New High German Literature Part II

Sturm und Drang, Weimar Classic

The Sturm und Drang movement originated from the ideas of Hamann and Herder. It was influenced by folk poetry based on mystifications (J. Macpherson’s “Ossian” poem) as published by J.-J. Rousseau’s conception of nature, from Shakespeareand the culture-critical texts A. A. C. Shaftesbury and E. Young, also from a secularized form of Pietist subjectivism.

The young generation of poets embraced the new attitude towards life from around 1770 onwards. It now proclaimed the freedom of feeling and imagination, the creative power of the individual and the rule of genius.

Herder’s encounter with the young J. W. Goethe in Strasbourg in 1770 was of the greatest importance for literature.

From their collaboration, the writing “Von deutscher Art und Kunst” (1773, with Goethe’s essay on the Strasbourg cathedral “Von deutscher Baukunst”) grew, which became the manifesto of Sturm und Drang. Goethe’s poems revolutionized the possibilities of the German language for German poetry. In the »Sesenheimer Lieder« (1771), spontaneous feelings and an intense experience of nature are expressed in apparently the simplest, folk song-like language. Ballad and anthem have been renewed. The autobiography (“Henrich Stillings Jugend,” 1777, by J. H. Jung-Stilling; “Life story and natural wages of the poor man in Tockenburg”, 1789, by U. Bräker) met the interest in individual fate and “Anton Reiser”, 4 volumes, 1785–90, by K. P. Moritz). The overwhelming epic work of Sturm und Drang, Goethe’s novel »The Sorrows of Young Werther« (1774), owes its worldwide success to its autobiographical approach.

In addition to Strasbourg, Göttingen was the center of Sturm und Drang. The Göttinger Hain group included H. C. BoieL. C. H. HöltyJ. H. VossJ. A. Leisewitz, the two Counts C. and F. L. zu Stolberg-Stolberg. Her poetry was influenced byKlopstock, whose oden form was changed to intimate. A new, socially critical dimension emerged in the idylls of VossG. A. BürgerC. F. D. Schubart and M. Claudius were connected to the Göttinger Hain.

Outside the groups directly committed to Sturm und Drang stood J. P. Hebel with his folk tales and poems in Alemannic dialect and G. C. Lichtenberg with his aphorism, which satirically undermined the genius cult of his contemporaries.

The prose of the Late Enlightenment also includes G. Forster’s travel descriptions (including “Journey around the World”, 2 parts, 1778–80) and J. G. Seumes “Walk to Syracuse in 1802” (3 volumes, 1803).

The preferred genre of the time, however, was drama; Freed from the Aristotelian rules, tragedy could best represent a passionate attitude towards life, the great model was ShakespeareGerstenberg’s »Ugolino« (1768) is considered the first piece by Sturm und Drang. Goethe’s “Götz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand” (1773), by JMR Lenz “Der Hofmeister” (1774) and “The Soldiers” (1776), by F. M. Klinger “Die Zwillinge” (1776), by H. L. Wagner “Die Kindermörderin «(1776). Goethe’s “Egmont” (completed in 1787) marks the transition to classical tragedy. The dramas, which are accompanied by theoretical writings (among others by GerstenbergLenz and Herder), all have strongly socially critical accents. The corrupt customs of the nobility are condemned, but also false civil subservience. A central conflict arises from the individual’s thirst for freedom, which fails because of social conventions. Like Goethe’s Götz, the early dramas are F. Schiller’s (“The Robbers”, 1781; “The Fiesco Conspiracy at Genoa”, 1783; “Cabal and Love”, 1784) determined by it. The Faust material also belongs in this context, which has been adapted several times by the Sturm und Drang poets (fragments of drama by Lenz,Friedrich Müller [called painter Müller], novel by Klinger). Goethe’s Urfaust has all the characteristics of the Sturm und Drang drama.

When Goethe was called to Weimar, where Wieland had been a prince educator from 1772, by Duke Karl August (1775), the small royal seat gradually became the center of German intellectual life. In 1776 – at Goethe’s instigation – Herder came there as court preacher, Schiller lived in nearby Jena from 1789 before he also moved to Weimar in 1799. The period of German literature in which exemplary works of all genres were created through fruitful collaboration between exceptional personalities is called the Weimar Classic. Its beginning coincides with the departure of Goethe to Italy (1786), it reached its climax with the cooperation of Goethe and Schiller from 1794, it ended with Schiller’s death in 1805. The works that are assigned to her, however, extend beyond this narrow period.

The temporal parallelism with the French Revolution, the experience of a turning point led to an independent aesthetic program that was based on the autonomy of art and, under the influence of Winckelmann, elevated Greek antiquity to the measure. The ideal of humanity was formulated by Herder (“Ideas for the Philosophy of the History of Humanity”, 1784–91; “Letters for the Promotion of Humanity”, 1793–97). The human race should be educated to humanity through art (as also with W. von Humboldt and Schiller, recorded in the announcement of his art magazine “Die Horen” and in the letters “On the aesthetic education of man”, both 1795). Goethe’s poetological concept and Schillers aimed at the preservation of the classical genres, both the epics of Homer and the Aristotelian dramaturgy were regarded as models. This was the aim with poems in classical hexameters: Goethe, among others, in his epics “Reineke Fuchs” (1794), “Hermann and Dorothea” (1797) and in the “Römische Elegien” (1788–90), Schiller and others. in the great philosophical poems “The Gods of Greece” (1788) and “The Walk” (1795).

The poems were accompanied by essays (mostly published in the »Horen«, the »Propylaea« and in the »Musenalmanach«), v. a. but from the unique document of the intellectual exchange, the “Correspondence between Schiller and Goethe in the years 1794-1805” (published by Goethe 1828-29). Important essays in which the positions of the Weimar Classicism are presented programmatically include: by Schiller “On naive and sentimental poetry” (1795–96), by Goethe “Simple imitation of nature, manner, style” (1789), “On literary sans-culottism” (1795), by both “The collector and his own” (1799). The immediate poetic result of the collaboration were the controversial »Xenien« (1796) and the ballads, also taking up a Greek form, most of which were written in the »Ballad Year« 1797/98 and published in the »Musenalmanach« of 1798 (by Schiller et al. The glove “,” The cranes of Ibykus “,” The guarantee “; by Goethe, among others,” The treasure digger “,” The sorcerer’s apprentice “). The ideal of humanity also found valid expression in the dramas. A synthesis of Aristotelian and Shakespeare’s dramaturgy resulted in pieces of the highest formal perfection and universally valid statement (Goethe: “Iphigenia on Tauris”, 1787; “Torquato Tasso”, 1790; Schiller: “Dom Karlos…”, 1787; “Wallenstein”, 1800; “Maria Stuart”, 1801; “The Maid of Orleans”, 1801; “The Bride of Messina”, 1803; “Wilhelm Tell”, 1804).

The only novel of the Weimar Classic, Goethe’s “Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre” (1795–96), refers to her utopian ideal of an education that should defy the adversities of reality.

New High German Literature 2