Aleksandr Dmitriev 1990

The Century of Humanism

Author: Aleksandr Dmitriev;
Written: 1990;
First published: 1991 in Istoriya zarubeznoy literatury XIX veka, Moscow, Higher School, pp. 5-33;
Translated: by Anton P.

The 19th century made a truly invaluable contribution to the treasury of the entire world culture. It was the age of the greatest humanistic and aesthetic conquests in Europe, America and especially in Russia. Such a bright and wide flourishing of literature and art at this time is largely determined by those deep and often stormy social and political changes that the 19th century was so rich in.

Romanticism and the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century

The literary 19th century does not coincide with the calendar 19th century, since the historical, literary and social processes are determined not by dates as such, but by certain events that had a significant impact on the progressive course of the development of society. Such events, which determined the chronological framework of historical development and, accordingly, the literary process, somewhat conditional in this case, the 19th century, were the Great French Revolution of 1789-1794. and the Paris Commune of 1871. In France, compared with the previous bourgeois revolutions (in Holland in the 16th century and in England in the 17th century), this revolution caused the most profound social and political transformations. Along with the revolution in France, the ideological life of Europe at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries was greatly influenced by the completion of the industrial revolution in England and the War of Independence in the United States. Since the revolution, social and political events in France have had a significant impact on the fate of European states.

As far as literature is concerned, not a single significant phenomenon of European Romanticism and the late Enlightenment in Germany can be correctly understood without taking into account the impact of the revolution of the late eighteenth century. in France. But not only the work of writers contemporaries of the revolution was organically connected with it. The literary currents of the 19th century, which proceeded mainly under the sign of late romanticism and critical realism, continued to comprehend the events of the French Revolution. “The entire 19th century,” wrote V. I. Lenin, “the century that gave civilization and culture to all mankind, passed under the sign of the French Revolution. In all parts of the world, it only carried out in parts, completed what the great French revolutionaries of the bourgeoisie had created”.

No less important than the revolution itself with its progressive socio-political slogans were its immediate consequences. After the overthrow of the Jacobin dictatorship on July 27 (9 Thermidor according to the revolutionary calendar) 1794 (the Thermidorian coup), the progressive development of the revolution ended, and the big counter-revolutionary (Thermidorian) bourgeoisie came to power, clearing the way for the militaristic-bourgeois dictatorship of Napoleon. The Thermidorians, ignoring the aspirations of the lower classes, the main driving force of the revolution, consolidated only those revolutionary transformations that corresponded to the class interests of the bourgeoisie. The new bourgeois relations, which took on clear contours after the Thermidorian coup, did little to meet the promises of the enlighteners who prepared the revolution, which turned out to be just a utopian illusion.

The French Revolution and the Enlightenment that prepared it had direct political opponents who spoke on behalf of those classes that the revolution had pushed aside from the arena of historical development. But its supporters, who believed in the promises of the enlighteners, were also disappointed in the consequences of this revolution. A characteristic and defining feature of the spiritual ideological atmosphere that developed after the revolution was an anti-enlightenment, anti-bourgeois reaction, which, however, had a different socio-political aspiration. The literary movements of the European countries of that time – romanticism above all – reflected precisely these moods of the era. The result of understanding the results of the French Revolution in literature was the establishment of the theme of lost illusions in the work of many major writers of that time. This topic, which arose at the end of the 18th century. in the work of a number of romantic writers, was later picked up and developed by many critical realists, who considered it in the light of subsequent events in the socio-political struggle of the 19th century.

One of the manifestations of dissatisfaction with the results of the French Revolution of 1789-1794, the search for an extra-bourgeois social and ethical ideal, was that that arose at the beginning of the 19th century in the theory of utopian socialism. The utopian socialism of the early 19th century was the most important ideological factor that influenced the literary process of that time. Romanticism, which is a kind of anti-bourgeois utopia, directly or indirectly expressed certain aspects of the teachings of utopian socialism. The work of Hugo and Georges Sand in France, Godwin and Shelley in England, Heine in Germany, Herzen and Chernyshevsky in Russia, these are the most important moments in the literary process of the 19th century, which are closely connected with the ideas of utopian socialism.

Periodization of the historical and literary process of the 19th century

At the origins of a new stage in the historical and literary process in Europe, opened by the revolutionary events of the late 18th century. in France, was the literature of the period of the French Revolution of 1789-1794. The French literature of these years is organically connected with the national tradition of the previous classicist and enlightenment literature. At the same time, the French literature of 1789-1794 contained the prerequisites that opened the way for the subsequent development of romanticism and critical realism in France.

Romanticism was the leading trend and artistic method in the literary movements of the first third of the 19th century in Europe. However, since the beginning of the 1830s, critical realism has increasingly begun to predominate in the literary process. Thus, the main historical, literary and theoretical problems of the course of foreign literature of the 19th century, are romanticism and critical realism.

European literature of the first three decades of the 19th century, having received a powerful impetus for its development in the events of the French Revolution of 1789-1794, later turned out to be closely connected with the subsequent class and political struggle, with the Napoleonic and anti-Napoleonic wars.

The personality of Napoleon – an outstanding commander and statesman – and in particular those progressive social changes in Europe that were caused by his campaigns, received a great response in literature (Pushkin, Lermontov, Byron, Heine, Beranger, Hugo, Manzoni, etc.). The theme of the liberation movement against the Napoleonic occupation also turned out to be very significant in European literature. This applies in particular to German literature. A tangible imprint on the entire social life of England at the beginning of the century was left by the stormy performances of the destroyers of machines – the Luddites, to which, in particular, Byron responded.

Aggravation of political and class contradictions marked the period from 1815 to 1830 in European history, which in France was called the Restoration period, which opened after the Battle of Waterloo (1815) with the final overthrow of Napoleon and ended with the July Revolution of 1830. The collapse of the Napoleonic empire led to a sharp change in political climate on the European continent and contributed to the restoration of the pre-revolutionary order. However, Europe, which had advanced far along the path of bourgeois development, could no longer be returned to the political and social level that existed before 1789. By the end of the 1810s. the continent becomes the scene of violent political conflicts and national liberation movements in France, Spain, Greece and Italy. All these events influenced the character of the literary process as a whole and were reflected in the work of Byron, Shelley, Stendhal, Chamisso.

