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Heinrich von Ofterdingen Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Novalis wrote his Romantic novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen in reaction to Johann Wolfgang von Goethes classical novel and Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-1796; Wilhelm Meisters Apprenticeship, 1824), which he intended to transcend. Heinrich von Ofterdingen is written in keeping with the definition of Romantic poetry published by Novalis friend, Friedrich Schlegel, in the 116th fragment of his journal Athenäum (1798-1800). According to Schlegel, Romantic poetry is progressive, universal poetry that puts poetry in touch with philosophy and rhetoric. It should also mix poetry and prose, genius and criticism, and literary poetry and natural poetry. It recognizes that the capriciousness of the poet is subject to no laws.

This idea of Romantic poetry explains how Novalis could freely include theoretical commentary, poems, songs, legends, and Klingsohrs fairy tale within his work as well as how the work could well remain a fragment. Rules were there to be broken. Novalis could deviate from the Bildungsroman by turning the novel into a work about poetry instead of the poet. He could take Klingsohrs fairy tale beyond allegory by giving the metaphors so many meanings that they were no longer systematic.

Heinrich von Ofterdingen is one of the seminal works of early Romanticism. The vision that guided Heinrich, the blue flower, subsequently became the symbol for Romanticism per se.

Setting the trend for much of German Romantic literature, Novalis looked back to the Middle Ages as a golden age of high romance, and he derived the title for his novel from that period. The name Heinrich von Ofterdingen is that of a minnesinger to whom myth has ascribed the great ten thousand-verse anonymous heroic epic The Nibelungenlied , which was written around 1200. Likewise, the name...

(The entire section is 429 words.)