Friedrich von Schlegel- Extract from Descriptions of Paintings
Before delving into the details of German Romanticism, we must define further how the movement started. The literature of the time reflected political and religions feelings, as the French Revolution and the War of German Liberation (1812-15) as well as the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire (1806ff.) and traditional German sacred institutions (1803) shook up the religious and political feelings of the German public (Cambridge 203). In addition to the previously-mentioned changes, the political and social reforms carried out by German prime ministers Freiherr vom Stein and Fürst von Hardenberg also contributed to the changing spirit of literature (Cambridge 204). This period of German literature (1790-1830) is often called the Sattelzeit (saddle period), an imbalance of two ideas: conventional and liberal, old and new (Cambridge 204). Thus Goethe displayed a duality in his literature; as a writer, he constantly shifted between Classicism and Romanticism. With the Sturm und Drang movement, German writers revived folk tradition and medievalism.
Yet, this early period of Romanticism, was a melding of two worlds; through 1795 to 1797, Goethe the realist, and Schiller the idealist, partnered to edit the literary periodical, Die Horen, during Goethe's stay in Weimar at the duke Charles Augustus' court. Die Horen was the epitome of classical humanism in which Schiller succeeded at illustrating the creativity of humanity (Cambridge 226). The same themes are outlined in Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794), in which he states in his second letter:
But the voice of our age seems by no means favorable to art, at all events to that kind of art to which my inquiry is directed. The course of events has given a direction to the genius of the time that threatens to remove it continually further from the ideal of art. For art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself bodily above necessity and neediness; for art is the daughter of freedom, and it requires its prescriptions and rules to be furnished by the necessity of spirits and not by that of matter. But in our day it is necessity, neediness, that prevails, and bends a degraded humanity under its iron yoke. Utility is the great idol of the time, to which all powers do homage and all subjects are subservient. In this great balance of utility, the spiritual service of art has no weight, and, deprived of all encouragement, it vanishes from the noisy Vanity Fair of our time. The very spirit of philosophical inquiry itself robs the imagination of one promise after another, and the frontiers of art are narrowed, in proportion as the limits of science are enlarged. (Modern History Sourcebook, par. 9)
Such was the tone of the decade of classical humanism. At nearly the same time, in the nearby town of Jena, August Wilhelm and his brother Friedrich von Shlegel first published their journal, Athenaeum (1798-1800) in 1798. Thus began the age of the Fruhromantiker (early Romantics). The journal was founded as a result of Schiller's breaking relations with the von Schlegels. August Wilhelm had previously contributed essays to Die Horen, yet his brother Friedrich, a scholar of classical poetry, did not review Die Horen in a respectful light. Thus the brothers made Goethe a model of their own version of aesthetic romanticism. Goethe was the only common ground between two opposing ideals and this literary period can reasonably be called "the Age of Goethe (Cambridge 226)." Friedrich is also credited with developing the literary term "romantisch (Pegasos, par. 1)." Friedrich von Schlegel's idea of something "Romantic" is something that "depicts emotional matter in an imaginative form (Pegasos, par. 1)." As seen in Athenaeums-Fragment No. 116, his description of Romantic poetry shows how much he opposed Schiller, who tried separating poetry whereas von Schlegel creatively blended it (Cambridge 229).
Die romantische Poesie ist eine progressive Universalpoesie. Ihre Bestimmung ist nicht bloss, alle getrennten Gattungen der Poesie wieder zu vereinigen und die Poesie mit der Philosophie und Rhetorik in Berührung zu setzen. Sie will und soll auch Poesie und Prosa, Genialität und Kritik, Kunstpoesie und Naturpoesie bald mischen, bald verschmelzen, die Poesie lebendig und gesellig und das Leben und die Gesellschaft poetisch machen [...]. Sie allein ist unendlich, wie sie allein frei ist und das als ihr erstes Gesetz anerkennt, dass die Willkür des Dichters kein Gesetz über sich leide." (from Athenäeum-Fragment, 1798)
Romantic poetry is a progressive, universal poetry. Its regulation is not bare to combine all separate kinds of poetry again and to set the poetry with philosophy and Rhetorik in contact. It wants and is also poetry and prose, Genialitaet and criticism, art poetry and nature poetry soon to mix, soon merge; life and society makes poetry alive and informal [... ]. Poetry alone is infinite, how it is free and alone and recognizes as its first law that the arbitrariness of the poet does not suffer under a law itself. " (from Athenäeum-Fragment, 1798)
Friedrich von Schlegels's unfinished novel Lucinde (1799) describes love as a product of physical and spiritual elements (Pegasos, par. 3). His idea of "Romantic Irony" was developed on the thought that experience changed one's perception of truth and that wisdom came from the recognition of that perceptual change (Columbia, "Schlegel, Friedrich von").
Novalis, the Frau Schlegels Caroline and Dorothea, and the philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher also contributed to Athenaeum. Fruhromantiker who resided outside of Jena included the philosopher J.G. Fichte, and the poets Ludwig Tieck and Whilelm Heinrich Wackenroder. During this time, at the end of the 18th century, a new literary form appeared; the novellle, a prose tale dealing with supernatural elements, reinforced the Fruhromantiker inclinations towards that of the metaphysical and the mystical (Grolier, Romanticism par. 6). Wackenroder had his own view of art, which he demonstrated in Heart of an Art-Loving Monk (1797):
But I know of two miraculous languages through which the Creator has enabled men to grasp and understand heavenly things in all their power, or at least so much of them - to put it more modestly - as mortals can grasp. They enter into us by ways other than words, they move us suddenly, miraculously, seizing our entire self, penetrating into our very nerve and drop of blood. One of these miraculous languages is spoken only by God, the other is spoken by a few chosen men whom he has lovingly annointed. They are: Nature and Art..... Art is a language unlike that of Nature; but Art, too, has a marvelous power over the human heart and exercises it by equally hidden means. It speaks through the image of men, which is to say that it uses hieroglyphic signs which are familiar and comprehensible to us by their appearance. But it endows these visible forms with something spiritual and supersensual in a way so affecting, so admirable that it can stir us to the roots of our being.....The teachings of learned men exercise our brain, only half of our self. But the two miraculous languages whose power I proclaim touch our feelings as well as our mind; they seem to fuse - I cannot find other words to express it - all parts of our unconscious being into a new, single organ which receives and comprehends in this twofold way the miracles of Heaven.... (FA 257 Modern Art, German Romanticism-Selected Quotes, par. 2)
The next circle of Romantics, the Hochromantiker (high romantics), spanned 1802 to 1815. Unlike the previous generation of Romantics, who settled in Jena, this generation was centered in Heidelberg. The Hochromantiker included Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, and poets Heinrich Heine, Eduard Mörike, E.T.A. Hoffman, Joseph von Eichendorff, Adelbert von Chamisso, and Ludwig Uhland. These writers carried out the Romantic tradition in a more practical yet creative manner (Grolier, Romanticism, par. 7).
By the 1830s,
the revolutionary literary movement, Junges Deutschland
(Young Germany) overtook Romanticism as the Congress
of Vienna in 1815 made Germany a confederation of states,
and industry and capitalism replaced agrarian society
and feudalism. During this time of social upheaval,
the emergence of naturalism and realism easily displaced
Romanticism. However, Heinrich Heine survived to be
the voice of this generation and Eduard Mörike
maintained a form of classicism.
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