are American by choice or by birth.”49 There is no exact German-American counterpart. For in his comprehensive bio-bibliographical compilation, R. E. Ward, less restrictive in this respect, included not only permanent settlers, but immigrants who returned to their native land after only a few years, globetrotters who arrived via Polynesia, stayed for two years, and went on to Brazil, travelers whose reports were published in German, and other such birds of passage. Their number is by no means negligible.

Corpora based on diverse criteria do not compare well. What can reasonably be done is to compare salient features of subcorpora for the decades when Norwegian-American literature was particularly strong, 1850–1930. In this way, it should be possible to identify trends or tendencies, pending later confirmation. With this in mind, I have examined letters A-B or 17.5 percent of Øverland’s author-based bibliography of Norwegian-American writings of a literary nature, the hard facts in G. E. Condoyannis’ unpublished Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation on German-American prose fiction, 1850–1914, Ward’s uneven, incomplete data for letters A-B or 15 percent, 1850–1930, which offer neither quantitatively nor qualitatively reliable information, and a small but, I believe, particularly telling corpus: English-American literature in German translation, published in the United States, 1848–1912.

Letters A-B of Øverland’s bibliography comprise 106 books of every description. An amazing 48 percent were privately printed. This is not, as one might assume, an instance of vanity publishing but, as Øverland asserted, a consequence of the rural residence of the reading public. A good part of the books was sold by mail order, and authors often preferred to gamble on an uncertain direct income that would, they hoped, turn out to be higher than the pittance publishers tended to offer for the rights.50 Geographically, 15 percent hailed from Chicago, 10 from Minneapolis; the rest came from rural Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and Iowa, with the exception of one from Boston and another one from a Southern town with the beautiful Nordic name of Thorsby, Alabama.

The books published professionally in the United States date from 1847 to 1933. The geographical spread of publishers is similar in the sense that, again, only a minority of publishing houses were located in urban centers (Chicago, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, N.Y.), while most of them operated from rural Wisconsin, Minnesota, ← 248 | 249 → Washington, and Iowa. Altogether, 10 percent were published in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Kristiansund), either as joint ventures or exclusively; one title appeared in Canada (Winnipeg). Only a handful or so were also published in English.

The salient factors of Condoyannis’ German-American corpus are quite different. My observations are based on the sixty-four titles he was able to examine personally; about the same number proved unverifiable, including a fair number of serializations.51 The most striking difference, in my view, is that almost half of the titles, including three joint trans-Atlantic ventures, were published in Germany and Switzerland. Pending case studies, all one can do is entertain hypotheses: It may be that German-American authors continued to feel a strong allegiance to their literary home, which, much more so than in the Norwegian-American case, was reciprocated: Many German-language publishers, including leading houses, seem to have acted in the belief that there was indeed an interest in Germany in the literary fate of emigrants. Also, there are indications that the trans-Atlantic book trade with Germany was particularly active, and German-American authors had reason to expect that their books published in Europe would also sell in the United States.52

A quantitatively minor point of potentially great interest is the fact that three German-American novels appeared under the imprint of English-American publishers. What is more, one book published by G. Munro of New York in 1882 appeared in a series sporting a title straight from Die schönste Lengevitch: “Die Deutsche Library.” I take this to suggest that the belief in a ready German-American market was not only held by duty-bound German-American publishers, but also by enterprising English-American ones. Simultaneously, the German-American publisher Steiger of New York ran two series, “Deutsch-amerikanische Bibliothek” and “Bilder aus dem Leben von Deutschen in Amerika”; for the 1890s, Condoyannis documented two series for young Christians, the one originating in St. Louis, Missouri, the other in Cleveland, Ohio.

Private printing was negligible; so was rural publication. I am not aware of any English translations. Cumulated with the German-American translations of English-American literature examined below, German-American works were published in a diamond-shaped area between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the North and Cincinnati, Ohio, in the South, and, on the East-West axis, between Boston, Massachusetts, and St. Louis, Missouri. ← 249 | 250 →

German-American translations of English-American books form two sub-corpora. The one is, I take it, close to definitive. It was compiled by H. Eßmann as part of a comprehensive survey of collections of poetry in German translation. It embraces eight titles of anthologies of translations of British and English-American short poetry and collections of individual German-American poets’ work, including translations. There are another three collections, two of translations of English-American poetry only and one of poetry from several literatures including English-American. They were translated and compiled by the German-American K. Knortz (1841–1918, migrated in 1864, Professor of German, author, translator) and published in Germany and Switzerland respectively. The second sub-corpus, eight volumes of English-American long poems, novels, and romances in German translation published in the United States, has been collected in a more haphazard fashion. As in Condoyannis’ fiction corpus, the American publishers were all located in urban centers; three of the sixteen titles appeared under the imprint of an English-American publisher.

I studied this material on an earlier occasion, and these are the findings pertinent to the present inquiry53: (1) To publish German translations of English-American literature in the United States is to subscribe to the belief that there is a sizable German reading audience that has an interest in English-American literature but cannot read the language. I wonder whether translators in other en/exclaves shared this interest in the English-American literature around them. (2) I take it as a sign of an active reading culture that translations were made and poems composed not only by professional writers such as journalists but also by men in the professions and by tradesmen, on the side, as it were.54 (3) Indeed, a self-confident constituency of Germans defined by their language, literature, and culture was an American presence in the second half of the nineteenth century. Its interconnected co-existence with an English-American reading culture which was still not completely sure of its own ways can, in retrospect, perhaps be regarded as a form of encouragement: There was a definite interest in English-American literature, documented by the extra effort of translating and of publishing these translations, in the very country of origin. (4) By the evidence of published translations, the belief in the staying power of the German-American en/exclave culminated in the 1880s, well before the Great War put the fate of German-Americans in jeopardy. It is not easy to see why the interest in translations should diminish earlier ← 250 | 251 → than that in original work. Could it be that mediators in the service of a second literature and their publishers notice such shifts earlier than those who proudly promote literary self-interest? I am afraid the question cannot yet be answered.

4.3 Relations, mostly literary, between the Norwegian-American en/exclave and Norway

Extant studies make it possible to say relatively much about the relationship with Norway and precious little about connections with English-American literature and with some of the other en/exclaves. The termination of the union with Sweden in 1905 found “unanimous […] support” in the Norwegian-American press.55 In a sense, the 1914 centenary of independence from Denmark was a festive conclusion of the political liberation of the Old Country.

