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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

11 - “Der verfluchte Yankee!” Gabriele Reuter's Episode Hopkins (1889) and Der Amerikaner (1907)

Summary

Gabriele Reuter's textsEpisode Hopkins (1889) and Der Amerikaner (The American, 1907) fall into a historic timeframe that presented German society with the challenge to define itself. Both texts reflect the struggle for a national identity based on a common cultural identity (rather than on an economic collaboration between the wars of 1871 and 1914) and the German state's unilateral position as a tactical outsider to global imperialism. At the time Der Amerikaner was produced, not quite twenty years after the foundation of the German state, the euphoric national climate that united the nation-states against the enemy around the time of the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the century had faded, and the federal states sought for commonalities in order to stress their national identity. The historian Harold James prominently calls this disposition of the German states a “tortured quest for identity.” The contemporaneous identity crisis, James explains in A German Identity, arose from an attempt of the enemies of political liberalism to install a concept of nationalism based on “the mystical terms of community and, more and more from the 1870s, of race” instead of economic nationalism. This development ultimately lead to “a redefinition of nationality” outside of an economic framework (91). James's analysis explains the political developments that lead to the German crisis of identity, and I argue that such a redefinition shapes the zeitgeist in such a way that it is reflected in fictional works of art.