This introductory chapter lays out the real stakes of this inquiry into a crucial transnational relationship of the modern period within Europe, and the implications it has had for the history of Germany and German culture. It draws parallels and explores contrasts to other frontier myths, especially the American notion of a formative experience in the Wild West, and conceits of a ‘civilizing mission’ common to other imperial or colonial ventures in modern times. It defines the usage of ‘myth’ as a concept, and establishes a conceptual framework drawing on the work of anthropologist Mary Douglas's Purity and Danger — which analysed concepts of dirt, pollution, identity, and cosmology — and Liah Greenfeld's scholarship on nationalism.
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