The year 1830, marked in France by the overthrow of Charles X from the throne and thereby the fall of the regime of the restored Bourbons, brought to power the big financial bourgeoisie, who placed their protege, King Louis Philippe, on the throne. In England in 1832, the most important political action for the country takes place: parliamentary reform, which in its social significance is close to the July Revolution in France. The July Revolution, the parliamentary reform, which secured the final victory of the bourgeoisie, and their immediate consequences became a milestone in the historical development of Western Europe. But with the strengthening of the power of the bourgeoisie, the working class becomes an independent political force.

These social changes were accompanied by significant shifts in the literary process. In France at the beginning of the century, Vigny, Lamartine, Hugo, Georges Sand create bright pages of romantic literature. In the 1820-30s, the works of Merimee, Stendhal, Balzac appeared, in which the principles of a realistic reflection of life are formed. Critical realism in the works of Dickens, Thackeray and a number of other authors began to determine the face of the literary process in England from the beginning of the 1830s. In Germany, Heine laid the foundations of critical realism in his work. In connection with the conditions of national specificity, critical realism in the literary process of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain is formed later, but already in the 1830s its origins are outlined in Polish and Hungarian literature. Realism in the literature of the United States wins a dominant position only towards the end of the 19th century, although the beginning of its formation dates back to the middle of the century.

Further aggravation of the contradictions of bourgeois-capitalist development led to a new revolutionary explosion that began in France and engulfed almost all of Europe. After the defeat of the European revolutions of the middle of the 19th century, the course of historical events in the countries of Central Europe led to the consolidation and strengthening of the forces of the proletariat, to its independent struggle against the bourgeoisie. In 1871, this struggle led to the proclamation in France of the Paris Commune, the first government of the working class, whose policy was based on the principles of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Paris Commune basically ended the cycle of bourgeois-democratic revolutions and opened a new period in the history of Europe, the period of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions.

The revolutions of 1848-1849 are the main frontier that divides the 19th century into two main parts, as well as an important milestone in the development of national literatures of European countries. But for the literary process, due to its specificity, the events of the July Revolution of 1830 in France and its consequences, as well as the socio-political situation that developed in England after the Reform Bill of 1832, should be considered a turning point. Along with direct responses to these events in creativity a number of revolutionary poets, the defeat of the revolution had a significant impact on the further development of critical realism (Dickens, Thackeray, Flaubert, Heine), and on a number of other phenomena, in particular, on the formation of naturalism in the literatures of European countries.

Given that in the first third of the 19th century in many European countries the main literary trend was romanticism, and after 1830 critical realism, it would be a mistake to believe that before 1830 only the romantic trend existed in European literatures. In some national literatures at the beginning of the 19th century. due to a number of conditions, the traditions of the literature of the Enlightenment (Germany, Poland) were still alive. In other cases, we should talk about some of the early phenomena of the literature of critical realism, side by side with the characteristic and typical tendencies of romanticism (early romantics and Berenger in France). Complex and variegated in terms of creative methods was the picture of the struggle of literary trends in France in the 1820s. Later, after the July Revolution, the literary process in this country takes shape mainly as a synchronous development of critical realism in its greatest achievements in the works of Mérimée, Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert and in the no less significant conquests of romantic literature in the works of Georges Sand and Hugo. A contemporary of the Lakeists, Byron and Shelley was the poet Crabb, a stern writer of everyday life in the English countryside, whose work bore certain features of Enlightenment realism. At the same time, the origins of the novel of critical realism are determined (Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen).

The exodus of romanticism in the 1830s in Germany was accompanied simultaneously by variously expressed realistic tendencies in the works of Büchner. The revolutionary-democratic literature of the 1840s in Germany, marked by quite definite realistic features, at the same time carried in itself a clearly expressed revolutionary-romantic principle in the lyrics of Weerth, Herwegh and Freiligrath. At the same time, the creative method of some major writers is developing in the direction from romanticism to realism (Heine, Byron, Shelley). Consequently, with the predominant development of romanticism in the first third of the century and critical realism after 1830, one should keep in mind the process of more or less constant contacts between various artistic methods and trends, their mutual enrichment, and first of all here we should talk about romanticism and critical realism.

Thus, the periodization of the historical and literary process of the 19th century. in European countries it appears as follows: the first stage from 1789 to 1830, the second stage from 1830 to 1871; the second stage, in turn, is divided into two periods: 1830-1848 and 1848-1871. This general scheme of development of the literary process of the 19th century in European countries is by no means universal. It exists with various, sometimes significant chronological deviations, determined by the national specifics of the socio-political development of a particular country, but at the same time reflects the actual course of the literary process, points to its general patterns.

Philosophical and aesthetic foundations of romanticism

The initial philosophical basis of romanticism is an idealistic worldview, which developed mainly in the direction from subjective to objective idealism. The idealistic impulse towards the infinite, as one of the characteristics of the ideological and aesthetic position of the Romantics, is a reaction to skepticism, rationalism, and the cold rationality of the Enlightenment. Romantics affirmed the belief in the dominance of the spiritual principle in life, the subordination of matter to the spirit.

In the concept of world literature, developed by the Jena romantics, in particular August Wilhelm Schlegel, the romantics expressed the desire for the universality of phenomena, for universalism. This romantic universalism was also reflected in the social utopianism of the romantics, in their utopian dreams of the triumph of the ideals of harmony throughout human society.

