University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > German Graduate Research Seminar > Crossing the Atlantic (Again): The transformation of the tragic mulatta from kitsch to literature in nineteenth-century German writing

Crossing the Atlantic (Again): The transformation of the tragic mulatta from kitsch to literature in nineteenth-century German writing

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Mixed-race figures in German writing concerned with the Americas occupy a liminal status. Between two races, they are difficult to categorise via typical paradigms that structure race relations, and their primary function is often enacted in their being literally removed from the context of the story. This profound sense of disjuncture is especially prominent in Theodor Storm’s Jenseits des Meeres and Berthold Auerbach’s Das Landhaus am Rhein, given the repetition in each of the journey from the Americas to enlightened Europe. This paper will illuminate Storm’s and Auerbach’s exploitation of the anxiety of racial mixture and un-identifiability by reading these works along with earlier populist texts by Friedrich Strubberg and Friedrich Gerstäcker. Their novellas illustrate the transfer of racial anxiety from the American context to the German text more directly. This anxiety becomes a more ghostly echo in the work of Storm and Auerbach. This paper will explore the notion of transfer — from a (post)colonial multiracial context to Germany — via an exposition of the development of a theme from the low-brow to the high-brow.

This talk is part of the German Graduate Research Seminar series.

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