Colonial Fantasies

Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770-1870

Colonial Fantasies

Post-Contemporary Interventions

More about this series

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: September 1997

Author: Susanne Zantop

History > European History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Since Germany became a colonial power relatively late, postcolonial theorists and histories of colonialism have thus far paid little attention to it. Uncovering Germany’s colonial legacy and imagination, Susanne Zantop reveals the significance of colonial fantasies—a kind of colonialism without colonies—in the formation of German national identity. Through readings of historical, anthropological, literary, and popular texts, Zantop explores imaginary colonial encounters of "Germans" with "natives" in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century literature, and shows how these colonial fantasies acted as a rehearsal for actual colonial ventures in Africa, South America, and the Pacific.
From as early as the sixteenth century, Germans preoccupied themselves with an imaginary drive for colonial conquest and possession that eventually grew into a collective obsession. Zantop illustrates the gendered character of Germany’s colonial imagination through critical readings of popular novels, plays, and travel literature that imagine sexual conquest and surrender in colonial territory—or love and blissful domestic relations between colonizer and colonized. She looks at scientific articles, philosophical essays, and political pamphlets that helped create a racist colonial discourse and demonstrates that from its earliest manifestations, the German colonial imagination contained ideas about a specifically German national identity, different from, if not superior to, most others.


“[Colonial Fantasies] offers excellent reading on German colonialism. The analysis of selected texts and master paradigms in their historical setting and political climate is built on circumspect, intricate, yet clearly formulated arguments. Abundant factual documentation blends with a productive interpretive sensibility that extends to subtle . . . points about subconscious implications in the collective German mind.” — Herbert Knust , Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“[R]eaders interested in feminist theory, colonialism, and ethic issues will find [Colonial Fantasies] useful. . . . [Zantop’s] insights regarding the gendered undertones of the dreams, i.e., colonizer (male) and colonized (female), the difference between Germans and others, and the German colonizers in fictional familial settings are very helpful.” — , Choice

“By focusing not on travelogues and eye-witness accounts but on the domestic discourse, Zantop’s dense and clearly defined study breaks truly new ground. . . .” — Florian Krobb , Modern Language Review

“Students of post-colonialism and German colonialism as well as scholars interested in the formation of German identities will find much of value in this stimulating book, which illustrates the burgeoning interest, evident in a wide range of work across a variety of disciplines, in German colonialism. . . . Colonial Fantasies constitutes an important contribution both to our understanding of German colonial desire and to our understanding of the formation of national identity. The author does a great service in reminding us that, before the advent of colonial acquisition, there was a long period of literary and psychological preparation, a prehistory of desire. Professor Zantop has also managed the laudable feat of a sophisticated study that weaves together disparate theoretical strains while keeping the jargon mostly in check.” — H-Net Reviews

“Taking a scholarly approach typical of the ‘new historicism,’ one of the schools of postmodernist literary criticism, the author uses written material from a wide variety of genres, discussing equally high and low culture, literature for children and for adults, and works of fiction and nonfiction. . . . [Zantop] has read an impressive number of texts, ranging from the fairly well known, such as Kleist’s Die Verlobung in St. Domingo, to the extremely obscure. There are a number of interesting chapters on the contents of these works.” — , Central European History

“The important success of her study which adds considerably to our understanding of German intellectual life, is the demonstration of the extensive concern with complex overseas affairs, the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world, long before Germany had even become a nation.” — Russell A. Berman , Modern Philology

“This is an important book which, developed in an interdisciplinary plane, argues persuasively for a widening of the field of colonial and post-colonial studies by exploring a historical period hitherto neglected by this critical approach. A readable book, based on meticulously researched material and sound scholarly foundations, it will introduce original and fascinating perspectives into a variety of scholarly disciplines.” — , International History Review

“Whatever reservations one may harbor about postcolonial studies, Zantop’s work is nevertheless easily accessible because she avoids the sometimes intentionally obtuse language that plagues this field. As such her book becomes an important resource to introductory classes dealing with this topic. . . . Historians dealing with the topics of colonialism and nationalism will find [this] work particularly enlightening.” — Rainer Buschmann , Journal of World History

"[A] forceful collection of materials . . . . [A] ground-breaking opening in the field. . . . [V]aluable for any researcher . . . ."

— Rex Clark , Eighteenth-Century Studies

"A brilliant book well produced by Duke and a major German addition to Stanley Fish and Fredric Jameson’s series on ‘Post-contemporary Interventions.’ There is a real reason to study things German!" — , German Quarterly

Colonial Fantasies is an excellent contribution to the understanding of German colonialism and its representational regimes.” — John K. Noyes, University of Cape Town

“Susanne Zantop has already established herself as one of the leading scholars in eighteenth and nineteenth-century German literature and culture, and it is no surprise that her long-awaited book is so compelling. Her historically informed study of German fantasies. . . breaks new ground at the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the ‘political unconscious’.” — W. Daniel Wilson, University of California


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

At the time of her death, Susanne Zantop was Professor of German and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of German Studies at Dartmouth College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, German Studies Association Best Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1968-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1960-3
Publicity material