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Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most influential novels in American history and has a complicated series of meanings in America from its publication to present. The novel became an international bestseller in its time—outsold only by the bible. Onkel Tom’s Hütte, the German version, became nearly as popular in Germany as in America. This project studies the (mis)translation of the novel in German culture and how the choices made in its adaptations, appropriations, and truncations mirror German historical attitudes towards Blackness, abolition, and American democracy. The German versions of Onkel Toms Hütte in the late 1850s-1900 decontextualized through removal of the novel from its intended audience and political context, politicized, and commodified the novel through interventions of translation and translators. The German versions removed the novel more from its source than just the journey across an ocean and a language barrier suggests. Through the multifaceted nature of German practices, along with the workings of copyright laws, an erstwhile religious, sentimental American text became a trade object that sought to intervene in, or at the very least, reflect the German nation building process.
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