In literary terms, Norway was also, in one way or another, a constant presence for many Norwegian-American writers. Some, like Ole A. Buslett, noted a dual foreignness-relation: “Our [Norwegian-American] literature ‘is foreign to them [the Norwegians] – just as Norwegian literature is foreign to Norwegian-Americans, except for a few educated ones.’”56 The alleged lack of education of Norwegian-American farmer-readers is, not without some justification, another recurrent theme and was, by the Church and Church-related bodies, often invoked to justify protective censorship.57 Rölvaag had noticed a variant of the dual foreignness point as early as in 1912 in his Amerika-breve (Briefe aus Amerika).

The opposite view, namely that a Norwegian-American literature was possible only by modeling itself on the literature of the Old Country, was entertained as well.58 The question is, On what part of Norwegian literature? In the high-minded view of N. T. Eckstein, Norwegian-American writers owed much to the “unique cultural and national awakening which their homeland experienced during the latter half of the nineteenth century,” and he explained:

The cultural renaissance in Norway can be seen as a natural corollary to the long struggle for nationhood, which the Norwegian people experienced throughout the nineteenth century, and finally achieved in 1905. The more sensitive and literary-minded of the Norwegian-Americans were heavily indebted to such Norwegian writers as Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Henrik Ibsen, and, in almost every instance, the immigrant writers were ← 251 | 252 → much more thoroughly versed in Norwegian literature than they were in American and British literature.59

Bjørnson and Ibsen were writers around whom the controversy about realism raged. Many Norwegian-American critics blamed them for griselitteratur (something like “pigsty literature”) and praised Norwegian-American writers who eschewed their influence for providing purer and more wholesome works.60

Eckstein’s view that Norwegian-American authors had only a limited knowledge of English-American literature is at contretemps with a claim made by O. T. Gulliksen at the beginning of his survey of Rölvaag criticism. He was sure that “Norwegian-American immigrant authors enjoyed the privilege of writing from a position in which they inherited the literature of two nations as their own.”61 I will take up this issue below in its appropriate context of Rölvaag criticism. All I need to say here is that there is precious little extant criticism and scholarship on connections between Norwegian-American and English-American literature. Øverland occasionally noticed a parallel with an English-American work but is never certain whether it is accidental or part of the writer’s art.

4.4 As for connections with other en/exclave literatures

There are a few notes in Øverland that suggest potentially promising further inquiries. Advertisements for bookstores in Wisconsin selling both German and Norwegian books indicate cooperation of the two reading cultures in the distribution sector.62 Was there also cooperation between printers and publishers? The family magazine For hjemmet is on record for fiction and poetry “from Dano-Norwegian, English, and German sources.” And in 1884, a collection of poems by C. Rasmussen was graced by an “introductory lyric in German.”63 Given the international prestige of German literature, admittedly somewhat dusty at the time, it may be worthwhile to explore the Norwegian-American interest in German literature as manifest in literary and cultural magazines. It is, after all, certain that the German-American reading culture was observed by some Norwegian-Americans. A case in point is the fact that R. B. Andersen, a professor of Scandinavian languages at the University of Wisconsin, recommended following the German-American ← 252 | 253 → example of publishing “the literature of their country.”64 It might make sense to begin by studying the editorial policy of Scandinaven’s “husbibliothek” and Steiger’s “Deutsch-amerikanische Bibliothek.”

5. Ole Edvart Rölvaag in Literary Historiography

Born Ole Edvart Pedersen in 1876 and a Lofoten fisherman by trade, the later professor and writer emigrated in 1896 and adopted the family name of Rölvaag in 1898.65 (I should, perhaps, add that I vary between this American spelling employed by the author for his English-American translations and its Norwegian counterpart, Rølvaag, depending on the context.) After working for two years as a farmhand, he was able to refund his uncle for the trans-Atlantic ticket which he had received. In 1898, he began his professional training by attending highschool and continuing on to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. After a year of advanced studies in Kristiania (now Oslo), he became professor of Norwegian at St. Olaf in 1906. This pattern of an American college degree, a period of advanced study in Europe, and the return to a professorial appointment had been set by G. Bancroft, H. W. Longfellow, and others in the 1820s.

Rölvaag’s work is clearly connected with three of the four pertinent contexts: the Norwegian-American one in the United States (enclave), the old country (exclave relation), and the encompassing English-American one. Links to other literatures have, to the best of my knowledge, never been explored systematically. His first book was, to his chagrin, rejected by a Norwegian publisher so that his first four novels eventually appeared in Norwegian in America in the years 1912 to 1922 under the imprint of the official publisher of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, Augsburg in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The four volumes of his settlers’ saga were published by Aschehoug in Oslo, 1924–31. English versions appeared near-contemporaneously as Giants in the Earth, Peder Victorious, and Their Fathers’ God. A small indicator of the en/exclave relation is the anomaly that the Hansa/Holm family story is a tetralogy in the original Norwegian but a trilogy in English translation.

5.1 Rölvaag in Norwegian-American literary historiography

In Øverland’s literary history of vesterheimen, Rölvaag, the only Norwegian-American writer reasonably well known outside his en/exclave, is the subject of ← 253 | 254 → the last and longest of six essays in the concluding section on individual authors. The contour of his life’s work follows the development of the immigrant, Per Smevik, in his first, epistolary novel, Amerika-breve (1912): alienation and acculturation.66 It is, I take it, characteristic of the career of Norwegian-American literature as seen by Øverland that the fictional addressees of Smevik’s letters reside in Europe, whereas the second novel, Paa glemte veie (1914 On forgotten paths) “addressed itself to the immigrant community.”67 Though this argument depends on a confusion between fictional and implied addressees, it makes sense insofar as Paa glemte veie focuses on a conflict within the Norwegian-American Lutheran community between traditional piety and the new social gospel. The latter is, of course, not an exclusively Norwegian-American phenomenon. Rölvaag, therefore, “mediat[ed] between his ethnic group and a larger America.” In a novel written in a variety of Norwegian, this mediation could, of course, work only for readers of the language. And the idea of mediation underlines Øverland’s point that Rölvaag wrote specifically for Norwegian-American readers.

