American Dime Novels on the German Market : The Role of Gatekeepers

The following contribution deals with the adaptation of the American dime novel to the German market in the early years of the twentieth century. Dime novels had been an enormously successful genre, economically chat is, on the American market since the mid-nineteenth century. By the turn of the century, such print products, now known by the German name Groschenbefte, entered the German market. Analyzing the forces that shaped this entry, I will focus on German publishers on the one hand, and cultural critics on the other, as what I call gazekeepers in the process of introducing a cultural product with a distinctively foreign provenance. While the publishers tried to open a market for the new product, the critics tried to keep the door shut. While the publishers appropriated the typically American genre to the German market, librarians, teachers and others campaigned against the proclaimed inappropriateness of such publications for the German reader. My analysis will proceed in three steps: first, I will introduce the sociological model of gatekeeping and suggest why this theory could be useful in analyzing the transcultural appropriation of foreign goods; second, I will present the success story of the dime novel in the USA and show how German publishers adapted the genre as Groschenbefte to make it suitable to the German market; third, I will look at public utterances decrying the reading of dime novels, and the subsequent development of the product on the German market.

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