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Germany's Wild East

Constructing Poland as Colonial Space

Kristin Kopp

Publication Year: 2012

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, representations of Poland and the Slavic East cast the region as a primitive, undeveloped, or empty space inhabited by a population destined to remain uncivilized without the aid of external intervention. These depictions often made direct reference to the American Wild West, portraying the eastern steppes as a boundless plain that needed to be wrested from the hands of unruly natives and spatially ordered into German-administrated units. While conventional definitions locate colonial space overseas, Kristin Kopp argues that it was possible to understand both distant continents and adjacent Eastern Europe as parts of the same global periphery dependent upon Western European civilizing efforts. However, proximity to the source of aid translated to greater benefits for Eastern Europe than for more distant regions.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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Title Page, Copyright

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Introduction: Germany’s Wild East

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pp. 1-28

In 1893 the cartographer and activist Paul Langhans published the first edition of his Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas (German colonial atlas). Germany had just begun acquiring overseas colonies in the previous decade, and Langhans was one of the very first to offer such a cartographic overview of...

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1. Constructing German Colonial Space in the East: Gustav Freytag’s Soll und Haben as Colonial Novel

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pp. 29-56

In the aftermath of the failed attempt to create a united German nation-state in the late 1840s, the question of Germany’s location in the world loomed large. To a certain extent, this question was cartographic in nature: according to which criteria could the rightful borders of the nation be drawn...

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2. The Black Pole and Racialized Space in German Inner Colonial Literature

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pp. 57-95

Clara Viebig’s 1904 novel Das schlafende Heer (The sleeping army) opens with the scene of a covered wagon traveling across a boundless plain. As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but fields of grain that the narrator likens to a sea over which the winds cast undulating waves. It is a...

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3. A German Dracula: Fontane’s Effi Briest and the Anxiety of a Reverse-Diffusional Slavic Flood

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pp. 96-123

Although Gustav Freytag’s Soll und Haben is often identified as the precursor of the Ostmarkenromane, the writers of this genre, as we have seen, were largely unable to produce narratives equaling his unhesitant colonial triumphalism. With few exceptions—most prominently Albert Liepe’s...

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4. “Post-Colonial” Mappings: Cartographic Representations of Lost Colonial Space in the Interwar Period

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pp. 124-159

Looking back at the literature published in the decades preceding World War I, we find a complex set of representations describing German presence in the Polish East in colonial terms. Gustav Freytag’s early, unencumbered depiction of German territorial expansion was followed by an entire genre...

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5. Architectural Doppelgänger and “Post-Colonial” Spatial Claims in Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen

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pp. 160-201

In this final chapter, I’d like to highlight the ways in which the geopolitical Kulturboden model featured in the narrative form. Whether texts directly depicted the creation of Kulturboden or, like Fritz Lang’s 1924 Nibelungen film, presented a world in which this history was silently assumed...

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pp. 202-210

Over the course of the century preceding the National Socialist rise to power, a complex discourse developed representing past and present German engagement in Poland and further stretches of the East in colonial terms. Depictions of German colonial endeavor and its purported impact circulated...


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pp. 211-236


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pp. 237-250


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pp. 251-255

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E-ISBN-13: 9780472028580
E-ISBN-10: 0472028588
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118441
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118447

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 33 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 813540629
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Germany's Wild East

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Germany -- Relations -- Poland.
  • Poland -- Relations -- Germany.
  • Germany -- Territorial expansion -- Philosophy.
  • Germany -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
  • Germany -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • German literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • German literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Colonies in literature.
  • Germans -- Poland -- History.
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