The next two novels, To tullingers (1920, Two fools) and Længselens baat (1921, The boat of longing), Øverland averred, exemplify the new critical position Rölvaag had developed after the Great War. They are often regarded as American literature in Norwegian, as American fiction with an ethnic background.68 I hesitate to use “ethnic” in contexts such as these because it suggests an ethnological difference between English-Americans and members of an en/exclave, which certainly does not exist in the case of most immigrants from Europe. Despite this unfortunate terminology, Øverland, making extensive use of A. Moseley’s studies, characterized the two novels as though they were English-American.69 The two fools destroy their lives by hoarding their money while they live as paupers. Øverland identified this theme of greed as a “quintessential American theme,” though it is quintessentially Dickensian, too. He found it developed in such characters as Henry Sutpen, Jay Gatsby, and Bigger Thomas as well as in the naturalistic downward spiral not only of Frank Norris’ McTeague (1899) but also of Erich von Stroheim’s Hollywood version, Greed (1924).70 And Nils Vaag, the dangling (immigrant) American of Længselens baat, is compared with Jimmy Herf, alone and on the road at the end of John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer (1925). I wonder whether scrupulous comparative analyses of point of view, theme, plot, character, ← 254 | 255 → description and style might not bring to light similar intimate connections with Norwegian literature, particularly since Rölvaag continued to teach it.

In this view, the immigrants’ saga – I de dage (1924, In those days) and Riket grundlægges (1925, The kingdom’s foundations), both combined in an English version as Giants in the Earth (1927), and Peder Seier (1928, Peder Victorious) and Den signede dag (1931, The blessed day, translated in the same year as Their Fathers’ God) –, which tells of the “bitter struggles of Beret” and the “broken dreams of her husband and her youngest son,” is also a story of “misspent lives.”71 Again, it is characteristic that the sequence is linked with English-American literary culture when Per Hansa is identified as an American Adam: as a character who is able to cut loose from his European past (with which Beret remains painfully entangled), who lives pragmatically, and “can take pleasure in what is to come,” particularly by wresting wealth from the American soil.

Again, Øverland found an English-American context for the 1931 volume. It portrays a “marriage that in its claustrophobic self-destruction may be compared to that of Jim and Ella in O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings (1924).” But if attention is paid not only to similarities but also to differences, a careful reader will notice that the play cannot be dissociated from its black American theme. It differs significantly insofar as Ella’s neurotic behavior effectively reduces Jim (“Crow”) to a simple-minded, good-hearted “Uncle Tom.” Though Per Hansa’s ambitions also come to naught, he does not really suffer a similar debilitating fate. And while in the play, fate is acted out exclusively between Ella and Jim, important destructive action in Den signede dag originates outside the core family, as in the bitter satire of the double baptism: The secret baptism according to the Lutheran rite of Peder’s and his Catholic-Irish wife’s son is arranged for by his Lutheran grandmother Beret, and the Catholic baptismal rite is initiated by his Catholic grandfather on his mother’s side and also administered without the father’s knowledge. If it is a matter of finding a parallel, a better one might be the early Puritan jeremiad, in the sense that – in the view of the other immigrants – Peder’s materialistic falling away from the faith of his fathers is the “quintessential” sin of the first American-born generation.72

Two points are, however, more important for Øverland’s interpretation of Rölvaag’s representative career. The one concerns the English language: Den signede dag is the only one of the novels whose English translation appeared in the same year. And it seems that at the end of his career the author “toyed with ← 255 | 256 → the idea of making English his language” when he used it for his fragmentary autobiography.73 The other point is connected with the fact that Peder’s career as a politician fails dismally before it has even begun, and his young marriage breaks up, due to a large extent to the fact that his wife served as informant for his political adversaries. It may well be that the ending of Their Fathers’ God can be read as a symbol of the termination of literary vesterheimen as an active reading culture. But then, Rölvaag seems to have had a sequel in mind.74

5.2 Rølvaag in Norwegian literary historiography

In the literary histories accessible to me, I found Rølvaag discussed only in recent ones. In the volume edited by H. L. Naess (University of Nebraska Press, 1993), he figures in the chapter “In Search of Norway’s Soul.” The emphasis is on “artists with organicist notions of culture” in the traditions of J. G. Herder and N. R. S. Grundtvig, who focus on the “folk soul,” which cannot be found in the alienated urban proletariat but only in the “rootedness” of “local, rural cultures.”75

Rølvaag fits this description only insofar as one important interest in the Hansa/Holm saga concerns the settlers’ psychology in building a culture that is rural and, at first, emphatically local. But it is a psychology that needs to come to grips with the experience of uprootedness and the pioneers’ struggle not only to make the uncultivated land their own but to make themselves over to meet the demands of the new land and its plurinational society. Complications of this sort make Naess realize that Giants in the Earth is not an “allegory through which Norway might perceive itself.”76 The settler family’s saga is, rather, identified as a “classic of American Midwestern fiction” about the “hidden cost imposed by the melting pot.” This view was to be expected from a literary history emerging in the Midwest. But if one takes a leaf from Reverend Kaldahl in Their Fathers’ God, the “emigrant[s]” do, indeed, display Norwegian spirit: the indomitable spirit of Vikings, though this time not as seafarers but on the rolling prairie. Rølvaag is reported to have called the Norwegian settlers “the Vikings of the Middle West.”77 ← 256 | 257 →

Even more than Naess’s literary history, the multi-volume one edited by E. Beyer in 1975 roped Rølvaag into the European-Norwegian context.78 (I have had access to the 1995 edition.) In a chapter on the New Realism, he is depicted as an emigrant who always regarded emigration as a great tragedy and who made nostalgia for the land of his fathers his perennial theme. I de dage and Riket grundlægges, taken together, are compared with an Icelandic family saga, encapsulating a thousand years of Norwegian cultural and social life within the space of a single generation. And quoting G. H. Gvåle to the effect that the two volumes offer “one of the most beautiful and searching contributions to the literary charting of the psychic character of our nation,” the author incorporated the Norwegian-American writer completely into the literary and cultural concern with a “Norwegian soul,” from which he was excluded in Naess’s literary history.

The world and life of the first American-born generation, Peder Seier and Den signede dag, are unlocked by the English title of the latter volume, Their Fathers’ God. From one point of view, it evokes the ancestry still alive in the present generation. But insofar as the Lutheran Norwegian’s marriage with an Irish Catholic girl ends in catastrophe, there are passages where the title phrase comes close to reading, their fathers’ gods. Instead of accepting this disruptive ending, the literary historian preferred a conciliatory one: He characterized Beret’s leave-taking and death as one of the greatest scenes in Norwegian New Realism, full of pathos but not sentimental, and reminded his readers that the title, Den signede dag, is a quotation from a Grundtvig hymn, which culminates in praise extended “til vårt fedreland”: to the country of our forefathers.

