V. Geiman 1949
Author: V. Geiman;
First published: 1939 in Great Soviet Encyclopedia, first edition, Vol. 41, pp. 536-540;
Translated: by Anton P.
Romanticism covers a significant period – from the 1790s to the 1830s. Romanticism took shape in an atmosphere of the defeat of the Jacobins in France, in an atmosphere of Thermidor and disappointment in the results of the bourgeois revolution. In semi-feudal Germany, the fate of the early rebellious Romantics was especially characteristic. With few exceptions, the Romantics, to one degree or another, fell prey to the church and reactionary governments that skillfully used Romantic criticism of bourgeois society in the interests of the reactionary nobility. Romanticism is the most characteristic phenomenon of 19th century German literature, because Realism was not so powerfully represented in it, as, for example, in French or English literature. The early period of German Romanticism (1793-1800) was still closely connected with classical German philosophy and aesthetics (Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Schiller, Goethe) and represents a kind of attempt to build a harmonious social ideal on the synthesis of antiquity and modernity, ideal and reality (Friedrich Schlegel speaks in his Fragments about the three sources of German Romanticism: the French Revolution, Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre philosophy and Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister). An extremely bright figure in the evolution of German literature from Classicism to Romanticism is one of the last Classics and first Romantics – Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), a friend of the young Hegel and the young Schelling. Hölderlip was brought up on the heroic lyrics of Schiller and the works of Winckelmann. Until the end, he remained an ardent defender of democracy and humanism, and the cult of antiquity, through which these social ideals of his were expressed, he practiced with radicalism unheard of for German writers and artists. Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), the main theorist of early Romanticism, also began with Winkelmann’s worship of antiquity. And for him Greek democracy and Greek art were the natural norm for the entire subsequent history of mankind. But Friedrich Schlegel, just like Hölderlin, was disappointed in the new revival of antiquity – in the possibility, under the conditions of bourgeois society, to restore ancient humanism on a broader basis. By the end of the 1790s. Friedrich Schlegel began to study “Christian society” and “Christian art,” that is, the art of the new peoples of Europe. And here he first of all pointed to the great poets of modern times – Dante, Boccaccio, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, whose work is but inferior to the poets of ancient antiquity.
Wilhelm Wackenroder’s (1773-98) book The Hearty Outpourings of an Art-Loving Monk (1797), was one of the earliest sources of retrograde sentiment in Romanticism. Novalis (pseudonym of Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801), one of the most prominent poets of early Romanticism, in his unfinished novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” (1801) created a special concept of the Middle Ages as the only era in which the contradictions of modern society and modern culture can be resolved, thus playing an essential role in the reactionary degeneration of German Romanticism. In his “Hymns to the Night” (1800), in “Disciples at Sais” (1798), in philosophical fragments, Novalis appears as a convinced mystic, rejecting all the acquisitions of the age of “reason.” Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) was a more complex poet. His comedies – “Puss in Boots” (1797), “Prince Cerbino” (1798), “The World Inside Out” (1797) – are mainly directed against artistic tastes of philistinism, against petty utilitarianism and the worship of “common sense.” However, for many years Ludwig Tieck fell under the influence of the conservative-Romantic poets, first Wackenroder and then Novalis. Tieck’s drama “Life and Death of Saint Genoveva” (1799) was glorified as an example of religious poetry, as a new mystery of sin and fall. August Schlegel (1767-1845), like his younger brother Friedrich, was the main theoretician of the Romantic school. He studied Dante, Shakespeare, Calderón; gave a wonderful translation of Shakespeare. At first, the poets of the Renaissance were promoted by him as worthy rivals of antiquity, and then, with the growth of conservative sentiments, he began to consider the poets of the Middle Ages as the only worthy source for new poetry.
In the period 1797-1804 the brothers Schlegel, Novalis, and Tieck became close to each other. They used to meet in the city of Jena – hence the name “Jena Romanticism.” If we talk about the prevailing influence, then it undoubtedly belonged to Novalis during this period. Both the Schlegel brothers and Tieck gradually passed from the anti-bourgeois opposition to the “semantic ideal” of the medieval theocracy. Friedrich Schlegel became an obscurantist, a Catholic philosopher, for some time in the service of Metternich and Gentz. Schelling, the creator of Romantic aesthetics, also developed in the Catholic direction.