“In its closest and most essential meaning, romanticism is nothing but the inner world of a person’s soul, the innermost life of his heart,” wrote Belinsky. And here he caught one of the fundamental defining features of romanticism, which distinguishes it from the worldview and artistic method of the Enlightenment. In fact, the hero in the works of art of the romantics receives a fundamentally different interpretation than that of the enlighteners and classicists. From an object of application of external forces, he becomes a subject that shapes the surrounding circumstances. The problem of personality becomes central for romantics; all other aspects of their ideological and aesthetic positions are grouped around it. In the initial positions of romantic aesthetics, knowledge of the world is, first of all, self-knowledge. Later, in the aesthetics of the Romantics, a very significant thesis of the so-called local color, that is, the description of the external situation (Hugo, Nodier, and partly Byron) is affirmed. But even among these romantics, the personality is given the main place. Nature, love – the development of these problems was for the romantics through the knowledge and disclosure of the essence of the phenomenon of the human personality. It was endowed with unlimited creative potentialities, and the course of development of objective being in the view of the romantics was determined by the spiritual activity of an individual. Such subjectivist anthropocentrism of the romantics led to a serious change in emphasis in the civil social ideal that is characteristic of the worldview of the classicists and enlighteners.

In solving the problem of “personality and society”, the romantics shifted the focus to the first component of this correlation, believing that the disclosure and affirmation of the human personality, its all-round improvement will ultimately lead to the establishment of high social and civic ideals.

By absolutizing the creative potential of the individual, the romantics, turning to reality, were themselves aware of the illusory nature of such ideas. As a result of the recognition of this contradiction, the famous theory of romantic irony arose in the aesthetics of the Jena romantics.

Individualism, as the root position of the philosophical and ethical concepts of romanticism, received various expressions. Those romantics who, denying their surroundings. reality, sought to escape from it into the world of illusions, the world of art and fantasy, into the world of their own reflections, the individualist hero at best remained an eccentric, a dreamer, tragically alone in the world around him (Hoffmann’s heroes). In other cases, the individualism of the romantic hero acquires an egotistical coloring (Byron, Benjamin Constant, Friedrich Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck). But there are many such heroes among romantics, whose individualism bears an active rebellious aspiration (the heroes of Byron, partly Vigny). In a number of Romantic works, the inherent value of the human personality is expressed not so much in its individualism, but in the fact that its subjective aspirations are directed to the service of the public cause in the name of the people’s good. Such are Byron’s Cain, Shelley’s Laon and Cythna, Mickiewicz’s Konrad Wallenrod.

The absolutization of the spiritual world of an individual among the Romantics was associated with well-known negative aspects. However, to a much greater extent, this exaltation of the individual, the principled installation to lead the way of knowing everything that exists through its inner “I” led the romantics to their most significant ideological and aesthetic conquests. In this area, the romantics made that significant step forward in the artistic knowledge of reality, which put forward romanticism to replace the art of the Enlightenment. The poems of Wordsworth and Wilhelm Müller, Heine and Byron, Vigny and Lamartine, the psychological stories of Chateaubriand and de Stael revealed to contemporaries the wealth of the spiritual world of an individual. The appeal to the chosen personality, towering over the “crowd”, by no means exhausts the interpretation of the individualistic principle by the romantics. Their deep democratism (Wordsworth, Heine, Wilhelm Müller, Eichendorff, Schubert) also had an effect in this area to no lesser extent. The song cycles of Schubert, who raised the everyday Austrian song to the level of high vocal art (from The Beautiful Miller’s Woman and The Winter Road to the lyrics of Wilhelm Müller), reflect the modest life of a modest personality. The theme of the tragic loneliness of a half-impoverished homeless traveler (The Organ Grinder, The Wanderer) sounds in the motive of wandering, traditional for German romantics, and the restless impulses of the soul of the romantic (“Where to?”) are reflected.

In the work of the Romantics, the image of the “superfluous person”, which passed through all the literature of the 19th century, takes its origins.

The fundamental innovation of the romantics in the artistic cognition of reality also consisted in the fact that, resolutely arguing with the fundamental thesis of enlightenment aesthetics – art is an imitation of nature – they put forward the most important position about the transforming role of art. It was first formulated by August Wilhelm Schlegel in 1798 in a review of Goethe’s poem Hermann and Dorothea.

Both of these positions of Enlightenment and Romantic aesthetics appear in certain dialectical relationships. Pursuing the goal of imitating nature in art, the enlighteners, with their characteristic rationalistic schematism, outlined and at the same time limited the circle of art to a realistic (within the limits of enlightenment aesthetics) reflection of reality. Setting before art the task of transforming reality, the romantics significantly expanded the possibilities and tasks of art, in particular, the possibilities of its influence on reality. But at the same time, they opened the way quite widely for the excessive introduction of fantastic and subjective elements into works of art.

Romantics expanded the arsenal of artistic means of art. They are credited with the fruitful development of many new genres, predominantly of a subjective-philosophical orientation: the psychological story (here especially much was done by the early French romantics), the lyric poem (the Lakeists, Byron, Shelley, Vigny), the lyrical ballad. Romanticism is associated with a bright flourishing of lyrical genres, contrasting contrastingly with the rationalistic non-poetic 18th century. Many romantic poets, decisively breaking with the traditions of classicist versification, carried out a fundamental reform of verse, expanding and democratizing the prosodic means of verse, bringing its possibilities closer to reflecting the inner world of the spiritual life of an individual, sometimes to the sphere of its real worldly interests. The establishment of new romantic norms in lyricism, in its very metrical structure in England, is associated with the work of the Lakeists and Byron, and partly of Shelley and Keats. In French literature, the bold reformers of verse were Vigny and Lamartine, Hugo; in German poetry Brentano, and after him Heine, Müller.

The immediate and relatively distant consequences of the French Revolution, under which romanticism was formed and developed, brought rapid dynamism and sharp conflicts into the course of European history. Thus, in the work of the Romantics, in their worldview, a historical perception of the social process took shape. In their historicism, the desire for something new, inherent in the romantic worldview, was reflected. But at the same time, the French Revolution prompted the literature of the first decades of the last century to comprehend the reasons, patterns that led to such a violent socio-political explosion. This explains such an active intrusion into the work of romantics of historical genres. It was in such an ideological atmosphere that the historical novel of Walter Scott and of Georges Sand, which had a huge impact on all European literature, arose and developed.