5.3 Rölvaag in English-American literary historiography

It is an interesting point in the relation between an en/exclave and the encompassing culture that Rölvaag is considered an English-American author on the strength of translations, not on that of original work. It is a central idea in the chapter on the “Mingling of Tongues” in Spiller’s Literary History that the authors writing in languages other than English eventually fall into step with the march of English-American literature. So it may not come as a surprise that, on the strength of Amerika-breve and the three volumes of the immigration saga in English translation, Rölvaag figures as a representative American author, one who told the “story of the immigrant’s part in the making of the great new nation” as though it were ← 257 | 258 → a single story.79 In the two pertinent Columbia volumes, Rölvaag appears under the label of ethnicity: In the comprehensive Columbia Literary History, he is listed, together with Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, and Henry Roth, as among the “nation’s first major ethnic writers.”80 And in the Columbia History of the American Novel, in the chapter on “Ethnicity and the Marketplace,” he is cited for the same works as in Spiller, but now for their Norwegian rather than their American traits. The fact that the name of the “female protagonist” of Giants in the Earth is given as “Beret Holm” and that of “her husband” as “Per Hansa” is not the only puzzler in these comments on Rölvaag’s books.81

Little has been done on the translations. It is hardly of interest to have a bilingual reader expatiate upon how good or faithful the translations are because the idea of what makes for good and faithful translating varies considerably. However, it would be good to know in what ways the imagined world evoked by the translation differs from the one evoked by Rölvaag’s Norwegian text.

5.4 Critiques of the Hansa/Holm saga

A promising approach is O. T. Gulliksen’s. He proposed that Norwegian-American literature involves no less than two languages and three cultural contexts: the Norwegian-American, the European-Norwegian, and the English-American one. It should be added that the world of the Hansa/Holm saga actually involves yet another nationality at the same level as the Norwegian-American, i.e. the Irish, because, though English-speaking, they did not really represent English America, since their Roman Catholicism was felt to be un-American. Even so, it makes sense to study Gulliksen’s threefold contextualization in the light of his presuppositions. If I see it correctly, he claimed that such contexts are equally made by authors and critics.82 He was certain that Norwegian-American “[r]eaders and writers, from the relatively anonymous to professionals like Ager and Rølvaag, all developed a ‘double consciousness.’”83 This was so, he thought, because “Norwegian-American immigrant authors enjoyed the privilege of writing from a position in which they inherited the literature of two nations as their own.” It follows that Giants in the Earth presupposes firsthand knowledge of two national bodies of text. In his novels, Rølvaag combined his reading of old-country sagas ← 258 | 259 → and fairy tales, his familiarity with Knut Hamsun and Søren Kierkegaard, with his memory of stories told by earlier Norwegian immigrants in the Midwest, and with his knowledge of American frontier farmers.84

I take exception, both in general and in particular terms. In the first place, inheriting even a single literature is not as easy as Gulliksen seems to think. Under Civil Law, inheriting is what happens to a person. Whenever literature and culture are concerned, it is a matter of intensive, prolonged, and joyful activity, on the part of the “recipient,” so-called. Here, Goethe’s thoughtful adage applies, which, unfortunately, did not make it into the Oxford Book of Quotations (1955): “Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen” – What you inherited from your fathers, acquire it so that you may possess it.

While Norwegian-Americans may well have realized that their lives involved two languages and, indeed, two ways of life, that of the Norwegian cotter and the American farmer, the reading knowledge of the majority, though intense, was, as a rule, fairly limited: to the Bible and devotional literature. The limitations of Norwegian-American farmer-readers and writers are a constant theme in Øverland.85 And in the practical application to Giants in the Earth, the “two national bodies of text” dwindle considerably. While it is true that critics can recognize the presence, in a work under study, of only such other literary works as they have read, it is equally true that not everything they bring to their reading makes sense. Only the author can inscribe contexts into a work. All that critics can do is read correctly, or misread. What they read into a work may help to characterize their approach but not necessarily the work in question. It is in this cautionary sense that I examine Gulliksen’s construction of the three contexts.

5.4.1 European-Norwegian perspectives

Gulliksen identified G. H. Gvåle and I. R. Kongslien as scholars writing from a European-Norwegian perspective.86 Their approach consists in “giv[ing] Rølvaag a place in the formation of a Norwegian canon.”87 Gvåle, he averred, “delineate[d] Rølvaag’s Norwegian nineteenth-century cultural ballast” – the “national-romantic ideology of which Rølvaag was a product” –, which “had no chance of being ← 259 | 260 → transplanted.”88 And it is Gvåle’s contention that what Rølvaag may have reaped from American culture was only there to strengthen what she considered the best of his Norwegian roots. This curious argument has also been brought forward by American literary nationalists when they claimed that American Transcendentalists borrowed from German literature only what they had already developed on their own. As to the literary company that Rølvaag kept, Gvåle found that Arne Garborg, Bjørn Bjørnson, Henrik Ibsen and Aasmund O. Vinje provided the foundation on which he built; after all, he “constantly referred” to them.89 Gvåle also named Henrik Wergeland and featured “[Nobel laureate] Sigrid Undset and Olaf Duun’s masterpieces of the 1920s” as the writers and works that “inspired [him] most of all.” There are other works which Gvåle mentioned as “influential” though they were not recognized by Gulliksen. I refer in particular to Gustav Frenssen’s Jørn Uhl (1901), primarily for the similarity in its description of the link between man and soil.90 Another Nobel laureate, Knut Hamsun, has on occasion been described as an object of Rølvaag’s anxiety of influence.91

The company that I. R. Kongslien chose for Rølvaag consists of writers of “novels of emigration,” among them Johan Bojer, Vilhelm Moberg, and Alfred Haugen. But it is evident that the perspective of a novel of emigration is contrary to that of an immigrants’ novel.92 Gulliksen felt that to emphasize “the tragedy of the emigrant,” as Kongslien did, and to assume that “leaving Norway is a tragic act” are hallmarks of the European-Norwegian perspective. This is, I submit, too easy a lineup. As already mentioned, Gvåle noted quite a different tragedy in Peder Victorious: Language difference eventually destroys one of the most intimate ties, that between mother and child.93 By holding on to her Norwegian language and religious and moral heritage, Beret is, in a sense, the emigrant in a family of immigrants. Is this conflict a personal matter? Is it characteristic of Norwegian immigrants? Is it an American experience shared by immigrants to the rural Midwest? The evidence at hand suggests that only the first case applies. ← 260 | 261 →

