Romantic Literary Criticism

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René Wellek (essay date 1955)

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 18565

SOURCE: Wellek, René. “The Early Romantics in Germany.” In A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950: The Romantic Age, pp. 74-109. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955.

[In the following excerpt, Wellek discusses the critical perspectives of Schelling, Novalis, Wackenroder, and Tieck.]


Kant is usually considered the fountainhead of German aesthetics, but one could argue that the German romanticists never adopted Kant's main position; certainly they do not share his cautious temper and his conservative taste. When in 1796 F. W. J. Schelling (1775-1854) drew up his program of a new philosophy, he completely ignored Kant's distinction between epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. He put forward the grandiose claim that the idea of beauty, taken in the higher Platonic sense, “unites all other ideas.” “I am convinced,” he says, “that the highest act of reason is the aesthetic act embracing all ideas and that truth and goodness are made kindred only in beauty. The philosopher must have as much aesthetic power as the poet. Poetry thus assumes a new dignity; it becomes what it was in the beginning—the teacher of mankind: for there is no philosophy or history any more; poetry alone will outlive all other sciences and arts.”1 “Poetry” is used here in the all-embracing sense of human creativity, derived from Plato's Symposium. This claim for poetry is then linked with the demand for a “new mythology which would be in the service of ideas, a mythology of Reason.” Ideas must become aesthetic, i.e. mythological, in order to be acceptable to the people, to be effective in the civilizing mission of art which Schelling conceives in terms of Schiller's Letters on Aesthetic Education. This claim for the preeminence of art must not, of course, be confused with later 19th-century aestheticism: it is rather an attempt to abolish all distinctions between art, religion, philosophy, and myth. While Kant was at great pains to distinguish between the good, the true, and the beautiful, Schelling enthrones beauty as the highest value. But his beauty is actually truth and goodness in disguise.

This strange early scheme remained in manuscript until 1917; nevertheless, Schelling's published writings of the next decade expound the same claims for art in a number of crucial passages which impressed the age as the most ambitious formulas for the view of art as revelation, philosophy, religion, and myth. One can distinguish at least three stages in Schelling's views: the conclusion of the System of Transcendental Idealism (1800) differs from the passages in Bruno (1802); and there is further change (partly a return to the earlier views) in the 14th lecture of Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studiums (1803) and in a speech, Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur (1807). Meanwhile, however, Schelling had developed a concrete and very full system of aesthetics and poetics in the lectures he gave first at Jena in 1802-03 and repeated in Würzburg in 1804-05. Only a small fragment from them, Über Dante in philosophischer Beziehung, was printed in 1802.2 They circulated widely in manuscript but were not published until 1859, after Schelling's death. They must be counted as the first speculative poetics, though we must realize that Schelling had access to the Berlin lectures of August Wilhelm Schlegel and drew much of his concrete information from them. For our purposes the MS lectures are clearly the most important document, but something must be said about Schelling's general aesthetics, since his published pronouncements were most influential not only in but even outside of Germany—directly for Coleridge and Cousin, indirectly for Emerson and others.

In principle, Schelling revives neo-Platonism; art is vision or intellectual intuition (a term derived from Giordano Bruno). Both the philosopher and the artist penetrate into the essence of the universe, the absolute. Art thus breaks down the barriers between the real and the ideal world.3 It is the representation of the infinite in the finite,4 a union of nature and freedom, for it is both a product of the conscious and the unconscious,5 of the imagination which unconsciously creates our real world and consciously creates the ideal world of art.6 Schelling's views on the exact relation between philosophy and art shift: at times philosophy and art and truth and beauty are completely identified;7 at other times they are conceived of as related like archetype and image,8 art being “real” and philosophy “ideal,” despite the fact that art has just been defined as the complete fusion of the “ideal” and the “real.”9 Especially in the oration “Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur” Schelling expounds his central conception of art as an analogue of nature and of nature's creative power. Art constitutes an active link between the soul and nature.10 Art does not imitate nature but has to compete with the creative power of nature, “the spirit of nature which speaks to us only through symbols.” A work of art expresses the essence of nature and is excellent in the degree to which it shows us “this original power of nature's creation and activity, as if in a silhouette.”11 On its lowest level art faithfully represents the “characteristic,” the peculiar nature of the individual object, but it should rise beyond this to true grace and beauty, to the complete reconciliation of all mental powers, to the “certainty that all antithesis is only apparent, that love is the tie between all beings and pure goodness the foundation and content of the whole of creation.”12 In Nature itself Schelling can see a “poem that lies enclosed in a secret marvelous cipher,” an “Odyssey of the Spirit.”13 The poet is, as it were, the liberator of nature and as Novalis said of man in general, the Messiah of Nature.

