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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Germanic Languages & Literatures

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Sara Lennox

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | German Language and Literature | German Literature | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


This dissertation shows how popular reading material for young adults was used to craft a new generation of German imperial citizens in the Second Empire (1871-1918). Uniting insights from contemporary postcolonial theory, gender studies, and the global history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, it shows the intersectional development of German national identity in the children’s and young adult literature of Wilhelmine Germany. As literature written by adults for young people, designed both to entertain and instruct, children’s and young adult literature offers a unique window on how Germany built nation and empire simultaneously during this period. Focusing on texts set outside of the European borders of Germany by authors such as Else Ury, Sophie Wörishöffer, Karl May, Friedrich Pajeken, Bertha Clément, Brigitte Augusti, and Carl Falkenhorst, it shows how German literature carves a space for Germans outside of Germany to settle in the Americas, colonize Africa, and travel from the peripheries to the metropole and back again, and how Germany’s understanding of its place in the world undergoes a dramatic shift in light of the outbreak of the World War in 1914. German young adult literature from this period offers a portrait of German identity as both racial and cultural and shows German heroes and heroines as racially superior to indigenous people and culturally superior to other immigrant groups or colonizers. Narrative literature for young people from this time features young heroes and heroines who come of age abroad—boys who learn how to be men in Africa, South America, or the Wild West and girls who grow to maturity and marriage in various colonial settings—and reveals how metropolitan authors conceived of the nature of German identity in a period of globalization and colonization.