5.4.2 The Norwegian-American perspective

Gulliksen felt, is difficult to identify. He reserved this category for “those readers who, at the time of the Midwestern Norwegian-American written culture, knew Rølvaag personally and placed him in a Norwegian-American context,” irrespective of whether they read him in Norwegian or English.94 He named, in particular, E. Haugen, T. Jorgenson & N. O. Solum, F. K. Paulson, and R. L. Stevens, and referred to the oral observations by C. Clausen.95 The criterion of personal acquaintance is unfortunate and, I believe, unnecessary, particularly since it excludes the most thoroughgoing study of Norwegian-American literature, O. Øverland’s. Gulliksen then discussed Norwegian-American criticism in his sense of the word under four heads: adulation96; the dilemma of language, i.e. to write Norwegian in America was to write for oblivion.97 Under the head of realism, Gulliksen listed testimonies to the effect that some immigrants faulted parts of Rølvaag’s novels because they ran counter to their own experience.98 Finally, he collected opinions saying that the immigrant experience was not tragic.99

5.4.3 English-American perspectives

Characterizing it as a “history of ideas”-approach which “consider[s] Rølvaag to be part of the American literary canon,” Gulliksen found this “contemporary approach to Rølvaag to be the most pertinent, fruitful, and exciting for the future.”100 One of its anomalies is that a translation can become a “standard text” either because critics do not know Norwegian or because they “rightfully” consider it as such. The first stipulation is accidental and therefore not a good reason, the second is problematic. There is, of course, no objection to reading a translation if one does not know the language. This is, after all, what translations are for. But as far as comments on translations are concerned, both monolingual critics and monolingual readers simply cannot understand in what respects the particular translation reinterprets the original. The differences between languages, literatures, and cultures make deviations from the original inevitable even if its author ← 261 | 262 → had a hand in the translation, as Rølvaag did in the case of most volumes of the Hansa/Holm saga.

But the authenticity of the text is not Gulliksen’s concern. The links with English-American literature that he is interested in have not necessarily come about by “conscious borrowing on Rølvaag’s part” nor, one should add, by purposive response strategies. He is satisfied to find “merely suggestions for possible comparative reading.”101 Among the critics who provided such suggestions, three are most prominent: A. Moseley, for whom it is important to analyze not Rølvaag’s Norwegian-American characters – women and men, parents and children – but “how his fiction reveals the American character as a whole,” i.e. the problematic national character known from earlier phases of American Studies102; R. Scholes, whose “concern is how Beret makes sense to American readers today”103; and H. P. Simonson, who has

a way of implicitly suggesting thematic connections and pointing to parallels in his own reading of American literature. He, like Scholes, is making his own Rølvaag text by combining texts in his literary consciousness, as the only way to make the immigrant writer present.

In a later essay,

Simonson defines his neo-orthodox reading more specifically. Beret’s religious faith undergoes “terrible tests” on the prairie […], terrible because, at least in the beginning, they necessarily occur outside and beyond the protection of cultural ties she has been accustomed to at home. She therefore comes to dramatize a Barthian contrast between culture and faith.

My reading of Moseley and Simonson is different. In her effort to recommend the English Rølvaag to English-Americans, Moseley placed the Norwegian-American author in relation to several English-American writers and to prominent American-Studies interpretations. At one point, she linked him with the “basic American situation” interpreted in terms of R. W. B. Lewis’ description of the “American hero as an American Adam – ‘an individual emancipated from history, happily bereft of ancestry.’”104 Taking up this cue, Gulliksen extolled Per Hansa as “in more than one sense, the very incarnation of the ideal American in Lewis’s mythology” and quoted “happily bereft of ancestry,” together with a considerable part of the context.105 But in ← 262 | 263 → order to accommodate Rølvaag, Moseley had, unlike Gulliksen, gone on to modify Lewis by drawing on the major modern theme of alienation, defined as a state of “being unhappily ‘bereft of ancestry.’”106 In other words, Rølvaag did quite the opposite of perpetuating the myth of the American as the migrant who, in order to become a new man, gladly shakes off the yoke of European history. And with due respect to Moseley, Per Hansa is not Crèvecoeur’s American farmer either. Perishing a few years after settlement, he leaves the farm to his wife to realize his dream, with improvements of her own added on. Unlike in Crèvecoeur, the success, which this female American farmer has in the end, derives not from cutting her European roots but precisely from keeping them intact. This conclusion is in keeping with Rölvaag’s conviction that emigration is a tragedy when the immigrants disregard or forget their roots.

6. An Invitation

Where has this survey of Ole Edvart Rölvaag as Norwegian-American writer taken us? What perspective does it open on the literary culture of the British colonies in North America and the subsequent United States? Can it serve as something like a blueprint for the “federated histories of American literatures,” for a comprehensive, integrated historical study of this particular literary culture? Can I encourage readers to develop such an approach by building on the case of Rölvaag, on K. Mueller-Vollmer’s and my study of the literature of British America and the United States, 1770s to 1850s, on an ambitious project, Do the Americas have a Common Literary History?, edited by B. Buchenau and A. Paatz, or on the reader’s own particular expertise? In any event, I can vouch for the fact that comprehensive American Studies succeed best as a team effort.

6.1 Generating research perspectives from the concept of reading culture

Guided by this concept, it is possible to identify a number of questions or inquiries that promise to achieve the intended purpose. In the end, their validity depends, of course, on the circumstances of each particular case. The subsequent roll call is not a complete listing but focuses on the most important issues.

As will be remembered, “five plus one” activities, together with the appropriate agents and institutions, make up a reading culture: the making, distributing, ← 263 | 264 → reading, discussing, evaluating for the purpose of preservation, and transferring of literature.

Authors are not born. Rather, citizens and taxpayers become writers by producing literary work. For Norwegian-American literature as part of the comprehensive American literature, the most significant methods of writing are, in descending order of importance, those which engage the following bodies of literature: other Norwegian-American works, the literatures of Norway, English America, other en/exclaves, and other literatures of the world. A critical point is reached when an en/exclave writer gives up his native language and adopts English as his medium. It stands to reason that this spectrum is applicable to other immigrants from Europe.

This engagement potentially involves all levels of a work as well as all “inferents,” all imaginative constructs such as point of view, theme, character, unit of action, etc. that can be inferred from the text. Identical and highly similar features suggest a writer’s familiarity with a given work, differences characterize the way in which the work is placed in a culture or between cultures. Does it lean more towards the Norwegian or the American side of the hyphen? Does it recognize other en/exclave cultures? As competitive or cooperative? Does it stabilize, expand, or dissolve Norwegian-American literature? A list of perspectives for generating pertinent questions for research is provided in K. Mueller-Vollmer’s and my The Internationality of National Literatures in Either America: Transfer and Transformation.107

Studies of distribution may well begin by compiling statistics for book and periodical publication. A more inquisitive interest extends to agents and agencies that make literary work available to potential readers. Such studies help to identify centers of a given reading culture and to recognize the “open field publishing” that characterizes Norwegian-American literature. Does a publisher specialize in a single en/exclave literature? Does he serve more than one? If a publisher of English-American literature also handles one or more en/exclaves, is this a matter of economic expediency or an act of confidence in the staying power of these literatures in America?