Only the MS lectures on Philosophy of Art make these conceptions more concrete and relate them to actual literature. In them the role of mythology in Schelling's conception becomes clear. Mythology is the subject matter of art. Just as ideas are the subject of philosophy, so gods are the necessary subject of art.14 These gods are accessible not through reason but only through imagination.15 Schelling, of course, thinks primarily of the Greek gods, yet he exalts mythology in general terms as the subject matter of all art. While all art must present the absolute, it can do so only symbolically: mythology is a system of symbols and is therefore art itself. Schelling distinguishes between schematism (the general signifying the particular, as in abstract thought), allegory (the particular signifying the general), and symbolism (the union of the general and the particular), which alone is truly art. This union is achieved in mythology,16 because in it there is a complete “indifference” of the general and the particular. Venus is beauty; she does not merely signify it. Mythology is the product not of an individual but of the race. True mythology seems to be only Greek mythology, inasmuch as Schelling elaborately argues that Christian mythology is either allegorical or historical. Only Christ is a God, “the last of the ancient Gods,”17 yet Christ is not a good subject for art because pure suffering is not poetic.18 Angels also are useless for poetry, for they are unreal, incorporeal, and unconcrete.19 Only Lucifer is a concrete individuality and he alone comes near being a mythological figure.20 But then, of course, his origins are pagan.

One would think that there is no hope for poetry in the modern world, but actually Schelling does not adhere to a complete exaltation of ancient mythology. The historical elements of the Christian myth are recognized as usable: the apostles, the saints' legends, even the mythology of chivalry. The summit of Christian poetry is in Calderón, whom Schelling ranks above Shakespeare.21 Protestantism and modern rationalism are, of course, inimical to mythology and hence to poetry. Milton is condemned as abstract and Klopstock as empty.22 Catholicism is recommended as a necessary element of modern poetry and mythology.23 By giving a slight shift to the meaning of the term “myth” Schelling is able to grant that some poets have overcome the modern handicaps. Dante, in some cases, has made his historical figures (e.g. Ugolino) mythological.24 Shakespeare has created his own world of myths, and Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are truly mythological persons.25 In Faust (then unfinished), the Germans will have a genuine mythological poem. “Mythology” thus does not mean an actual assemblage of Gods: Sancho Panza and Falstaff are not gods, they are true “myths,” for they are universal and concrete, characters meaningful in themselves while remaining eternal symbolic types.

Schelling has hopes for a new mythology: he thinks that the truly creative individual will be able to fashion his own mythology,26 that a new Homer will arise. He will apparently draw on the new physics, i.e. Schelling's own speculative Naturphilosophie, as a source for the final great epic that will realize the identity of philosophy and poetry.27 While Schelling's hopes for the future are distressingly vague, his conception of the close relationship between symbol and myth, his distinction between symbolism and allegory, and his recognition of the mythic in the great figures of modern imagination are insights of striking originality and enduring value.

The discussions of the forms of art which follow are much less valuable. The new distinction between poetry as internal vision and art as external creation is arbitrary and confusing, and the discussions of the corresponding distinctions between the sublime and the beautiful, between the naive and the sentimental, between style and manner are unilluminating because Schelling always decides in favor of the first member of the dichotomy and thus actually dissolves it into a distinction between art and non-art. Naive art is the only good art, the sentimental is pseudo-art, and so with the rest. Nor do we need to follow Schelling's discussions of sculpture, painting, and music, which contain such famous fanciful analogies as the view that “music is a form of sculpture”28 and architecture is “frozen music.”29

Schelling's ingenious genre theory, however, deserves attention. Poetry itself is not differentiated from the other arts except on the obvious ground of medium: language is “ideal,” while the media of the plastic arts—stone, sounds, and colors—are “real.” The genres of poetry, though they all share the general character of art, the union of the finite and the infinite, are distinguished according to their various leanings toward one or the other of these two extremes. Moreover, by an elaborate scheme of involution they correspond to the other arts: the lyric to music, the epic to painting, the drama to sculpture. In the lyric the finite—i.e. the subject, the ego of the poet—predominates. The lyric is the most subjective, individualized genre, the most particular, and in Schelling's classification the nearest to music,30 which also expresses subjective feelings. Within the lyric, however, Schelling prefers the more objective, more formally precise art of the Greeks and the set, conventionalized forms developed by Dante and Petrarch. The epic rises beyond subjective consciousness to the next power of man, action. It is thus an image of history. A balance between the infinite and the finite is achieved; there is no struggle, no fate, in the epic.31 It is timeless, or rather “constant” (stätig), indifferent to time. Its actions are chance events: it may have no beginning or end. The poet is detached from his ego, objectively cool toward his world. In short, Schelling succeeds in working into his scheme all the characteristics of the epic as he knew them from the theories of August Wilhelm Schlegel or Humboldt.

