During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, millions of immigrants arrived in the United States and Canada from Ireland and Germany. Many established new communities and generated new, diasporic forms of identity partly rooted in familiar religious, political, and cultural structures and practices, and informed by nostalgic memories of home.
Undergirding such formations were transnational infrastructures that formed the conduit for the transfer of texts and ideas between countries and markets. Many North American publications and publishers reprinted or translated material from Europe, including Germany and Ireland. Local colour writing in particular performed well transatlantically. For instance, Irish regionalist authors such as Jane Barlow and Katharine Tynan were popular not only at home but also in the United States, and many novels first serialised in the highly popular German periodical Die Gartenlaube were issued in translated editions by American publishers. At the same time, texts written in the US or Canada that represented – or imagined – life in particular regions of Germany or Ireland, or were concerned with immigrants from such regions, were also eagerly read.
Throughout this period, for many Irish and German immigrants and their direct descendants, ‘home’ continued to play a central, often symbolical role in their self-imaginations. Linguistically, too, many Irish- and German-Americans remained invested in their heritage. German remained widely used in German-American communities and publications until the early twentieth century. The late nineteenth century moreover saw the emergence of the Gaelic Revival movement, which inspired the establishment of Irish-speaking societies in the United States. Within this broader orientation, diasporic Irish and German identities were often refracted through specifically regional understandings of belonging.
To develop a better understanding of the role of regionalism in the formation and marketisation of diasporic identities, this subproject considers two ways in which German and Irish regions featured in the North American literary marketplace. First, it will examine the circulation of regionalist nonfiction, illustrations, and local colour fiction in a range of prominent German and Irish North American periodicals. Which material was reprinted and by whom? How was such material selected and repurposed for transatlantic markets? Additionally, it will investigate the ways in which Irish and German regions were conceptualised in material written in the US and Canada. How do these regions feature in such writing, and how do such representations intersect with diasporic identity formation? And how do such texts relate to domestic North American regionalisms?
This project is part of the main project Redefining the Region - The Transnational Dimensions of Local Colour (P.I. Prof. Marguérite Corporaal).