The German Historical Novel since the 18th Century: More than a Bestseller

Daniela Maria [Unknown], Daniela Maria Richter

Research output: Book/ReportAnthology


The historical novel burst onto the German literary scene in 1821 with the translations of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, in particular Waverly, which became the paradigm of the genre. German writers, first among them Wilhelm Hauff with his novel Lichtenstein (1826), quickly turned to this genre and it has remained a staple both of canonical as well as popular literature ever since. With its focus on the average hero, whose social position ranges between the upper and the lower classes, key historical events and figures were now portrayed from a new angle, highlighting the individual and the psychological. The aim shifted from writing a hagiography of rulers and leaders to providing a historical background for an entire nation, encompassing all of society. Regarding the authenticity of the narrated past, the individual novels have fallen and still do fall on a wide spectrum, ranging from escapist heavily romanticized visions of the historical past to ones seeking to provide the reader with a more accurate notion of “wie es eigentlich gewesen” to quote the nineteenth-century historian Leopold von Ranke.<br><br>This collection of essays wants to look at continuities and changes in the development of the historical novel from its beginning to the present. Historical novels have remained staples of the German literary market and today entire sections of bookstores in Germany are solely dedicated to the genre. Works focusing on German history by authors such as Tanja Kinkel, Iny Lorentz, but also Daniel Kehlmann and Christian Kracht have been particularly prominent. Some of the issues to be explored in this book project include:<br><br>· the relationship between history and historical fiction:<br><br>o historians versus writers: differences and parallels in theories of history and historical fiction<br><br>o fiction versus history: discrepancies, parallels, shifting nuances and perspectives<br><br>· the role of the protagonist in historical fiction: from Gustav Adolfs Page to the Wanderhure<br><br>· the choice of the particular historical period as literary subject<br><br>· the prominence of the Middle Ages<br><br>· the dynamic tension between national and individual history<br><br>· the historical novel: between Trivialliteratur and literary canon<br><br>· historical fiction as the domain of women? – questions about authors and readers<br><br>· works at the margins of the historical fiction paradigm:<br><br>o the historical crime novel<br><br>o phantasy literature
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge Scholars
StatePublished - Oct 2016


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