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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 10, Issue 2 (June 2012) : 301-318
Imagining a New World
Henriette Frölich’s Virginia oder die Kolonie von Kentucky (1820)
Stephanie M. Hilger
Rubric A: Literature and the State
Rubric B: German Literature



The title of Henriette Frölich’s Virginia oder die Kolonie von Kentucky (1820) voices the nineteenth-century imagination of America as the locus of a new civilization in the wake of post-Revolutionary disillusionment. The novel’s subtitle, Mehr Wahrheit als Dichtung, echoes the title of the autobiography of Goethe, author of the German Bildungsroman par excellence, Wilhelm Meister.  Frölich’s title establishes a correlation between new concepts of community and the individual’s “Bildung” as the basis for novel forms of communal living in the early nineteenth century. This paper explores the ambivalent legacy of Frölich’s text. On the one hand, Virginia has been described as a socialist utopia modeled on thinkers such as François-Noël Babeuf, Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, and Étienne-Gabriel Morelly. On the other hand, however, this new community does not extend equality to women, Native Americans, Blacks, and non-French European immigrants such as Germans. Ethnic, racial, and gender inequalities persist in the North American colony. Frölich’s utopia is, therefore, also a dystopia, which is shaped by the same social injustice that provided the impetus for its creation.

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