The periodical press provides an excellent testing ground. Are there statements of editorial intent? How do they correlate with editorial practice? Is the editorial policy monocultural or pluricultural? Monolingual or plurilingual? What do the texts themselves and their arrangement tell about how the editorial board positioned itself in the cultural configuration of comprehensive American ← 264 | 265 → literature? In religion? In politics? Do editorial decisions correlate with publication figures?

Whenever editorial policy extends to several en/exclaves and, possibly, to the encompassing literature as well, there is excellent material for a comparative study in terms of both statistics and the interpretation of actual texts. If Norwegian-American periodicals paid attention to German or German-American literature, as a few of them did, did German-Americans reciprocate? Or is the relationship between the two en/exclave literatures asymmetrical? If so, precisely in what way and for what reasons?

Reading as such is an elusive matter. Acts of reading can, at best, be estimated by the study of critical pronunciations and historical interpretations. The historian can often learn more about the capabilities – not the actual performance – of readers by examining school and college curricula and such documents as valedictory addresses or articles on teaching. In this way, one can obtain a sense of the preparedness of the potential reading audience.

As far as discussing or commenting is concerned – critical, interpretative, or historical, and sometimes in the form of responsive works by other writers: all this is welcome as a guide to the reading culture in question. In pursuit of a comprehensive history of literatures in America, the more telling documents are responses across the usual set of dividing lines, because they offer insights into such facets as potential or actualities, engagement or neglect, inclusion or exclusion, cooperation or counteroperation, appropriation or rejection.

Evaluation, in one of its senses, is part of commenting, and frequently controversial and combative. Evaluation in view of preservation in archives and libraries for the purpose of future use differs in an important way. The investment of labor and resources in the establishment and maintenance of these storehouses of the past usually places the seal of social approval on the preceding critical discussion. Anthologies are particularly important because they combine preservation with actualization. Libraries as reservoirs of writing and print culture, sonic recordings included, are an interesting reminder that, unlike in oral cultures, mediation from past to future is not a matter of tradition, of handing down from generation to generation but a gathering up of ideas, forms, devices, quotations, etc. on the part of writers – of promising young women and men or seasoned war horses of literature alike –, any place, any time. To insist that, in literate and literary cultures, there is no tradition to speak of, only recovery – a term fresh enough to redirect the attention in ways which the overworked “reception” no longer can – may contribute to the phasing out of ideas associated with oral cultures that no longer make sense in a print culture, print here referring to any kind of material record. ← 265 | 266 →

Finally, the linking of reading cultures is a matter of transfer, with translation the most effective activity. The classical and neo-classical practice of imitatio veterum was an early prestige form. It makes sense to subsume, under transfer, considerations of agents and agencies, networks and regimes, and the shipment of literary goods, all of which promotes international literary commerce. A literary translation can be identified as such wherever an actual writer’s name is linked with the title of a work in a language other than the one in which it was written. Categories for the study of translations in view of a cultural history of this interliterary practice have been discussed in my encyclopedia article on this matter.108 With a comprehensive history of American literatures in view, it makes sense to identify the argumentative and imaginative differences between source text and translation because they throw a light on the translators’ attitudes towards their authors and their literatures.

6.2 Connections: Inscriptions in Rölvaag’s works

A thorough study of the range and precise nature of Rölvaag’s inscriptions can, of course, draw on extant research. It is clear that Rölvaag made considerable use of European-Norwegian literature in writing his own works, but at best an insignificant one of Norwegian-American and English-American literature, and hardly any of other literatures, whether en/exclave or national. Before striking out into new areas, it may be a good idea carefully to reexamine the literature on this subject in view of the important distinction between relationships that are due only to the critic’s reading and actual inscriptions on the author’s part. Rølvaag’s boyhood reading and reading preferences are known. So is, I believe, his reading when a student at St. Olaf College around the turn of the century, and use was made of his class notes as professor of Norwegian language and literature. Given the time of his most intensive training, N. T. Eckstein’s suggestion to examine his work in relation to the “unique cultural and national awakening which [his] homeland [Norway] experienced during the latter half of the nineteenth century” is decidedly a good idea.109 E. Haugen and others have also called attention to his use of the work of the eminent (near-) contemporaries, among them Nobel laureates Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset.110

Inquiries of this kind are particularly meaningful when they are dynamic, not static. When they aim at establishing a state of affairs, there is a tendency to make ← 266 | 267 → protagonists disappear in systems. When the objective is to outline a complex set of actions and transactions and their eventual outcome, there is a good chance of depicting literary life as it was.

Works Cited

Andersen, Arlow W. Rough Road to Glory: The Norwegian-American Press Speaks Out on Public Affairs, 1875–1925. Philadelphia, Penn.: Balch Institute Press, 1990.

Arndt, Karl J. R., & May E. Olson. German-American Newspapers and Periodicals, 1732–1955. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1961.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, gen. ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature, vol. 1, 1590–1820. Cambridge, Engl.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994.

Beyer, Edvard, ed. Norges Literaturhistorie. Vol. 4. Oslo: Cappelen, 1995.

Blumenthal, Henry. American and French Culture, 1800–1900: Interchanges in Art, Science, Literature, and Society. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1975.

Buchenau, Barbara, & Annette Paatz, in cooperation with Rolf Lohse & Marietta Messmer, eds., and with an Introduction by Armin Paul Frank. Do the Americas Have a Common Literary History? Interamericana 1. Frankfurt a. M.: Lang, 2002.

Cazden, Robert E. “Der Nachdruck deutschsprachiger Literatur in den Vereinigten Staaten, 1850–1918.” Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 31 (1988): 193–202.

Condoyannis, George E. “German American Prose Fiction from 1850–1914.” Unpubl. Columbia Univ. Ph.D. dissertation, 1953.

Deutsch-amerikanischer National-Bund, ed. Das Buch der Deutschen in Amerika. Philadelphia, Penn.: Walther, 1909.

Eckstein, Neal T. The Marginal Man as Novelist: The Norwegian-American Writers H. H. Boyesen and O. E. Rølvaag as Critics of American Institutions. New York: Garland, 1990.

