This volume brings together some of the leading scholars of German realism working today and testifies to the vitality of the field. It includes essays on familiar authors — Stifter, Freytag, Raabe, Fontane, Thomas Mann — and canonical texts but also considers writers frequently omitted from traditional literary histories, including Luise Mühlbach, Friedrich Spielhagen, Louise von François, Karl May, and Eugenie Marlitt. Although the book does not attempt to cover every author or aspect of the period — which would, in any case, be impossible — an effort has been made to include a representative sampling of German realist prose in the second half of the nineteenth century. While the contributors vary in their choice of topic and approach, they all situate the literary works in their historical context and also suggest reasons why these texts remain of interest today. Thus, the contributors focus on questions of national identity during the period of Germany's first political unification; examine representations of Germans abroad and foreigners at home at a time of mass emigration and colonial expansion; consider attitudes toward work in a period of rapid industrialization; and reflect on questions of sexual identity and gender roles in works by both men and women in the era of the family journal, the first organized women's movements, and the earliest advocates for homosexual rights. Each essay refers to relevant literature on the particular author or topic discussed, and the volume concludes with a complete list of works cited. The book should, therefore, be of interest primarily to students and scholars of German literature but also to those concerned with the topic of realism in literature and questions of subject-formation, national identity, and cultural memory in an era of rapid historical change.
I would like to thank the contributors for their willingness to collaborate on this project, their patience with my demands, their respect for deadlines, and, above all, the quality of their work.