Looking beyond the garden fence: 19th-century women writers and their transcultural fairy tales
My project seeks to understand how 19th-century women writers employed the genre of Märchen as a means of transcultural mediation at a time of shifting political and national borders in Europe. For this I will be looking at the works of three authors from different social backgrounds, who all lived in multicultural areas and explicitly expressed an interest in transcultural mediation: Karoline von Woltmann (1782-1874), who fled to Prague with her diplomat husband, attempted mediation between Czech and German culture in her »Volkssagen der Böhmen« (1815) in the face of the rising intercultural tensions of the Vormärz. The »Neue Nordische Sagen« (1829) of Amalie Schoppe (1791-1858) engage with the intercultural issues of border areas such as her home island Fehmarn. Carmen Sylva (1843-1916), in her position as the first queen of Romania, wrote and published her »Pelesch-Märchen« (1883) specifically to promote awareness and recognition of Romanian culture in her German country of origin.
My research will be focussed on the ways in which these authors employed their knowledge of sources, genres and writing styles in order to produce fairy tales which conveyed their respective ideas and concerns regarding intercultural issues. It will also examine how gendered strategies of authorship played into the production and transmission of these tales, exploring the extent to which the authors in question conformed to a common concept of “feminised” cultural mediation, and how the fairy tale as a “female” genre played into this.
By demonstrating how these fairy tales show a distinct awareness of and participation in the various discourses surrounding questions of national and cultural identity, my project aims to provide a fresh outlook on the concerns and production strategies of 19th-century women writers. It also aims to add to our knowledge of their position in the literary market, and how these writers made use of their public reception to form their image as transcultural ambassadors.