Virtual Colonists - Cosmopolitan imaginings in Gottfried Keller's Die Leute
Lucas, KC, Virtual Colonists - Cosmopolitan imaginings in Gottfried Keller's Die Leute, Kosmopolitische Gedankenwelten / Cosmopolitan Imaginings, Konigshausen & Neumann, Lewis A, Sutton K, Weller C (ed), Germany, pp. 248. ISBN 3826066502 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]
Critics have interpreted Gottfried Keller's novella cycle Die Leute von Seldwyla (1856/1874) as either the epitome of a Swiss town, Zurich in miniature, or Schilda, the town known for the incompetence of its citizens (Richter, 50; Muschg, 182). Keller claims in his introduction to the second cycle that seven Swiss towns are vying for the doubtful honour of being the model for Seldwyla (HKAA V: 7). Yet ideas for the collection of the novellas took shape in Berlin in 1851 (HKM XXI: 9). At that time Keller was interested in the canonical works of world literature, ranging from Goethe and Tieck to the novellas of Boccaccio and Cervantes, as well as the dramatic works of Shakespeare - works he references directly and indirectly in the structure of the cycle (Honold, 49). Keller moved in his references beyond the European context with the Abu Nuwas inspired poem "\Vier dieses Haus betritt" (HKAA XXI: 13) in Romeo und Julia auf dem Do,fe (HKM IV: 142), in the simple inscription on the lintel of a gingerbread house sold at a village Kirmes. The inscription places the wider world at the very heart of the banalities of provincial everyday life in Switzerland. Heinrich Richartz has argued that the inclusion of the poem is trivial (Richarcz, 108). I argue, however, that the inclusion positions Seldwyla in a literary tradition which connects cultures. The inscription on the lintel of the gingerbread house also points out the appropriation of literature through translation, especially the appropriation of literature from areas that in Keller's time were the object of colonial ambition. The reference to the international literary canon and its appropriation continues in the second cycle, where the narrator refers to himself as a Homer of his Swiss home (HKAA V: 7; Honold, 67). Wilhelm in Die missbrauchten Liebesbriefe wears "Rousseausche Eremitenklufft" (Honold, 77) and in the last novella, Das verlorene Lachen, Italian painting is evoked (HKM V: 285).