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    Blaming the other: the schauerroman and Anglo-German cultural transfer

    Arnold-de Simine, Silke (2009) Blaming the other: the schauerroman and Anglo-German cultural transfer. In: Popular visions: the German schauerroman around 1800 and its international context, 2009, Halle, Germany. (Unpublished)

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    Event synopsis: Gothic fiction has long been recognised as an integral component of English literary history and cultural studies, as has been acknowledged in recent years in the form of official research funding in Great Britain. This is by no means the case for the German Schauerroman, which has been almost completely ignored by German critics since its heyday between 1780 and 1820 and has been insufficiently dealt with by English literary historians despite being written by writers such as Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Ludwig Tieck and being acknowledged as a central source for writers as diverse as Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Carlyle and Edgar Allan Poe. Such critical neglect is all the more surprising when one considers that this was the first concerted phase of British-German Cultural relations on the basis of modern mass-publication and mass-distribution and that the Schauerroman played a crucial role in defining British cultural stereotypes of Germany until the present day. Viewed thus, Gothic fiction becomes a key-component of late-Enlightenment culture shuttling back and forth between Britain and Continental Europe, articulating as it does central discourses surrounding imagination, fear, horror and superstition, and employing figures such as phantoms to articulate the fears and anxieties surrounding modern media and technology. The aim of this conference, organised in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin, is not, however, merely the “rehabilitation”, but a differentiated and critical reconsideration of a forgotten literary mode on the basis of modern theoretical concepts. Rather than merely dismissing the Schauerroman as the anti-rational, anti-modern and trivial pendant to the rational works of the Enlightenment and Classicism, modern analytical methods such as Cultural Materialism, New Historicism and Historical Anthropology can enable an important reconsideration of the mode. When viewed as a concomitant element of literary and social processes of modernization in the course of the Enlightenment, existing on an axis running parallel with and not opposite to the rationalization of social and cultural modernity and providing a medium for the articulation for the uncertainties and anxieties, the taboos and internal problems of modernity, then one can move beyond the unsatisfactory and pejorative labelling of the Schauerroman as trivial. The Gothic thus becomes a test-case for critical approaches of dealing with popular cultural phenomena; indeed there is a case to be made, that the Gothic be considered as the first modern literary phenomenon of mass-culture. Of importance are also the inter- and intra-cultural transfer processes: the Gothic around 1800 is a thoroughly international mode and develops as a conglomerate of translations, adaptations and plagiarisms and is thus an important example of developing processes of cultural transfer in modern Europe and beyond.


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