Early German Romanticism: Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis

In Simon Critchley & William R. Schroeder (eds.), A Companion to Continental Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. pp. 68–82 (2017)
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Abstract

The word “romanticism” designates in German as in other European languages a broad movement in literature that originated at the beginning of the nineteenth century and has often been characterized as an opposition to the preceding age of rationalism and Enlightenment. Situated between the classicist schools of taste of the previous century and the realistic and naturalistic trends in literature of the later nineteenth century, Romanticism or romantic literature is the product of the creative power of the imagination; it appeals to the emotions, has a preference for the mysterious aspects of nature, and shows a strong predilection for the past, the Middle Ages, and mythological traditions. With its strong affinity to the novel, romantic literature departs from the classical forms and the classicist canon of literature, but when these classical forms were nevertheless used by the authors of this movement, something new was created – the romantic tale, the romantic drama, and romantic poetry. The great romantic authors in Germany were E. T. A. Hoffmann, Eichendorff, Brentano, Arnim, and Fouqué. There is both a narrower and a broader notion of Romanticism in Germany, the broader also relating to painting (Friedrich, Runge) and music (Schumann, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Bartholdy, Wagner). Romanticism had a great impact on the general view of the world and was influential in the rise of the historical consciousness, the revival of a religious spirit, and the emergence of a conservative political attitude. As far as philosophy and the sciences are concerned, Romanticism is associated with figures such as Schelling and Schopenhauer, the development of a philosophy of art, of nature, and of the subconscious. On the whole, Romanticism is one of those movements that shaped an entire age and manifested itself down to the most particular features of popular belief and scientific interest.

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