One of the main ideas of their philosophical worldview, the idea of ​​the infinite, is connected with the affirmation of the concept of historicism in the minds of the Romantics, with their perception of the world in motion, in development.

The historicism of the romantics and the noted elements of dialectics in their minds in their combination focused on individual nations, on the peculiarities of national history, national way of life, clothing, and above all on the national past of their homeland. In this past, they, as writers, were interested in the treasures of folk art. Legends, traditions, fairy tales, songs of deep national antiquity came to life in their works, relying on which they poured a fresh stream not only into fiction proper, but in a number of cases, especially in Germany, gave new life to the literary language of their people. In England, the pre-romantic movement played a particularly important role (MacPherson’s Poems of Ossian, Percy’s Monuments of Old English Poetry). It influenced Herder, the theoretician of the Stürmer movement, the most prominent representative of the late German Enlightenment, who preceded the activities of the German Romantics with many of his searches. With a passionate propaganda of folk songs, Herder, by a personal example of a collector, gave impetus to the future flowering of domestic German folklore in the era of romanticism – the activities of the Brothers Grimm, collectors of German folk tales, and Heidelberg romantics Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, compilers of the collection of German folk songs The Magic Horn of a Boy (1806-1808), which played a big role in the further development of German romantic poetry and song-romance lyrics in the richest musical culture of German romanticism.

The evolution of romanticism was connected with the further intrusion of reality into the circle of artistic vision of the romantics. The romantic hero does not limit himself only to immersion in the world of his own spiritual emotions. Through their prism, he increasingly perceives the world around him. Social reality, with its sharp dissonances, was already clearly breaking into the subjective world of Wackenroder’s hero Berglinger, defining the deep hopeless drama of his fate. And in this regard, the composer Berglinger is a character who, among many heroes of early European romanticism, is largely endowed with typified features. All the more typical is the central and favorite hero of the late romantic Hoffmann – the musician and composer Johannes Kreisler, the alter ego of the author, who is forced to sell his talent in order to ensure his existence. And the environment in which Kreisler lives and suffers, like his literary predecessor Berglinger, is the real feudal fragmented Germany of the beginning of the last century.

The enormous role of romanticism in the development of the artistic consciousness of mankind is not limited only to its specific historical framework, although even within them it significantly enriched and updated the principles and means of artistic understanding of reality. Romanticism as an artistic heritage is alive and relevant to our time. In the subsequent development of the romantic tradition, one characteristic regularity is very tangible – these or those broad attempts to revive it are usually associated with a break in social relations and with a situation that foreshadows revolutionary upheavals. Periods of stabilization, periods of relative social peace did not contribute to the emergence of romantic movements. The permanence of romantic traditions up to the present day is explained primarily by the nature of nonconformism, which is laid down in the very philosophical basis of the romantic worldview, the affirmation of the idea of ​​progress in the romantic pursuit of the ideal, the denial of a static state of being, and the fundamental affirmation of the search for the new.

The main patterns of the literary process after 1830

By the beginning of the 1830s, the balance of power in the literary development of European countries had noticeably changed. By the end of the 19th century. France is losing the role of the former legislator of aesthetic norms and tastes in art and literature. Germany moves to the first place, with which England competes successfully in other moments. One way or another, all European literature of that time is full of responses to the aesthetic theories and literary activities of the early German romantics. By the end of the 1820s, when romanticism becomes an inverted page in German literature, when with the death of Hoffmann his literary fame also temporarily fades away, when Heine finds himself at a literary crossroads, who was also forced to leave his homeland, German literature for a long time and firmly fades into the background, and inside it begins the process of an acute and active anti-romantic reaction. In France at this time, on the contrary, the romantic movement, although quite significant in its origins, but fragmented and not formalized organizationally, it was in the 1820s that it consolidated its forces, became a “school”, developed its own aesthetic program, put forward new names of the largest poets and writers – Lamartine, Vigny, Hugo. At the same time, in close connection with the powerful romantic movement and in parallel with it, in the struggle against a common literary opponent – epigonistic classicism, a new literary trend is emerging and growing – the direction of critical realism, represented by the early works of Stendhal, Balzac, Mérimée. This new young literary France, into which Georges Sand and then Flaubert is about to enter, is rapidly regaining its former prestige for its national literature.

True, with all the greatness of its literature revived since the 1830s, France no longer dictates, as before, literary norms and fashions to Europe. And at the same time, in terms of the diversity of creative individuals, literary and aesthetic schools, and sometimes in terms of the depth of artistic insights and theoretical positions, the French literature of that time belongs to the leading role in the Central European region. And, perhaps, the main factors that determined such a powerful flowering of French literature from the beginning of the 1830s were the deep organic connection of its emerging realistic aesthetics with the artistic practice of romanticism, as well as the fact that a significant and bright late stage of French romanticism (Georges Sand and mature Hugo mainly) falls on the heyday of critical realism. This last circumstance could not but lead to mutually fruitful, both direct and indirect contacts between writers of both trends.

In other European countries, in connection with the national originality of each individual literature, the process of replacing romanticism with critical realism took place in different chronological frames, and yet the turn of the early 1830s determined itself to a greater or lesser extent in almost every national literature.

The literature of England of that time, among other major national literatures of Europe, in its general development proceeds from romanticism to critical realism. After the Lake School, Byron and Shelley, the social life of England by the beginning of the 1830s puts forward Dickens and almost simultaneously with him Thackeray, writers, in terms of the scale of their work, in terms of the degree of talent, standing next to their largest contemporaries in European literature on the other side of the English Channel.

The work of the Romantics is everywhere subjected to sometimes very harsh and unfair criticism from the point of view of the concrete historical significance of romanticism. At the same time, again, in the concrete historical context of the process of the general progressive development of art, this rejection of romanticism was inevitable and fruitful. That is why it could happen that, for example, such an outstanding artist, a deeply erudite and educated person as Thackeray, “understood” neither Walter Scott, nor the poets of the Lake School, nor Byron. Even more paradoxical in this sense was the situation in Germany, where among the most significant overthrowers of romanticism were such major authorities as Hegel, Buchner, and Heine, whose early work wrote one of the brightest pages in the history of romanticism. This “romantic-dismissed”, as Theophile Gauthier very aptly called him, in his brilliant literary-critical pamphlet The Romantic School (1833-1836) also did not understand the significance of the work of his predecessors, the Jena Romantics. In France, this aesthetic confrontation received a somewhat muted expression, and it became apparent much later than in England and Germany – Romanticism retained its aesthetic significance here for at least the next two decades after 1830.

