At age 19, Friedrich Gerstäcker (also spelled Gerstaecker) announced to his family in Germany that he intended to move to the United States and become a farmer. He romanticized the American frontier and visited Arkansas from 1838 to 1842 while it was still wild and rugged.
A prolific traveler and author, Gerstäcker wrote about the social conditions as he found them in backwoods Arkansas before the Civil War. He published more than 400 travel sketches and short stories in addition to around 70 books--both fiction and nonfiction. Much of his writing is set in Arkansas, and some of his fiction is still in print.
One of his novels, Die Regulatoren in Arkansas (published 1845) was published in English as The Regulators of Arkansas in 1857. The Regulators of Arkansas is gaining a second life through the efforts of Charles Adams, professor of English and associate dean of Fulbright College, and Christoph Irmscher of Indiana University. The two are collaborating on a new English translation of the work. Gerstäcker scholars from around the world will meet on campus for “The Legacy of Friedrich Gerstäcker Arkansas and the Wild West” October 11-13. The three-day symposium will begin on Thursday evening with a keynote address by Jeffrey Sammons of Yale University.
Friday will begin with several papers on Gerstäcker and his work including “River Pirates and Leather Stockings: Gerstäcker and the Adventure Novel” by Wolfgang Hochbruck of the University of Freiburg, “A New Translation of Gerstäcker's Die Regulatoren in Arkansas” by Charles Adams of the University of Arkansas and Christoph Irmscher of Indiana University, “Blood Brothers? Germans and Indians in Friedrich Gerstäcker’s Fiction” by Nicole Grewling of Washington College and “C. O. Haller and the Rise of Negrophobia among Gerstäcker’s Arkansas Friends” by Michael Pierce of the University of Arkansas.
The papers will continue on Friday afternoon with “Gerstäcker and other early Arkansas traveler accounts (Dunbar, Schoolcraft, Nuttall, Featherstonhaugh)” by Robert Cochran of the University of Arkansas, “Clay Tobacco Pipe Production and Distribution in the Journals of Friedrich Gerstäcker” by Michael Pfeiffer of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests,“Friedrich Gerstäcker--Translator and Translated: Images of ‘America’ for Germany and the United States” by Irene Di Maio of Louisiana State University, “Friedrich Gerstäcker’s Arkansas German friends” by Shirley Schuette, independent scholar, “Kineticism vs. Causerie: A Contrastive Analysis of Prose Dialogue in Friedrich Gerstäcker and Theodor Fontane” by John Pizer of Louisiana State University and “ The Kerl in the Wild West: Sturm und Drang leanings in Gerstäcker’s Die Regulatoren in Arkansas” by Kathleen Condray of the University of Arkansas.
Friday night’s activities will include a concert by Clarke Buehling and Sugar on the Floor, playing music inspired by the era of Gerstäcker’s travels in Arkansas. The symposium will conclude on Saturday with a field visit to Arkansas sites mentioned in Gerstäcker’s writings led by John Riley of the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State Park Interpreter Adam Leslie.
The international symposium is free and open to the public. Call 479-575-5938 for more information or go to the symposium website.