Elliott, Emory, gen. ed. Columbia History of the American Novel. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1991.

Elliott, Emory, gen. ed. Columbia Literary History of the United States. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988.

Eßmann, Helga, ed. Anthologien mit Dichtungen der britischen Inseln und der USA – mit einem Anhang: Amerikanische Short Stories in deutschsprachigen Anthologien. Vol. 3 of Helga Eßmann & Fritz Paul, eds. Übersetzte Literatur in deutschsprachigen Anthologien: Eine Bibliographie. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2000. ← 267 | 268 →

Fluck, Winfried, & Werner Sollors, eds. German? American? Literature? New Directions in German-American Studies. New York: Lang, 2002.

Francini, Antonella. “In the Longfellow Line: Some Contemporary American Poets as Translators of Eugenio Montale.” Unpubl. Drew University Ph. D. Dissertation, 1985.

Frank, Armin Paul. “‘Borderline Cases’: On the Uneasy Relations Between English and Non-English Writing in United States Literary Culture.” Anglo-American Awareness: Arpeggios in Aesthetics. Ed. by Gisela Hermann-Brennecke & Wolf Kindermann. Münster: LIT Verlag, 2005. 218–43.

Frank, Armin Paul. “Translation research from a literary and cultural perspective: Objectives, concepts, scope.” Harald Kittel, et al, eds. Übersetzung, Translation, Traduction: Ein Internationales Handbuch zur Übersetzungsforschung. Vol. 1. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004. 790–851.

Frank, Armin Paul, & Kurt Mueller-Vollmer. The Internationality of National Literatures in Either America: Transfer and Transformation. Vol. I/2. British America and the United States, 1770s–1850s. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2000.

Gulliksen, Oyvind T. Twofold Identities: Norwegian-American Contributions to Midwestern Literature. New York: Lang, 2004.

Haugen, Einar. Ole Edvart Rölvaag. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

Jones, Howard Mumford. America and French Culture, 1750–1848. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1927.

Jorgenson, Theodore, & Nora O. Solum. Ole Edvart Rölvaag: A Biography. New York: Harper’s, 1939.

Knortz, Karl. Amerikanische Gedichte der Neuzeit. Leipzig: Wartig, 1883.

Knortz, Karl. Lieder aus der Fremde. Glarus: Vogel, 1887.

Knortz, Karl. Poetischer Hausschatz der Nordamerikaner. Oldenburg: Schultze, 1902.

Leser, L. L. “Deutsche Dichtkunst in den Vereinigten Staaten.” Deutsch-amerikanischer National-Bund 369–96.

Lewis, R. W. B. The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago, Ill.: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1955.

Morris, Richard B., ed. Encyclopedia of American History: Bicentennial Edition. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Moseley, Ann. Ole Edvart Rølvaag. Western Writers Series 80. Boise, Ida.: Boise State University Press, 1987.

Mueller-Vollmer, Kurt. “How Brockhaus’ Conversations-Lexicon became the Encyclopedia Americana: A Fresh Look at Nineteenth-Century German-American ← 268 | 269 → Cultural Transfer.” Ilona Slawinski, ed. Der Mnemosyne Träume: Festschrift für Joseph Strelka zum 80. Geburtstag. Tübingen: Francke, 2007. 209–23.

Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. Lincoln, Nebr.: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Øverland, Orm. The Western Home: A Literary History of Norwegian America. Urbana, Ill.: The Univ. of Illinois Press, 1996.

Paulson, Kristoffer F. “Ole Rølvaag’s Giants in the Earth: The Structure, the Myth, the Tragedy.” Norwegian-American Studies 34 (1995): 201–15.

Paulson, Kristoffer F. “Rølvaag as Prophet: The Tragedy of Americanization.” Gerald Thorson, ed. Ole Rølvaag: Artist and Cultural Leader. Northfield, Minn: St. Olaf College Press, 1975. 57–64.

Peach, Linden. British Influence on the Birth of American Literature. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Price, Kenneth M. Whitman and Tradition: The Poet in His Century. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1990.

Rippley, La Verne J. The German-Americans. Boston: Twayne, 1976.

Rölvaag, Ole Edvart. Giants in the Earth. With an Introduction by Vernon L. Parrington. New York: Harper, 1929.

Rölvaag, Ole Edvart. Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later. Translated from the Norwegian by Nora O. Solum & the Author. With an Introduction by Gudrun Hovde Gvåle, Translated from the Norwegian & adapted by Einar Haugen. Lincoln, Nebr.: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1983.

Rölvaag, Ole Edvart. Their Fathers’ God. Translated by Trygve M. Ager. Lincoln, Nebr.: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1938.

Scholes, Robert. “The Fictional Heart of the Country: From Rølvaag to Gass.” Gerald Thorson, ed. Ole Rølvaag: Artist and Cultural Leader. Northfield, Minn.: St. Olaf College Press, 1975. 1–13.

Simonson, Harold P. “Beret’s Ineffable West.” Ole Karlsen & Renne Waare, eds. Rapport fra Rølvaag-konferansen I Sandnessjoen 7.-8. august 1995. Nesna, Nordland, Norway: Høgskolen i Nesna, 1995. 105–14.

Simonson, Harold P. Prairies Within: The Tragic Trilogy of Ole Rølvaag. Seattle, Wash.: Univ. of Washington Press, 1987.

Shell, Marc, ed. American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2002.

Shelley, Philip Allison. “A German Art of Life in America: The American Reception of the Goethean Doctrine of Self-Culture.” Shelley et al., eds., Anglo-German and American-German Crosscurrents 1. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1957. 241–92. ← 269 | 270 →

Sollors, Werner, ed. Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature. New York: New York Univ. Press, 1998.

Spiller, Robert E., et al., eds. Literary History of the United States: History. New York: Macmillan, 41974.

Stevens, Robert Lowell. “Ole Edvart Rølvaag: A Critical Study of His Norwegian-American Novels.” Unpubl. Univ. of Illinois Ph.D. dissertation, 1955.

Tebbel, John, & Mary Ellen Zuckerman. The Magazine in America, 1741–1900. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991.

Trommler, Frank. “Literary Scholarship and Ethnic Studies: A Reevaluation.” Fluck/Sollors 25–40.

Ward, Robert E. A Bio-Bibliography of German-American Writers, 1670–1970. White Plains, N.Y.: Kraus, 1985.

Weisbuch, Robert. Atlantic Double-Cross: American Literature and British Influence in the Age of Emerson. Chicago, Ill.: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1986.

