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German Writing, American Reading

Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866-1917

Lynne Tatlock

Publication Year: 2012

In postbellum America, publishers vigorously reprinted books that were foreign in origin, and Americans thus read internationally even at a moment of national consolidation. A subset of Americans’ international reading—nearly 100 original texts, approximately 180 American translations, more than 1,000 editions and reprint editions, and hundreds of thousands of books strong—comprised popular fiction written by German women and translated by American women. German Writing, American Reading: Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866–1917 by Lynne Tatlock examines the genesis and circulation in America of this hybrid product over four decades and beyond. These entertaining novels came to the consumer altered by processes of creative adaptation and acculturation that occurred in the United States as a result of translation, marketing, publication, and widespread reading over forty years. These processes in turn de-centered and disrupted the national while still transferring certain elements of German national culture. Most of all, this mass translation of German fiction by American women trafficked in happy endings that promised American readers that their fondest wishes for adventure, drama, and bliss within domesticity and their hope for the real power of love, virtue, and sentiment could be pleasurably realized in an imagined and quaintly old-fashioned Germany—even if only in the time it took to read a novel.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

When in 2007 Rochester University launched its online destination for “readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature,” the site was polemically named “Three Percent.” Three percent corresponds to the estimated percentage of all books published in translation in the United States. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This study emerges from a glimmer of an idea I had longer ago than I care to remember. It only gradually became feasible as I returned to it intermittently over many years and began to uncover information that I had not previously suspected existed, in particular, the historical record left behind by the three translators, ...

Part One: German Writing, American Reading

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Chapter 1. Introduction: Made in Germany, Read in America

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pp. 3-27

In 1905 Otto Heller, professor of German language and literature at Washington University in St. Louis, considered the work of German women writers mostly outside the “legitimate domain of letters.”1 As Heller discredits one author after another in his comprehensive essay on German women writers, ...

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Chapter 2. German Women Writers at Home and Abroad

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pp. 28-50

The North American appetite for entertaining German “romances” was well supplied in the last four decades of the nineteenth century, for despite virulent and enduring prejudice in Germany against women and their artistic endeavors, German women writers of popular fiction had begun to flourish, ...

Part Two: German Texts as American Books

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Chapter 3. “Family Likenesses”: Marlitt’s Texts as American Books

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pp. 53-82

In 1871 The Nation remarked on striking national affinities, a “strong family likeness,” in a set of German novels, recently translated by Annis Lee Wister, half of which were by E. Marlitt.1 Pursuing this domestic metaphor still further, the reviewer remarked on the translator’s choice of material: ...

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Chapter 4. The German Art of the Happy Ending: Embellishing and Expanding the Boundaries of Home

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pp. 83-120

In the present day, North Americans probably do not anticipate a happy ending when they pick up a German novel. The older canonical works they may have read in college courses tend toward tragedy, melancholy, or at best ambivalence—Elective Affinities, A Village Romeo and Juliet, The Metamorphosis, Death in Venice, ...

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Chapter 5. Enduring Domesticity: German Novels of Remarriage

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pp. 121-155

When an American reviewer of In the Schillingscourt objected to a book in which a “divorce is obtained with less concern than a pair of gloves,” he made it clear that readers expected romance plots to be built around an unmarried heroine and hero who marry.1 ...

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Chapter 6. Feminized History: German Men in American Translation

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pp. 156-194

Popular novels by German women operated within a set of social assumptions and conventions recognized and shared by German readers of that fiction. This imaginary was, however, not always readily identifiable in translation as German per se, except insofar as American readers associated it with the patterns outlined above. ...

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Part Three: Three Americanizers: Translating, Publishing, Reading

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pp. 195-198

If Mary Austin, reflecting on the values of her social class with a jaundiced eye, thought that the “status of being cultivated was something like the traditional preciousness of women, nothing you could cash in upon,” three women translators from the generation preceding hers sought to “cash in upon” their culture.2 ...

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Chapter 7. Family Matters in Postbellum America: Ann Mary Crittenden Coleman (1813–91)

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pp. 199-215

Coleman, daughter of the Kentucky senator John J. Crittenden, belonged to an “old and distinguished family lineage,” and this entitlement shaped her life and values.1 The second child and eldest daughter, one of the children from Crittenden’s first family of five, and one of nine children altogether, ...

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Chapter 8. German Fiction Clothed in “so brilliant a garb”: Annis Lee Wister (1830–1908)

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pp. 216-235

In 1868, the year in which the thirty-six-year-old Louisa May Alcott made her breakthrough with Little Women, Annis Lee Wister, at thirty-eight, enjoyed her own first successes with The Old Mam’selle’s Secret and Gold Elsie.1 Brisk sales followed the first appearance of these books, encouraging the publisher and translator to continue down the path they had taken ...

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Chapter 9. Germany at Twenty-Five Cents a Copy: Mary Stuart Smith (1834–1917)

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pp. 236-262

“The placard ‘No translations wanted,’ which repels aspirants from the doorway of one of our publishing houses most noted for its success with translations, is not sufficient to convince the eager herd that translations are for the most part even harder to market than most MSS,” sighed Publishers’ Weekly in 1878, ...

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pp. 263-266

In 1877 the anonymous author of a review essay of German novels in the original German found repeated occasion to generalize about Germans as a people. Among these assertions, those concerning Germans’ failure to assimilate in America are particularly arresting. ...

Appendix A: American Periodicals Cited

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pp. 267-268

Appendix B: late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Library Catalogs and Finding Lists Consulted as an Index of Enduring Circulation

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pp. 269-284

Appendix C: Total German Novels Translated in America (1866–1917) by Woman Author

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pp. 270-285

Appendix D: Total Number of Translations of German Novels in the United States (1866–1917) by Woman Author

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pp. 271-286

Appendix E: Total American Publications (1866–1917) by Woman Author

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pp. 272-287


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pp. 273-321


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pp. 322-330


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pp. 331-347

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270295
E-ISBN-10: 0814270298
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211946
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211941

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 14 images
Publication Year: 2012