The era of the Napoleonic wars brought forward a new group of Romantics – the so-called Heidelberg Romantics. Among the Heidelbergers, chauvinists, clerics and supporters of feudalism played an important role, with great fear and hatred of the ideas of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. Most of the “Heidelberg” Romantics were people of a reactionary upbringing who did not feel, in contrast to the older Romantics, any enthusiasm for revolutionary thought; neither the ancient ideal nor the philosophy of Enlightenment had touched them. At the center of the Heidelberg Romantics was Achim von Arnim (1781-1831), a darkly humorous, reactionary writer. His closest associate was Clemens Brentano (1778-1842), a poet of great lyrical gift, but completely ruined by the Catholic Church, of which he tried to be a faithful servant. Joseph Eichendorff (1788-1857) in his novel “Premonition and Reality” (1815) preached hatred of the French, and obedience to the church. Joseph Görres (1776-1848), a publicist and philologist, at first a Jacobin, then one of the most vicious reactionaries, belonged to the Heidelberger circle of retrogrades and champions of the Roman Church. The group around Arnim and Brentano was supported by the brothers Grimm; Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859), scientists who had great merits in the study of German language and folklore, but kept conservative positions in matters of general worldview. The Heidelbergers have done a lot as collectors of folklore and antiquity. Of particular importance is a collection of German folk songs “The Boy’s Magic Horn” (“Des Knaben Wunderhorn”), published by Arnim and Brentano in 1806. This collection turned out to be a powerful means of propaganda among German poets of folk song motives, and almost every lyric poet was under its influence, from Wilhelm Müller to Heine. Baron Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué (1777-1843), now known only as the author of “Undine,” was at that time quite popular as the author of knightly novels glorifying feudal virtues. Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1810) was on friendly terms with the Heidelbergers; however, on the whole, however, he was an original writer. Kleist is the author of the dramas “Käthchen of Heilbronn” (1810), “Penthesilea” (1808), “Prince Friedrich von Homburg” (1810), the story “Michael Kohlhaas” (1809) and a number of other short stories. Undoubtedly, alongside Hoffmann, Kleist is the greatest artist in the history of German Romanticism. A writer who experienced modernity very deeply and intensely, Kleist the politician was not ready to abandon the reactionary dogmas which the Heidelbergers held. Already in his early years, Kleist was agitated by the catastrophe that befell the ideals of the Enlightenment, and lost faith in the rationality of reality and the natural rights of the individual. There are elements of Realism and a genuine sense of social history in Kleist’s work, for example, especially in his Michael Kohlhaas, a story that depicts the social upheavals of Germany in the 16th century in an extraordinarily vivid manner. Among the Romantic playwrights, in addition to Kleist, one can also note Zacharias Werner (1768-1823), the author of the one-act play “February 24” (1812), which laid the foundation for the genre of the so-called. tragedies of fate. After Werner, Adam Müller (1774-1829), Ernst von Houwald (1778-1845) and the young Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872), author of the drama The Foremother (1817) belong to this circle.
The so-called “Swabian school” of Romantics was a group of minor poets-lyricists of Southern Germany devoted to provincial interests, local life and local landscape. Their lyrics usually had a folkloric tinge, and portrayed feudal patriarchy in positive tones. Typical poets of the school were Justinus Kerner (1786-1862) and Gustav Schwab (1792-1850). The creativity of the leader of the “Swabians,” Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862), the author of the famous ballads and romances, suffered to a lesser extent from patriarchal narrow-mindedness, which his students elevated to a principle. The Swabian school gravitated towards the political liberalism of the 1830s. The Swabian school is also associated with the great Romantic poets Eduard Mörike (1804-75) and Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) – the author of “The Beautiful Miller Woman,” “Winter Road,” “Greek Songs.” If Romanticism turned into the ideological support of the order of things that existed in Germany, then the best democratic and humanistic tendencies of Romanticism in the era of the Restoration were presented in the works of two writers who caused fierce attacks among orthodox Romantics. The most prominent of the two was Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1776-1822). Hoffmann raised the anti-philistine satire to an extraordinary height, in his story “The Golden Pot” (1813), in the novel “The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr” he ridicules German philistinism, the German way of life, manners, culture, his masters, his government, the small German princelings. Hoffmann was largely a master of Realism. Sharp observation, the art of characterization is an essential quality of Hoffmann’s manner. Both Realism and political tendency bring Hoffmann closer to the subsequent literature – the literature of the era of Heine and Young Germany. The same applies to the work of Adalbert von Chamisso (1781-1838), the author of the splendid story “Peter Schlemihl” (1813), a folk story, truly democratic with its content and design. Hoffmann and Chamisso are the predecessors of the democratic literature of the 1830s and 1840s. They were those writers whose opposition to capitalist society did not push into the ranks of clericals and monarchists.