Wednesday, March 27 at 7:00pm
Fostering National Belonging through Local Narratives:
Heimatliteratur, the Thirty Years’ War, and
German Nation Building in the Nineteenth-Century
At the Goethe-Institut Washington, 1990 K St NW, Washington, DC
In this presentation, Emily Sieg Barthold, PhD Candidate, will discuss how historical fictions of the Thirty Years’ War in the German Kaiserreich addressed the layering of regional, confessional and national identities. Notably, this research prioritizes historical fiction that doubled as Heimatliteratur, that is, historical fiction that recounts the legacies of the war within a specific geographic location for a presumably local audience. Contrary to the commonly held interpretation that the Thirty Years’ War was a religious war fought between Protestants and Catholics, most historical fiction from the German Kaiserreich foregrounds the war in starkly national terms: German Protestants and Catholics had to unite to drive French and Swedish armies out of their homeland. Thus, as opposed to its presumed promotion of confessional antagonism, much late nineteenth-century literature of the Thirty Years’ War evidences the propensity to seek reconciliation between different religious identities for the sake of German solidarity. By bringing lesser known works of Heimatliteratur to light, Emily’s research aims to reconsider the role of historical fiction of the Thirty Years’ War in German nation building, with an emphasis on the potential of literature to overcome religious divides in the name of the nation.