Other Literary Forms
It was as a writer of fiction that Otto Ludwig achieved distinction as one of the foremost writers in nineteenth century German literature. He began by writing a series of stories on small-town life in Thuringia; with a graphic visual sense, he depicts social reality in his village tales. In 1856, he published an outstanding work, the novel Zwischen Himmel und Erde (Between Heaven and Earth, 1911), which was widely acclaimed as his best. In general, Ludwig’s fiction is characterized by careful psychological analysis and attention to detail, showing at times even a cumbersome meticulousness. In addition to prose, Ludwig wrote some poetry, but his contribution was negligible.
Ludwig’s major critical work is a collection entitled Shakespeare Studien (1871; Shakespearean studies). In addition to an analysis of William Shakespeare’s technique, there are valuable reflections on many of the fundamental questions of poetry, especially of the drama, and they confirm Ludwig as a discriminating critic. Other critical writings are collected in Dramaturgische Aphorismen (1891; dramatic aphorisms). As a representative of poetischer Realismus (poetic realism), a term that he seems to have coined, Ludwig defines künstlerischer Realismus (stylized realism) as a balance between subjectively idealistic and objectively naturalistic art. Perhaps he admired Shakespeare so much precisely because he saw in Shakespeare’s art the supreme embodiment of this principle.