The Discovery of Prose Fiction by the Working-Class Movement in Germany (1863-1906)
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study analyses the ‘prose of circumstances’ which implies the ‚discovery of prose fiction by the working-class movement in Germany from 1863 to 1906‘. In its introduction, it points to the prior history in the 1840s. The aim is both to identify developments in the working-class prose and to further differentiate the literary network in the second half of the 19th century. Previous research mostly perceived working-class literature from a socio-historical perspective; the last publications date back more than thirty years. Mostly summaries and not monographs, they focus on poetry and theatre of the labour movement. In contrast, this study looks into various forms of prose writing: a pre-revolutionary novel fragment by G. Weerth, a novel in three volumes dealing with the foundation phase of social democracy by J.B. von Schweitzer; short narratives published in feuilletons and calendars of the 1870s by the authors C. Lübeck, A. Otto-Walster and R. Schweichel; autobiographical writing from 1867 to 1906 by J.M. Hirsch, H.W.F. Schultz and F.L. Fischer as well as a piece of early social reportage by P. Göhre. In this way, the study presents a spectrum of diverse narrative modes, reflects on the conditions of genre and highlights differences and similarities at the same time. By considering source texts and intertextual relations, I do not examine the narrative pieces separately, but in their interdependence with other texts. The study focuses on narrative characteristics while examining overall literary and social developments. As a sequence of case studies, the chosen working-class prose narratives can be perceived from an innovative angle. The majority of texts are discussed in detail and related to contemporary bourgeois texts for the first time. Thus, the dominant perspective of bourgeois and poetic realism is broadened by the category of ‘social realism’. For this reason, the study can be seen as a contribution to a revised understanding of literature in the second half of the 19th century.
Vonhoff, Gert Prof.
PhD in German