In general, this noticeable and significant change in the spiritual life of Europe, which was reflected not only in literature and art, was associated with the development of a new stage in the bourgeois-capitalist way of life. The needs of a rapidly developing industry demanded accurate knowledge of the material world and, accordingly, the development of the natural sciences. The intense philosophical and aesthetic searches of the romantics, their theoretical abstractions, could in no way contribute to the fulfillment of these tasks. The spirit of the new ideological atmosphere is now beginning to be determined by the philosophy of positivism, the philosophy of “positive knowledge,” as they said then. The concepts of positivism by no means exhausted the philosophical basis of critical realism. Moreover, the range of their influence on the aesthetic system of representatives of this literary movement was different, because both in philosophical terms and in terms of the general worldview, most critical realists sometimes, contrary to their own theoretical declarations, remained under the fruitful influence of romantic concepts. So, for example, in the chain Dickens-Thackeray-Stendhal-Balzac-Flaubert, we can easily catch the different degrees of influence of positivism on these writers. At the same time, it should be emphasized that positivism was the common source of the philosophical basis of both critical realism and naturalism, which took over the aesthetic relay race from it. Moreover, naturalists, in essence, having already completely lost contact with romanticism, completely rely on the philosophical system of positivism. This junction between the positivism of the critical realists and the positivism of the naturalists is especially clearly defined when comparing the aesthetic system of Flaubert, on the one hand, Chanfleury and Duranty (who were closer to naturalism than to realism) on the other, and even later, Maupassant and Zola, although it is quite obvious that both of the latter in their work both overcame and refuted many normative-dogmatic aspects of the aesthetics of naturalism.

Ultimately, all these noticeable shifts in the literary process – the replacement of romanticism by critical realism, or at least the promotion of critical realism to the role of the direction representing the main line of literature – were determined by the entry of bourgeois-capitalist Europe into a new phase of its development.

The most important new moment now characterizing the alignment of class forces was the emergence of the working class into an independent arena of social and political struggle, the liberation of the proletariat from the organizational and ideological tutelage of the left wing of the bourgeoisie.

The July Revolution, which overthrew Charles X, the last king of the older branch of the Bourbons, put an end to the Restoration regime, broke the dominance of the Holy Alliance in Europe and had a significant impact on the political climate of Europe (revolution in Belgium, uprising in Poland).

The formation of critical realism in England almost exactly coincides chronologically with that sharp turning point in the socio-political life of the country, which was determined by the parliamentary reform of 1832 and the beginning of the Chartist movement. In the early 1830s, Thackeray entered literature, in 1833 he began work on Essays on Boz, his first work, Dickens – the greatest representatives of critical realism in England.

Similar processes, but having their own national characteristics, took place at that time in France. It was in the 1820s that Balzac, Merimee, and a little earlier Stendhal entered the literature. At the turn of the 1820-30s, Balzac and Stendhal created their first significant works – the novels Chuans and Red and Black and in the coming years become the leading representatives of European critical realism.

At the same time, French romanticism was undergoing significant changes in its fruitful progressive development. In the early lyrics of Hugo, in his first experiments in prose, the formation of a romantic perception of reality in confrontation with the classicist traditions is noted. It was at this time that Hugo firmly established himself in the principles of romanticism, choosing a romantic drama with a sharp social sound as the main path of his work for a whole decade, while simultaneously creating one of the masterpieces of all romantic prose, the novel Notre Dame Cathedral. The paths of creative development of Lamartine and Vigny, remarkable poets, who already in the 1820s made, perhaps, the greatest contribution to romantic lyrics (as for Vigny, also to the development of romantic theory), are taking shape in a new way. Finally, it was precisely from the beginning of the 1830s that the romantic tradition of chamber psychological prose, brilliantly developed by the early French romantics, was transformed and enriched by the social romantic novel of Georges Sand. New motifs, new ideological and aesthetic tendencies begin to sound in the work of Beranger, whose songs, sharply satirical and at the same time imbued with life-affirming democracy, brought him world fame already in the years of the Restoration.

The nature of the regime of the July Monarchy, its socio-political contradictions become the main object of artistic comprehension of reality in French literature of the 1830s and 40s. For realists, this comprehension acquires a deeply analytical character, as evidenced by Stendhal’s novel Lucien Leven and many masterpieces of Balzac’s The Human Comedy. French critical realism (primarily in the work of Balzac) in the process of artistic and aesthetic analysis of the social essence of the regime of the July Monarchy, relying on the achievements of the Romantics, comes to a new understanding of historicism and new principles of typification. This was theoretically substantiated by Balzac. Through the prism of romantic historicism, reality was presented either as an aesthetic utopia (as in the early German romantics), or as a conscientious reconstruction of the color of place and time, the realities of everyday life, furnishings, clothing, customs (as in dramaturgy, poetry and early prose of Hugo, the poetry of early Vigny, partly in his novel Cinq-Mars). New qualities of historicism are already outlined in the historical novel by Walter Scott, where the coloring of place and time – an external detail with all its great importance for the writer’s creative manner – no longer plays a self-contained role. The novelist sees his main task in the artistic display and comprehension of acute turning points in national history. And perhaps no other European literature of the first half of the last century, like French, was so closely associated with the name of Walter Scott. The 1820s and early 30s in the literary life of France are full of echoes of his work. It was a time when, along with a new stage of romanticism, the first victorious steps were taken by critical realism. “Our father, Walter Scott,” Balzac called the great novelist. Indeed, it is not difficult to see that the author of Chuans took lessons from the “Scottish magician.” But this was not the apprenticeship of an epigone or even a follower. The young admirer of the Scottish novelist, with deep reverence for his teacher, took much of his experience, but, asserting a new direction in literature, he interpreted the principles of historicism in a different way. In his grandiose creation The Human Comedy, Balzac sets the task of showing the history of the customs of modern France, i.e., the concept of historicism is updated by him. In order to understand the essence of the bourgeois structure of the modern monarchy of bankers in France, Balzac quite naturally connects its emergence with the origins of the power of the bourgeoisie, which it received as a result of the revolution of the late 18th century. In his numerous short stories and novels that make up a single whole, Balzac consistently traces the dirty, criminal, and sometimes bloody stories of the enrichment of the bourgeois who rule modern France.

