Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Texas / Austin

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Germanic Studies, University of Texas / Austin
The Serial Form and Modern Agenda Setting: The German Kolportageroman 1871-1914

My dissertation project investigates the late nineteenth-century German Kolportageroman (colportage novel). Colportage novels, serial novels sold by door-to-door book salesman, constituted an important nexus of influence in nineteenth-century popular print culture. Their connection to other media and genres such as the periodical press and classical drama has, however, not been recognized. My dissertation remedies this by exploring the broader cultural significance of these novels as key in the development of early mass media and culture in Germany. My approach to the colportage novel draws on theoretical notions from media studies and literary scholarship to broaden a literary understanding of the narrative qualities and cultural importance of "cheap literature" and the strategies of modern serialization. The colportage novels' serialization and their interconnection with the larger media and literary landscape offers a perspective on this literature that contrasts with traditional literary scholarship, which has been largely unable to divorce itself from the idea that inexpensive, mass-produced popular literature is simplistic, detrimental to its readers, and symptomatic of social inequality. In preliminary investigation, I discovered three fascinating elements in the novels that will form the core of my project. The first is the close relationship between colportage novels and contemporary events and news reports. The second is their connection to works of canonical "high" literature. The third element is their serialization, which links them closely to the larger media landscape and to innovative publishing and distribution technologies. Reflection on the contradictory convergences between the news and fiction, high and low, whole and fragment in many of these novels will shed light on their importance as an effective force at work in the formation of public opinion.