Jane Eyre in German Lands

The Import of Romance, 1848–1918

Lynne Tatlock examines the transmission, diffusion, and literary survival of “Jane Eyre” in the German-speaking territories and the significance and effects thereof, 1848-1918. Engaging with scholarship on the romance novel, she presents an historical case study of the generative power and protean nature of Brontë’s new romance narrative in German translation, adaptation, and imitation as it involved multiple agents, from writers and playwrights to readers, publishers, illustrators, reviewers, editors, adaptors, and translators.

“Jane Eyre in German Lands” traces the ramifications in the paths of transfer that testify to widespread creative investment in romance as new ideas of women’s freedom and equality topped the horizon and sought a home, especially in the middle classes. As Tatlock outlines, the multiple German instantiations of Brontë’s novel-four translations, three abridgments, three adaptations for general readers, nine adaptations for younger readers, plays, farces, and particularly the fiction of the popular German writer E. Marlitt and its many adaptations-evince a struggle over its meaning and promise. Yet precisely this multiplicity (repetition, redundancy, and proliferation) combined with the romance narrative’s intrinsic appeal in the decades between the March Revolutions and women’s franchise enabled the cultural diffusion, impact, and long-term survival of Jane Eyre as German reading.

Though its focus on the circulation of texts across linguistic boundaries and intertwined literary markets and reading cultures, “Jane Eyre in German Lands” unsettles the national paradigm of literary history and makes a case for a fuller and inclusive account of the German literary field.


“Lynne Tatlock’s new book is a monumental achievement. Her analysis of the German reception of ‘Jane Eyre’ breaks new ground in the study of the novel and the history of world literature. She follows Charlotte Brontë’s work from England to the Continent and shows how it was translated and adapted countless times for new audiences. Making judicious use of digital tools and archival research, combining literary sociology with astute textual analysis, Tatlock shows how literature moved and why it mattered to generations of predominantly female readers.”
– Todd Kontje, Distinguished Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of California, San Diego, USA

“Lynne Tatlock’s ‘Jane Eyre in German Lands’ is a highly innovative study of the German-language dissemination of Charlotte Brontë’s novel in the second half of the long 19th century. Combining research on ‘Jane Eyre’s’ translation and distribution on the German book market with data about its reception and adaptation, the book culminates in a powerful reading of E. Marlitt’s novels as Jane Eyre surrogates, highlighting not only the enormous influence of ‘Jane Eyre’ among German writers, but also the emancipatory potential the romance plot held for female readers. Tatlock’s masterful study exemplifies literary and cultural studies in the 21st century at their very best.”
– Daniela Richter, Professor of German, Central Michigan University, USA

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