Actual historical in his novels is also Stendhal. Topical modernity in Red and Black, Lucien Leuven in a different manner than in Balzac, but perhaps even more organically linked with the previous stages of development of post-revolutionary France.

This principle of historicism is preserved in a new sound in Flaubert, a large-scale figure in the European literary process. In Flaubert’s work, there is a deep drama of social and aesthetic consciousness, generated by the negative consequences of the defeat of the revolution of 1848-1849.

The third major European country – Germany – and by the 1830s, continuing to remain fragmented, significantly lagged behind in its economic development not only from England, but also from France. Nevertheless, the patterns noted above are also characteristic of it. And in Germany at the beginning of the 1830s, social changes that were noticeable for the country were taking place. The most significant manifestation of the opposition movement of the 1830s in Germany was the activities of the secret Society of Human Rights, one of whose leaders was Georg Buchner, and the uprising of the Hessian peasants associated with the activities of this society.

In the 1840s, the role of Germany in the class struggle of the progressive forces of Europe noticeably increased. Evidence of this was the powerful uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844. The center of the revolutionary movement is moving to Germany, which is only now approaching its bourgeois revolution under the conditions of sharpened class contradictions.

The new successes of German literature, partly connected with the further development of realistic tendencies, were a response to the events of the 1840s (the so-called pre-March literature) and to the March revolution of 1848 and were expressed in the work of Weerth, Herwegh and Freiligrath. A notable phenomenon in the development of German realism was the drama of the outstanding playwright Friedrich Hebbel, Mary Magdalene (1844), but his further work, if it can be correlated with realism, is only with its peripheral abstract-allegorical modifications. And although in German literature, before the flowering of the Mann brothers, separate phenomena of realism arose, however, neither the works of Wilhelm Raabe, Adalbert Stifter or the highly gifted short story writer Theodor Storm (a kind of lyrical-psychological realism, very close to romanticism) give reason to talk about the direction of critical realism, somewhat close in scale and artistic and aesthetic quality to the realism of England and France of the same decades.

Marx and Engels played a prominent role in the development of progressive literature in the 1940s. Brilliant literary-critical articles by Engels, who tried his hand at literature, his deeply analytical judgments about the contemporary world literary process, the joint works of Marx and Engels, in which certain problems of literature are considered, and finally, personal contacts between the founders of scientific communism and writers, for example with Heine, in their totality represent an important page in German and all world literature.

No matter how significant the national characteristics of the literary process in Germany, they still do not contradict the fact that with the beginning of the 1830s in literature, as well as in public life, a tangible change occurs. This turning point, the main sign of which was the beginning of the formation and development of critical realism, dominating in the literatures of England, France, and somewhat later in the literature of Russia, determines the face of the literary process.

Completely different patterns of social and political life are characteristic of the United States, where, along with the industrially developed northern states, which have a relatively liberal social order, there are slave-owning southern states.

If in European literatures, English and French first of all, the realistic trend begins to be clearly defined from the beginning of the 1830s, in other cases significantly pushing romanticism as a literary trend, then in American literature at this time romanticism reaches its peak, determining the general line of development of the literary process. In 1824, the outstanding romantic, poet and short story writer Edgar Allan Poe entered literature, whose fame went far beyond the borders of the United States and the influence of his work became tangible in European short stories. The middle of the century, the 1860s, was called the period of the “American Renaissance”, which is associated with the largest conquests of romantic literature (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). The ideas of subjective-romantic philosophy formed the basis of the transcendentalist movement (1830-40s).

At the same time, in the 1850s, social intonations noticeably increased in American literature. For example, they are especially noticeable in the philosophical and lyrical prose of the romantic Thoreau, in his journalism. In the 1840s, the sources of critical realism were formed in the work of a number of writers, which became the leading method of abolitionist (from the English abolition) literature during the Civil War (1861-1865). In line with this literature, Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes her widely known novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). The ideas of abolitionism are associated with the work of another classic of American literature, Walt Whitman, in whose collection Leaves of Grass one can trace the development of romanticism in the direction of a more objective reflection of reality with its social contradictions. Whitman’s work is an organic combination of a romantic vision of reality with the principles of critical realism. However, only by the end of the century, in the works of Mark Twain, W. D. Howells, H. James, he will begin to determine the face of the literary process in the United States.

The European revolutions of 1848-1849, which engulfed almost all countries of the continent, became the most important milestone in the socio-political process of the 19th century. The events of the late 1840s marked the final delimitation of the class interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In addition to direct responses to the mid-century revolutions in the work of a number of revolutionary poets, the general ideological atmosphere after the defeat of the revolution was reflected in the further development of critical realism (Dickens, Thackeray, Flaubert, Heine), and in a number of other phenomena, in particular, the formation of naturalism in European literatures.

The features of naturalistic aesthetics were especially clearly manifested in the work of the French writers Edmond and Jules Goncourt. It is noteworthy that both Chanfleury and Duranty, who considered themselves realists and true successors of Balzac, were essentially naturalists in their aesthetics and creative practice. Aesthetic principles of naturalism were professed at an early stage of her activity by the talented English writer George Eliot. Magnificent psychological skill, keen observational skills give her the opportunity to create vivid expressive characters, some of which carry the features of social typification, thereby expressing, contrary to the original theoretical platform of the writer, her attitude to the depicted reality. However, it is easy to see that in George Eliot’s novels there is neither the breadth of historical scope nor the depth of social generalizations inherent in the work of Dickens and Thackeray. Approximately the same in general terms can be said about another English realist of this period, E. Trollope.

