Date of Award

Winter 2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Humanities

Committee Director

Jeffrey H. Richards

Committee Member

Jane T. Merritt

Committee Member

Heidi Schlipphacke

Abstract

While American, British, and French reactions to the American Revolution are well-known, those of the German people are not, despite the presence of almost 30,000 German soldiers in America fighting for the British army and hundreds of German volunteers fighting for the American patriots. The participation of German soldiers on both sides of the conflict inspired numerous works of German poetry, prose, and drama, all largely forgotten in the wake of the French Revolution and the rise of German Classicism and Romanticism. This thesis examines two works that have received brief mention in the past two centuries: Der hessische Officier in Amerika, a 1783 play by the Gotttingen lawyer and poet Johann August Weppen, and Reizenstein: Die Geschichte eines deutschen Officier, an epistolary novel in two volumes written by the Swabian classics scholar and teacher David Christoph Seybold that was published anonymously in 1778 and 1779. Analysis of these texts suggests that German involvement in the American Revolution led German writers to reevaluate their perceptions of America in light of new information that was being sent home by the soldiers serving there and news reports about the conflict that were being published in German newspapers. These works reflect the popular discourse about America that was being carried on throughout the German territories, reveal the political climate in the areas in which they were written, and show how America and the American Revolution were used to register German idealism and discontent. Weppen and Seybold contributed to a dynamic Amerikabild, or image of America, that developed in Germany during the American Revolution. This Amerikabild contrasted with the static views of America offered in pre- and post-Revolutionary literature about America, including the 1776 play Die Werbung für England by Johann Christoph Krauseneck and the 1798 novel Der Unglückliche Walter by I. Maillard, which this thesis will briefly consider for purposes of comparison.

DOI

10.25777/k7es-1t13

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