Wellek, René. Confrontations: Studies in the Intellectual and Literary Relations Between Germany, England, and the United States During the Nineteenth Century. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1965.

Wellek, René, & Austin Warren. Theory of Literature. London: Cape, 1949.

1 Cf. Sollors, Shell.

2 Cf. Buchenau/Paatz.

3 Cf. Frank/Mueller-Vollmer.

4 Cf. Øverland, p. 351.

5 Spiller, p. xix.

6 Elliott, Columbia Literary History, p. xv.

7 Bercovitch, p. 3; also the next three quotations.

8 For “complete narrative,” cf. Øverland, p. x; on Hovland, p. 20, on immigration p. 3.

9 From now on, whenever the work cited is identified in the main text, a note is omitted.

10 Cf. Peach, Weisbuch, Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, Francini, Buchenau/Paatz.

11 Spiller, p. 678.

12 Rölvaag, Peder, p. xii; also next quotation.

13 Cf. Rölvaag, Peder, pp. 1–3.

14 Cf. Rölvaag, Peder, p. 3.

15 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 9.

16 Cf. Deutsch-amerikanischer National-Bund, p. 389.

17 Deutsch-amerikanischer National-Bund, p. 409; also next quotation.

18 Cf. Frank, “Borderline Cases,” pp. 224–27.

19 Cf. Shelley.

20 Rölvaag, Giants, p. 3.

21 Rölvaag, Giants, p. 28; cf. Øverland, p. 359.

22 Rölvaag, Giants, p. 348; “fiendish shapes,” p. 349.

23 Rölvaag, Giants, p. 57.

24 Cf. Rölvaag, Peder, p. 232; the spelling “dayes” is correct. The quotation Beret found was, of course, in Norwegian.

25 Rölvaag, God, p. 210.

26 Haugen, p. 107.

27 Øverland, p. 5.

28 Cf. Øverland, pp. 3–15.

29 Øverland, p. 3.

30 Andersen, pp. 23–24.

31 Cf. Øverland, p. 4.

32 Cf. Morris, p. 655.

33 Cf. Eckstein, p. 27.

34 Andersen, p. 214; for the German-American serial press, cf. Arndt/Olson.

35 My survey is based on 17.5 percent (letters A and B) of Øverland’s author-based corpus.

36 Cf. Fluck/Sollors, p. 4.

37 Cf. Rippley, p. 161.

38 Cf. Rippley, p. 163.

39 Cf. Rippley, p. 164.

40 Cf. Tebbel/Zuckerman, pp. 57–58.

41 Cf. Tebbel/Zuckerman, pp. 57, 68.

42 Cf. Tebbel/Zuckerman, pp. 68, 79.

43 Cf. Øverland, pp. 32–33.

44 Cf. Øverland, pp. 39–40.

45 Cf. Øverland, p. 98.

46 Gulliksen, p. 5.

47 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 5.

48 On the bygd revival, cf. Øverland, esp. p. 189; on national self-awareness, cf. Eckstein, p. 25.

49 Øverland, p. ix.

50 Cf. Øverland, p. 51.

51 Cf. Condoyannis, pp. B625-29; I am indebted to J. Mittendorf for assistance, beyond the call of professional duty, in making an illegible microfilm decipherable.

52 Cf. Trommler, p. 34, presumably based on Cazden.

53 Cf. Frank, “Borderline Cases,” pp. 231–32. My thanks go to W. Kindermann for allowing me to reuse this material.

54 Cf. Leser.

55 Øverland, p. 187.

56 Øverland, p. 191.

57 Cf. Øverland, p. 194.

58 B. A. Schmarling (1876), cf. Øverland, p. 104; J. B. Wist (1904), cf. Øverland, p. 193.

59 Eckstein, p. 26.

60 Cf. Øverland, p. 191.

61 Gulliksen, p. 185.

62 Cf. Øverland, p. 47.

63 Øverland, pp. 56, 228.

64 Cf. Øverland, p. 58.

65 Cf. Haugen, p. [xiii].

66 Cf. Øverland, p. 348.

67 Øverland, p. 350; also next quotation.

68 Cf. Øverland, p. 351.

69 Cf. Moseley; cf. Gulliksen, pp. 200–01.

70 Cf. Øverland, p. 352.

71 Cf. Øverland, p. 357; next two quotations pp. 360, 364.

72 On the jeremiad in Rölvaag, cf. Gulliksen, pp. 157–58.

73 Øverland, p. 368.

74 Cf. Haugen, p. 98.

75 Naess, p. 226.

76 Naess, p. 236; also next quotation.

77 Cf. Haugen, p. 96.

78 Cf. Beyer, pp. 363–66. I am greatly indebted to Fritz Paul for steering me through the Norwegian text.

79 Spiller, pp. 689–90 at 690.

80 Cf. Elliott, Columbia Literary History, p. 726.

81 Elliott, Columbia…Novel, pp. 389–91 at 390.

82 Cf. Gulliksen, pp. 185, 192.

83 Gulliksen, p. 185; also next quotation.

84 Gulliksen, pp. 185–86; he gave two dates for Rölvaag’s death, 1931 (p. 185) and, erroneously, 1939 (p. 193).

85 Cf. Øverland, pp. 75, 77, 78, etc.

86 Cf. Gulliksen, pp. 188–92; “European Norwegian” is not his term.

87 Gulliksen, p. 192, cf. pp 188, 191.

88 Gulliksen, pp. 188–89; next quotation p. 189.

89 Gulliksen, p. 190; also next quotation.

90 Cf. Rölvaag, Peder, p. xviii.

91 Cf. Haugen, pp. 72–73.

92 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 191; next quotation, p. 192.

93 Cf. Rölvaag, Peder, p. xii.

94 Gulliksen, p. 188, n. 5.

95 Cf. Gulliksen, pp. 192–99.

96 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 193.

97 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 194.

98 Cf. Gulliksen, pp. 196–97.

99 Cf. Gulliksen, p. 198.

100 Gulliksen, p. 199; also next quotation.

101 Gulliksen, p. 200.

102 Moseley, p. 6.

103 Gulliksen, p. 201; next two translations, pp. 204, 206.

104 Mosely, p. 14; Lewis, p. 5.

105 Gulliksen, pp. 200–01.

106 Moseley, p. 14; italics in the text.

107 Cf. Frank/Mueller-Vollmer, pp. 34–35 in the context of pp. 13–42.

108 Cf. Frank, “Translation research.”

109 Eckstein, p. 26.

110 Cf. Haugen, p. 72.