- Fellowship year:2013-2014
- University: University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Modern Europe
- Dissertation Title: Finding Love in the Big City: Dating and Intimacy in turn-of-the-century Berlin
My dissertation traces the evolution of dating and intimacy in Berlin at the turn of the twentieth century, a time when the modern city and the modern world were rendering traditional paths to love ineffective and unsuccessful. Finding love in pre-urban, pre-modern town may not have been particularly easy, but small towns meant that families were mostly well acquainted, the list of "eligible" men and women was well known, and strangers were few and far between. At the end of the nineteenth century, however, millions of men and women flocked to rapidly growing urban centers in search of work, opportunity, or simply the thrill of big city life. And while many found new employment and new excitements, they also struggled to make intimate connections. Countless men and women complained that it was almost impossible to find a mate in the big city. Some cited work obligations, others the sea of unknown faces, and still others the "struggle for existence" that characterized modern life. Values were also evolving in the modern metropolis, what with the emerging femininities (that pushed for independence and employment for young, middle-class women) and masculinities (that favored casual, short-term relationships and life-long bachelorhood), not to mention new views about marriage age, "free love," and dating.
Love, dating, and intimacy in Berlin around 1900 were at a crossroads, an intersection of traditional paths to marriage and new, fundamentally modern methods of meeting, dating, and loving ranging from fortuitous encounters on the streetcar to dance-floor hook-ups to newspaper personal ads. My dissertation uncovers the intimate lives of Berliners as they navigated love at the turn of the century, this uneasy mixture of traditional and daring. I argue that in negotiating the emerging world of anonymous, fleeting, individualistic, and non-traditional relationships, they initiated a debate about love, gender, and individualism that continues to occupy us even today.