Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

History

Date of Defense

4-20-2018

Graduate Advisor

Andrew Hurley

Committee

Minsoo Kang

Kara Moskowitz

Kevin Fernlund

Abstract

This thesis seeks to answer the following question: Why did the nineteenth century novels and short stories of Karl May, which take place in the American West, find such great commercial success in Germany? Through the examination of the novels themselves, in addition to various primary and secondary sources related to the life of May and the historical context in which this phenomenon took place, this question is answered. Though the novels take place in an American landscape, they are full of references to various cultural and political phenomena which took place throughout the course of May’s life in Germany. Influenced by late nineteenth century theories of German superiority and scientific racism, as well as by efforts for German unification and the imperial domination of Asia and Africa, May produced novels that were so uniquely nineteenth century, and so uniquely German, that Germans could not help but to fall in love with them. By painting a portrait of the American West through the lens of a nineteenth century German sociopolitical consciousness, May gave birth to a German fascination with cowboys and Indians that would last for decades to come.

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