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The aim of this Dahlem International Network Junior Research Group is to examine the interrelationship between American naturalist literature and the rise of managerialism around the turn of the twentieth century.

The starting point of the group is the observation that naturalism in the United States was concerned with a “search for order” in response to late nineteenth-century destabilizing social changes resulting primarily from rapid industrialization and urbanization. Our research projects deal with the different and often contradictory ways that naturalist texts thematically and formally explore the dis- and reorganization of society. We inquire into the relationship between fin-de-siècle discourses on socioeconomic order and the narrative organization of naturalist texts, as well as examine the cultural perceptions that attend various forms of social organization. Underlying our work is the supposition that an analysis of naturalism as a fiction of management is particularly relevant today as the United States once again finds itself having to deal with economic crisis and Gilded-Age inequality.

While each project in the group approaches the relationship between American naturalism and managerial culture from a different perspective, all three projects engage with the fundamental question that the group poses: how does naturalism intersect with a managerial culture that continues to transform the contours of modern life?


Individual Projects

The Managerial Imagination: Mastery and Drift in American Literary Naturalism
James Dorson

Administering the Nation: Bureaucratic Governance, Comparative Racialization, and American Literature, 1870-1930 
Jasper Verlinden

Eugenic Discourse and Naturalist Aesthetics in Early Twentieth-Century African American Literature
Florian Gabriel


The Research Group is funded by the German Research Foundation’s Excellence Initiative (“Exzellenzinitiative der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft”).

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