Larissa Reissner visits Ullstein's novel division within the Twenties | EUROtoday

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WWe realized at college that literature all the time offers with vital issues: the large questions of humanity or one's personal nation, or at the least these of humanity in and of itself, usually referred to in educated circles because the “human condition”. The indisputable fact that studying should and can even fulfill rather more banal, generally trivial wants of the human soul isn’t taken into consideration.

What themes and materials these are – and all the time have been – have hardly literary students. But generally it does. Remember Rudolf Schenda. The folklorist and narrative researcher, who was born in Essen in 1930 and died in Switzerland in 2000, was a pioneer of German-language reader analysis. Schenda was additionally all in favour of “The Reading Materials of Little People” (1976) in opposition to the background of his personal origins; he explicitly remembers his personal father, “the miner's son and master painter Rudolf Schenda” senior: “He learn little, however he let me learn.”

Rudolf Schenda on popular reading materials

Schenda junior wanted to know what the general public reads – in contrast to classical literary studies, which studies artistically valuable texts. In his 1975 work “People without a book. Studies on the Social History of Popular Reading Materials 1770–1910,” Schenda wrote about the so-called land of poets and thinkers: “Germany had not only a thousand 'poets', but at least 100,000 men and women of pens. At least 99 percent of these writers are excluded from literary historiography. Since the oeuvre catalogs of these producers are often no thinner, and sometimes rather thicker, than those of the canonized 'poets', a high percentage of the literary material remains in the blind spot of literary consideration.

Today's researchers in the field of digital literary studies are trying to counteract this shortcoming. Fotis Jannidis, professor at the University of Würzburg, uses quantitative and stylometric methods to examine literary texts and genres that traditional science has so far ignored. For example, magazine novels. Jannidis has analyzed adventure, aristocratic, medical, erotic, horror, homeland, war, crime, love, science fiction and western novels, which he attests to have a great deal of “internal variation”. More about Jannidis and colleagues' research into magazine novels can be found in an abstract (PDF) here and in a book there. The finding that readers have differentiated demands on genre literature corresponds to the assessments that Stanford professor Mark McGurl recently gave in a WELT interview.

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“The junior league, so to speak”: researcher McGurl

The phenomenon of corporations producing entertainment literature in a media network according to their marketing logic existed long before Amazon. The “Ullstein novel”, which was castigated by contemporaries as the epitome of petty bourgeois literature, is emblematic of the German tradition. But it was still very popular. You can read about this in Larissa Reissner (1895 to 1926), a Russian communist and journalist who traveled to Germany during the Weimar Republic, inspected capitalist companies and critically portrayed them in documentary literary form.

Reissner's just published under the title “1924. A journey through the German Republic” newly published reportage book (Rowohlt Berlin, 270 pages, 24 euros)also contains a chapter on the Ullstein Group, whose cultural industry dimensions she criticizes as if she had already known Adorno.

Larissa Reissner travels through Germany

Reissner initially examines the spectrum of Ullstein newspapers and magazines from a polemical to an activist perspective. She counts dozens of the publisher's printing plants and describes them as “Germany's finest mills, which excellently grind the every day harvest of lies and reality.” A separate subchapter offers with the “Ullstein novels” and explains filled with mockery: “Tolstoy, Goethe? You can't compete with a Mr. Weber who wrote 'Yes, yes, love'.”

Reissner then goes on to talk about the publisher's business sense: “The good old Ullstein treats literature like a camel treats a date. Once it has been swallowed, he forces his readers to chew it over as often as possible. All Ullstein novels are made into films by the biggest cinema factories in Germany as soon as they are published.”

The last sentence is generally incorrect, but Reissner's report doesn't dwell on the details. It first appeared in book form in 1926. Just as the Rowohlt publishing house surfed the wave of non-fiction books with a year in the title with today's title addition “1924” (which, however, died down after the oracle of “1923”), so was the historical one Book title of Reissner’s work – “In the Land of Hindenburg. A journey through the German Republic” – dishonest for advertising.

Reissner traveled to Germany in 1924, when there was no Hindenburg as Reich President, however Friedrich Ebert, who died in 1925. Because Reissner's e book was printed in 1926 and described German situations, it ought to seem appropriately present. “Marketing right down to the title search” (Mark McGurl) has all the time been a cultural {industry} technique within the service of the eye economic system.

The Mainz e book scholar Ute Schneider and the literary scholar Erhard Schütz defined in specialist essays which subtle service enterprise the Ullstein “novel department” practiced. The sheer numbers alone are spectacular: in 1910, Ullstein produced 31,281 new e book publications (for comparability: in 2022 the output of the German e book {industry} was 71,521 titles)! In addition to the traditional educated center class, the main target was particularly on “new groups of buyers whose reading preferences focused on light entertainment material” (Schneider). From 1903 onwards, sports activities, lodge, journey, hometown and massive metropolis novels had been launched underneath the “Ullstein books” label, in addition to romance novels in massive portions.

Kafka on Ullstein novels

Around a decade earlier, Kafka couldn't ignore the phenomenon of the Ullstein novels. There is a pleasant passage in his journey diaries in 1912 the place he observes a pair touring with him within the prepare compartment: “She is reading a Ullstein novel by Ida Boy-Ed, with the excellent title 'A Moment in Paradise', probably invented by Ullstein. Her husband asks her how she likes it. But she's only just started and can't say anything yet.” Ida Boy-Ed was a widely read writer around 1900, who hardly anyone knows anymore today. Nobody knows how many of her books were started, finished and forgotten.

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Even if trivial literature rarely makes literary history, its emancipatory potential is still likely to be underestimated rather than overestimated. Their latent negative image, especially in Germany, has to do with the verdict of the “culture industry” by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. In their “Dialectics of Enlightenment,” the 2 gods of vital principle have solid suspicion on every little thing that even remotely smells of mass style. Where persons are having enjoyable, maybe at occasions beneath customary, solely anti-enlightenment mass manipulation may be at work.

According to the “rules of art” (Pierre Bourdieu), it goes with out saying that sales-oriented and cross-media leisure corporations resembling Amazon (at the moment) and Ullstein (traditionally) are underneath the suspicion of literary guardians. When an Ullstein editor expressed curiosity in it in 1913, To publish Hermann Hesse's artist's novel “Gertrud”, his regular editor at S. Fischer gave him help: Hesse had to “make a strict distinction between a publishing home and a book-industry firm”. With Ullstein there is “almost nothing left but ordinary reading material, and the few excellent works and names are only needed for decoration”.

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