The literary process of the second half of the century, under all the complicating circumstances of the post-revolutionary period, is enriched with new achievements. The positions of critical realism are being consolidated in the Slavic countries. Such great realists as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky begin their creative activity. Critical realism is formed in the literatures of Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Romania.

The national liberation struggle against the Turkish enslavers, which unfolded in Bulgaria, brought to life new forces in literature, which in the middle of the century was going through a “renaissance era”, the civil revolutionary liberation pathos of which sounded so vividly in the journalism and poetry of Hristo Botev.

Against the backdrop of a new phase of social contradictions, the national liberation movement played a decisive role in that bright period in which, after 1848, the literature of the northern peoples entered. This sharp turning point both in young Finnish literature and in the literatures of the Scandinavian countries was associated with the unresolved conflicts of 1848 – the aggravation of relations between the Danish-German population of Schleswig-Holstein and Prussia, between the Swedish government and the Norwegian public, the influence of the revolutionary situation in Russia on the public life in Finland, where national identity was growing stronger. Under the influence of these factors, romantic principles are increasingly receding into the background, and realistic art begins to play a leading role.

Critical realism. Essence of its method,

The focus of the literature of critical realism is the analysis by means of artistic worldview of the class structure, social essence, socio-political contradictions of the contemporary social system – capitalist relations. Therefore, the main thing in the specifics of this literary trend and creative method is the artistic comprehension of reality as a social factor, and, consequently, the disclosure of the social determinism of the depicted events and characters. When it comes to the realism of ancient literature, the realism of the Renaissance, the concept of realism here can be interpreted only in the broadest sense of this term. only a work that reflects the essence of a given socio-historical phenomenon should be considered realistic, when the characters of the work carry the typical, collective features of a particular social stratum or class, and the conditions in which they operate are not an accidental fruit of the writer’s imagination, but a reflection of the patterns of socio-economic and political life of the era.

The characterization of critical realism was first formulated by Engels in April 1888 in a letter to the English writer Margaret Harkness in connection with her novel The City Girl. Expressing a number of friendly wishes regarding this work, Engels calls on his correspondent to a truthful, realistic depiction of life. Engels’ judgments contain the fundamental provisions of the theory of realism and still retain their scientific relevance.

“In my opinion,” Engels says in a letter to the writer, “realism presupposes, in addition to truthfulness of details, truthfulness in the reproduction of typical characters in typical circumstances.” Meaning by typical characters, first of all, those in which the main social types of the era are expressed, out of the countless number of characters in The Human Comedy, Engels chooses the characters of representatives of the rising bourgeoisie, which was increasingly intensifying its “pressure on the noble aristocracy, and the characters of aristocrats.” As the most important feature of the worldview of Balzac, Engels notes that he idealized the aristocrats dear to his heart, opposing them to the bourgeois “vulgar upstart”. But the strength of Balzac’s realism, the veracity of his socio-historical analysis, Engels sees in the fact that Balzac’s satire becomes especially sharp, his irony especially bitter when the writer describes precisely these dear to him aristocrats and nobles. The fact that Balzac showed them as representatives of a class leaving the historical arena, irrevocably losing its former power, was their typicality.

And Engels considers the greatest merit of the realist Balzac to be that the writer saw the real people of the future not in the victorious bourgeoisie, but in the republicans of Saint-Merry, where they really were at that time. Thus, revealing the main direction of social conflicts between the nobility, the bourgeoisie and the people’s revolutionary democracy, the author of The Human Comedy presented contemporary bourgeois-aristocratic France in the dynamics of historical development. The next historical act of this process was the revolution of 1848, in which the working class of France acted as the successor to the cause of the heroes of Saint-Merry, sung by Balzac.

Typification in art was not a discovery of critical realism. The art of every era, on the basis of the aesthetic norms of its time, in the appropriate artistic forms, was given the opportunity to reflect the characteristic or, as they began to say otherwise, the typical features of modernity inherent in the characters of works of art, in the conditions in which these characters acted.

Typification among critical realists represents a higher degree of this principle of artistic knowledge and reflection of reality than among their predecessors. It is expressed in the combination and organic interconnection of typical characters and typical circumstances. In the richest arsenal of means of realistic typification, psychologism, that is, the disclosure of a complex spiritual world – the world of thoughts and feelings of a character, is by no means the last place. But the spiritual world of the heroes of critical realists is socially determined. This principle of building characters determined a deeper degree of historicism among critical realists compared to romantics. However, the characters of the critical realists least of all resembled sociological schemes. Not so much the external detail in the description of the character – a portrait, a suit – but his psychological appearance (here Stendhal was an unsurpassed master) recreates a deeply individualized image.

This is how Balzac built his doctrine of artistic typification, arguing that along with the main features inherent in many people representing this or that class, this or that social stratum, the artist embodies the unique individual features of a particular individual as in his appearance, in an individualized speech portrait, in the features of clothing, gait, in manners, gestures, and in the appearance of the inner, spiritual.

19th century realists, when creating artistic images, showed the hero in development, depicted the evolution of character, which was determined by the complex interaction of the individual and society. In this they sharply differed from the enlighteners and romantics. Perhaps the first and very striking example of this was Stendhal’s novel Red and Black, where the deep dynamics of the character of Julien Sorel – the main character of this work – is revealed through the stages of his biography.

The art of critical realism set as its task the objective artistic reproduction of reality. The realist writer based his artistic discoveries on a deep scientific study of the facts and phenomena of life. Therefore, the works of critical realists are the richest source of information about the era they describe. For example, Stendhal’s novel Lucien Leven gives an idea of ​​the social order of the first years of the July Monarchy in France in many ways more accurate and vivid than special scientific works about this period.

This side of critical realism was also noted by the founders of Marxism. For Engels, Balzac’s The Human Comedy was significant not only as a highly artistic work, he no less valued it as a huge work of a cognitive nature.

