Fictional German governesses in Edwardian popular culture: English responses to German militarism and modernity

Fictional German governesses in Edwardian popular culture: English responses to German militarism and modernity
S Bayley
9/19/19 10:51
Literature & History
Historians have tended to focus on propaganda when assessing Edwardian attitudes towards Germans, but a shift of focus to fiction reveals a rather different picture. Whereas propaganda created the cliché of ‘the Hun’, fiction produced non- and even counter-stereotypical figures of Germans. An analysis of German governess characters in a selection of short stories, performances, novels, and cartoons indicates that the Edwardian image of Germans was not purely negative but ambivalent and multifarious. Imagined German governesses appeared as patriots and spies, pacifists and warmongers, spinsters and seducers, victims and evil-doers. A close look at characterisations by Saki [H. H. Munro], M. E. Francis [Margaret Blundell], Dorothy Richardson, D. H. Lawrence, Radclyffe Hall, Frank Hart and others reveals not only their variety but also their metaphorical use as responses to Germany’s aggressive militarism and avant-garde modernity. Each governess figure conveyed a positive, negative or ambivalent message about the potential impact of German militarism and modernity on England and Englishness. The aggregate image of German governesses, and by inference Germans, was therefore equivocal and demonstrates the mixed feelings of Edwardians toward their ‘cousin’ country.
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0306197319870372
S3.M3

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