Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Blue Flower: A sad story

The first of the great Romantic theorists was Friedrich Leopold, Baron von Hardenberg (Novalis) (see left). Wasn't he a pretty boy! Both his looks and his life show him to be a text-book case of a Romantic poet: an intense love affair followed an early death of tuberculosis (like John Keats) (below right).

In 1790-91 he studied law at the University of Jena, where he met the great Friedrich von Schiller (left) and Friedrich Schlegel. By 1793 when the ideas of the French Revolution were sweeping though Germany, he dreamed of a time when ‘the walls of Jericho’ would tumble down. In 1795 he read Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, which he considered the Bible of the ‘new age’.
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[Above is the Goethe and Schiller monument at Weimar.]

For a recent Observer article on Schiller, see here.

Romanticism emerged in the last decades of the eighteenth century and dominated the first four decades of the nineteenth century. It challenged the predominant classicism of the 18th century in literature, politics and music. Its prominent characteristics were:
  • An emphasis on feeling and impulse
  • An attraction to the spiritual, the obscure and the unknown
  • A recognition of nature as an autonomous and dynamic force.
  • A love of wild scenery
  • Individualism
  • An exalted concept of the hero
  • A preference for the Gothic and the medieval over the classical

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