Marx speaks of the same cognitive significance of the literature of critical realism in his characterization of the English realistic novel of the nineteenth century.

Aesthetic origins of critical realism

Each literary trend and creative method is brought to life by not only socio-political prerequisites, for all their importance, but also aesthetic ones. They are formed both in individual phenomena of the literature of the past, and in entire literary movements. In essence, in the entire world literary process, the process of progressive development and the formation of realism is quite clearly and consistently traced. In this process, a special place belongs to the titans of the Renaissance Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and others. Their experience undoubtedly affected the work of every significant realist artist, regardless of whether he turned directly to this experience or not. The experience of the Renaissance artists came to the writers of critical realism partly through its interpretation by the romantics, among whom the Germans, especially the early ones, were active adherents and propagandists of the Renaissance. An equally significant component of the aesthetic origins of critical realism was the realistic literature of the Enlightenment, in particular, the importance of the English novel of the 18th century should be emphasized here. Critical realists perceived the anti-feudal, and more broadly, the social-critical trend of Enlightenment realism, its subtle psychological skill (Lawrence Sterne).

From the Enlightenment, critical realists adopted faith in the cognitive power of the human mind. Critical realists are close to the realists of the Enlightenment by the affirmation of the educational, civic mission of art. Dickens, for example, was characterized by a clear exaggeration of this role of artistic creation, by means of which (and only by means) he believed it possible to eradicate social evil. This conviction led him to severe disappointment at the end of his creative path.

Far from denying this mission of art, the French critical realists assigned it a much more real and important role. Like the Enlightenment realists, the typological artistic principle of the critical realists was the depiction of reality in the forms of reality itself. The organic impact of the artistic and aesthetic experience of the enlighteners on the further destinies of realistic literature is very clearly seen in connection with Goethe’s novels about Wilhelm Meister (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Wilhelm Meister’s Wanderings), which are one of the first experiences of the novel of development (Bildungsroman). All subsequent development of the novel in German literature up to the present day, to one degree or another, transforms this model of Goethe’s novel.

Even more frontal and deep are the connections between critical realism and romanticism (not only chronologically, but also from the point of view of the essence of the creative method), which prepared the formation of critical realism. These organic contacts are characteristic both for the creative evolution of individual writers (Heine, Byron, Shelley, Balzac, Flaubert, in part Hugo, Georges Sand), and in general typological terms.

The socio-political problems that become dominant in the work of critical realists, in their ideological and aesthetic genesis and development from enlightenment realism (if we take the aesthetic category closest to realism of the 19th century), were by no means interrupted in romanticism, although, as a rule, they played in it a peripheral role.

Based on the fruitful experience of romantics in revealing the inner world of characters, the psychology of characters, critical realist writers deepened the possibilities of character typification. Unlike sentimentalists and romantics, psychologism, as one of the means of typification, does not have a self-contained value for critical realists and is associated with the disclosure of a generalizing social content of a particular nature. The psychologism of the romantics was accepted and revived again in the work of the critical realists. This connection is especially clear in the literary process of France.

Let us recall that one of the most important theses of romantic aesthetics, especially clearly formulated by Hugo in his preface to the drama Cromwell, was the demand for local and historical color, that is, a thorough description of the situation of the era in which the action of a work of art takes place, concrete, and often everyday realities of the era. The mastery of such descriptions is distinguished by the novels of Walter Scott, the novel Notre Dame Cathedral by Hugo. In developing this aspect of their artistic system, the Romantics prepared and fertilized the creative practice of the critical realists. It suffices in this connection to recall the majority of Balzac’s novels and short stories, marked by a brilliant mastery of description.

The romantic theory of contrasts, proclaimed and consistently embodied by Hugo, to a large extent anticipated the reflection of the dialectical contradictions of reality in the work of critical realists.

One of the leading themes in the work of critical realists is the theme of lost illusions. It is characteristic of all European literature of the 19th century, and its emergence was associated with the ideological consequences of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.

The creative evolution of some romantics, as if reproducing the general evolution of romanticism, is marked by an increasing appeal to the depiction of concrete reality, a weakening of the subjective principle, a departure from normative abstractions and allegories. Such, for example, is the evolution of Byron, Shelley, Heine. In varying degrees of expression, we are dealing here with the maturation of realistic tendencies in the depths of romanticism.

On the other hand, many significant representatives of critical realism also experienced a significant and fruitful impact of romanticism. Deeply connected with the artistic consciousness of romanticism was Dickens, whose entire work is colored by a romantic-utopian dream of the indispensable triumph of good, of universal love and brotherhood. Stendhal, who also learned the lessons of the Romantics, was especially close to them in his creative manner. This was reflected not only in his deep and masterful psychologism, but also in the very ideological and aesthetic structure of his novels, in the center of which is always the protagonist, opposed to reality and rising above it.

Some, especially early, works of Mérimée and Balzac also have their own character of perception of the romantic tradition.

In critical realism, as a literary trend, there is not only a critical beginning (as it may be, and could be presented in connection with this term itself). For most realists, a high positive ideal, a positive beginning, were no less important than a socially critical orientation. Severe accusers of the social system contemporary to them, they opposed to it the dream of a just social order, although the dream was utopian; exposed social evil was opposed to a high moral and ethical ideal. And perhaps one of the most convincing evidence of this is the vast gallery of bright positive characters in the works of critical realists. At the same time, it should be emphasized that most of these positive characters belonged to the lower classes of society. It was in the representatives of the popular masses that critical realists sought and saw the true embodiment of their moral and ethical ideals.

In this regard, special mention should be made of the meaning of the term “critical realism” itself. He is very imperfect, since he deliberately interprets the phenomena of the literary process he defines as aimed only at revealing the negative phenomena of reality. Such an initial thesis is deeply erroneous, not only because it comes into complete contradiction with the facts of the literary process itself, but also because any genuine art cannot exist and develop outside of positive ideals.

The traditions of realism of the 19th century are of paramount importance. for the literature of our century. Although the paths taken by modern literature are different, the leading line of its development is connected with the perception and rethinking of the principles of realism in the art of the 19th century.