Journal of Undergraduate Research


Karl May, Amerika German intellectual imperialism, cowboy literature




German and Russian


From Columbus to the Spaghetti Westerns of the 20th century Europeans have manipulated and sculpted America to reflect their values and priorities. Germans in particular have developed a strange fascination with America, specifically the American West. This “America” is, however, largely an intellectual construct, heavily influenced by the nineteenth-century author of juvenile, cowboy literature Karl May. Myriad Germans have devoured his novels for more than a century, making him one of Germany’s most read authors. Although many other German authors have written Wild West novels, no other novelist has been able to supplant Karl May’s reigning popularity. The durability of May’s popularity cannot be understood outside of the context of German nationalism and his own cult of personality. His works, written without firsthand experience, have had a dramatic impact on German impressions of America, especially the American West.