Entertainment literature

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Popular fiction is for quick and easy use certain literature originated and mainly in the 19th century.

Three-layer model

The two-layer model of high -level literature - trivial literature was gradually replaced by new insights into trivial and entertainment literature and replaced by the three-layer model of poetry / high-level literature - entertainment literature - trivial literature. In this three-layer model according to Foltin (1965) the term entertainment literature stands for the middle quality level, while poetry and high literature form the upper level, while trivial literature represents the lower level. Although it appears logical and plausible, the evaluation dichotomy of "good" and "bad" To break through literature of the two-tier model, it is now just as problematic to draw a clear line of literary quality between high-level and entertaining as well as between entertaining and trivial literature, since the transitions are fluid and mutual relationships are evident. It is not that difficult to distinguish it from poetry, as it often deals with new ways of knowing reality, whereas entertainment literature adopts and confirms the norms adapted by society. On the other hand, the definition of a dividing line between entertainment and trivial literature is all the more inadequate. Arguments such as better processing of psychological and social problems and conflicts or a higher linguistic level of the entertainment literature seem very doubtful. The most plausible is the argument of the communicative effect of both genres: while trivial literature does not present the reader with anything new, but rather confirms and glosses over the existing world and throws it over with prejudices, entertainment literature specifically uses criticism to encourage the reader to think about the existing systems, even if she has strong affirmative traits. In contrast to trivial literature, it is also characterized by a tendency away from endless booklet series towards a complexity that deviates from pure schematism.

Nevertheless, a clear classification will continue to be difficult. However, if you stick to the three-layer model, it is essential to remain aware of the flowing transitions of literary quality.


There was entertainment literature in the leading educational and social classes in all literary epochs. A change from intensive to extensive reading behavior can be clearly seen in the development of widespread devotional literature . In addition to the house Bibles, which were widely disseminated by the biblical institutions, the original reading material of the literate population was always new edification writings by well-known authors such as Thomas a Kempis or Johann Arndt .

In the course of the Enlightenment, entertainment literature emerged from the upper classes into the bourgeoisie and expanded the scope of this literature both in terms of circulation, distribution and variety of topics. With the increasing introduction of compulsory schooling and the accompanying increase in reading ability, people's desire to read also increased. Publishers and authors adjusted to this new need for reading, and so began an era of expanding book markets at the same time as the Age of Enlightenment. The industrialization brought both the letterpress as well as bookstores new and sales momentum, the enormous market conditions made it possible for the newly created reading public. He saw in the reading a fulfillment of his wish for new inwardness and emotionality, which was no longer exclusively satisfied by family, friends or religious associations.

The reconnaissance wanted with their tracts the emotions and passions of their audience towards a virtuous direct handling ( Gottsched "The Biedermann" Bertuch " Journal of Luxury and Fashion "), in which the information was supplemented by gossip, society news and illustrations. The fact that literary texts met the audience's need for entertainment was particularly evident in Goethe's successful novel “ The Sorrows of Young Werther ”, which drew a violent emotional response. In the period between 1740 and 1800, theological literature and edification writings increasingly faded into the background, whereas the “fine arts and sciences” including novels were able to gain more and more popularity. Above all, the inartistic novel played a decisive role. Thus, despite its triviality, popular literature becomes an important factor in social and cultural life and must by no means be viewed as a phenomenon isolated from poetry.

This fulfilled the conditions for a high number of copies and the “daily literature” in daily or weekly newspapers or magazines enjoyed a growing readership since the second third of the 19th century. Often this need for reading was met by hawkers who sold their “literature” in the province in weekly or monthly deliveries.

In addition to calendar pages and entertainment and family newspapers (“Enthaltungen am Häuslichen Herd”, “ Die Gartenlaube ”) and the almanacs of the 18th and 19th centuries, the so-called “ Groschenhefte ” had a larger readership since the beginning of the 20th century . After 1945 a second wave of "booklet literature" emerged. New production methods expanded the market to include the paperback .

In addition to literature that narrates in a novel-like manner , there is popular science entertainment literature , which is intended to provide a longitudinal or cross-sectional view of or into certain areas of knowledge and research . It differs less in form (the focus is on the narrative and less discursive style ) than more in content (the factual and technical topic ). Despite all the problems generalizing representations it is granted a great success since its release, as they especially true that new and curiosity promises to satisfy the reading public.

Michael Faraday founded this kind of steadily spreading scientific public literature with his "Chemistry History of the Candle" , the spread of which reached a peak in the 19th century. Magazines such as “ Die Natur ” have had a high response for half a century since around 1850, as did “ Urania ” during the Weimar Republic .

Forms and genera

Popular literature can appear in the most varied of forms, which are listed below and provided with examples, whereby reference should also be made to its sub-genres. The forms and genres are very close to those of trivial literature.


The novel was particularly suitable to meet the above-mentioned need of the reader for inwardness and emotionality and to let him participate in the emotional experiences of others. For this reason, letters or diary entries were often integrated into novels in order to enable the reader to participate directly in the life of the protagonist. The following sub-genres are to be mentioned:


In addition to the novel, drama has also been part of the entertainment literature since the 18th century, which was very popular between 1750 and 1800 due to the possibilities of theater . The following are to be mentioned:


Parts of the poetry , such as the so-called usage poetry , can also be assigned to entertainment literature. These are texts written by old hands or amateurs who tried to imitate important role models and then used their works in journals or almanacs . Such poems were not infrequently not only read, but also recited or sung in the family circle. Thematically, they dealt with content that “moved the heart” - love, marriage, loneliness, etc. - as well as the togetherness of Germans and their nation.


  • Albert Klein : The Crisis of the Entertainment Fiction in the 19th Century. A contribution to the theory and history of aesthetically inferior literature (= treatises on art, music and literary studies. Vol. 84, ISSN  0567-4999 ). Bouvier, Bonn 1969 (at the same time: Bochum, Univ., Diss.).
  • Laurenz Volkmann: Trivial literature. In: Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler-Lexikon literature and culture theory. Approaches - people - basic concepts. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2001, ISBN 3-476-01692-7 , pp. 644-645.

Web links

Wikisource: Popular Literature  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Popular literature  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations