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Between National Fantasies and Regional Realities

The Paradox of Identity in Nineteenth-Century German Literature


Arne Koch

Despite its popularity during the nineteenth century, regional literature has often been overlooked with regard to its role in the development of German national consciousness. By exploring various illustrations of geographic-historical landscapes in texts written before the 1848 revolutions and after the 1871 unification, this book investigates the vital polyphony generated by unique regional voices throughout the age of nationalism. Close readings of texts by Berthold Auerbach, Theodor Storm, Wilhelm Raabe, Fritz Reuter, Theodor Fontane, Gottfried Keller, and Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach examine recognizable and unfamiliar regions. Although this study concentrates on provincial writings, literary regionalism’s fictionality and simultaneous referentiality raise broader questions for the programmatic aesthetics of Poetic Realism and for inquiries into identity formation.
Contents: A Case for Minority Literature – Berthold Auerbach: The Consciousness of the Nation – Theodor Storm’s Topographies of Sameness and Difference – Metahistorical Scorn or Provincial Limitations? – Wilhelm Raabe’s Loquacious Chronicler and the Great Goose Rebellion – Theodor Fontane’s Preußische Idee(n) – The Worlds of Lake Stechlin – Fritz Reuter’s Prison Time: Alternative Identities and Linguistic Mediation – Gottfried Keller: Resisting the Fiction of Switzerland – Performing National Dreams in Der grüne Heinrich – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach’s Dictates of Austrianness – The End of the Dorfgeschichte – Region, Nation, Europe, the World.