Then come the subgenres of the epic: the elegy, the idyll, didactic poetry, and satire. The high position given to didactic poetry is remarkable in that Schelling envisages a new Lucretius, a new summary of man's philosophy, as an ideal for the future.32 Besides these traditional genres, Schelling recognizes chivalric romances as another subgenre. Ariosto is the great exemplar, though Schelling could hardly have known him well, to judge from a gross error he makes.33 The novel joins the verse romance. Only Don Quixote and Wilhelm Meister are considered true examples, because they alone show objectivity, the use of irony, chance, etc., which Schelling demands from the genre. The English novel is treated with severity. Tom Jones is a mere picture of manners painted in crude colors.34Clarissa, though it shows an objective power of representation, is vitiated by pedantry and diffuseness.35 The short story (Novelle) is then described as a short novel, written in a lyrical manner, grouped around one center.

Schelling, from his mythological point of view, is worried by the absence in modern history of a single “generally valid event” that would be capable of epic treatment. Such an event would have to be general, national, and popular, as was the Trojan war according to his conception. He grants some epic qualities to Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea but has only faint hopes that such individual epics, if grouped around a center, could by synthesis or expansion achieve some final collective totality.36 The Wolfian theory of Homeric origins is used here, surprisingly, to propose a collective epic of the future.

As the last epic genre, Schelling discusses Dante's Divine Comedy. It is an epic sui generis, not a novel or a didactic poem or an epic in the ancient sense, or a comedy or a drama, but the most insoluble of mixtures, and the most perfect interpenetration of all of them. As a species it is the most universal representative of modern poetry; it is the poem of poems.37 Dante's Comedy, besides being a synthesis of religion, science, and poetry, is completely individual; yet it is also universal, generic, timely (in the sense of being characteristically medieval), and eternal. Dante's figures, Schelling admits, are both allegorical and historical, but by virtue of the eternal place in which they are put they assume eternity. Thus not only events and figures which Dante drew from his time (such as the story of Ugolino) but also purely fictional events (such as the end of Ulysses and his companions) assume in the context of the poem mythological certainty. Schelling distinguishes the three realms sharply: the Inferno is dark, sculpturesque, material; the Purgatorio colorful, pictorial; the Paradiso musical, full of bright, white light. But Schelling emphasizes that the three realms collaborate toward a total effect: the work is not plastic, or pictorial, or musical, but all at the same time; not lyrical or epic, or dramatic, but a fusion of all three. It is thus prophetic of modern poetry, since modern poetry is also individual and generic, topical and universal.

Every age, according to Schelling, could and should write its new Divine Comedy: a recommendation which is probably just another version of the hope for a new universal philosophical epic. No wonder that with this conception of Dante, Schelling indignantly rejects38 the view of Bouterwek (in his Geschichte der Poesie und Beredsamkeit) that Dante's Comedy is only a gallery of pictures, a series of beautiful or “tasteless” passages. Croce is one of the few critics who have defended Bouterwek,39 since he also wants to distinguish between system and poetry, theological scaffolding and art. But “totality” is Schelling's and the German romantics' watchword, and in the context of earlier Dante criticism Schelling has great merit in dismissing the discussion of what genre the Divine Comedy belongs to and stressing the general structure and unity.

Drama, we can easily anticipate, is in Schelling's scheme a union of the lyric and the epic, a struggle between freedom and necessity in which both come out victorious and defeated.40 Necessity triumphs without freedom perishing and freedom triumphs without necessity perishing. Actually this final synthesis of necessity and freedom explains only tragedy. The tragic hero must necessarily be guilty of a crime and at the end he must accept punishment freely. Genuine tragedy is not the punishment of a conscious, deliberate crime but rather the acceptance of punishment by the guiltless guilty; it is the sacrifice of the individual which both asserts moral freedom and restores the moral order. Schelling's theory of tragedy thus differs widely from Kant's, Schiller's, and the Schlegels', and prepares the way for Hegel's. Schelling, of course, has mostly Oedipus Rex in mind, just as, in discussing the Greek tragedians, he clearly prefers Sophocles to the other two. Euripides is severely, though somewhat inconsistently, rebuked for altering the Greek myths too freely.41

Comedy is seen then as a reversal of the scheme of tragedy: while in tragedy necessity is objective (i.e. in the order of the universe) and freedom subjective (in the moral revolt of the hero), comedy turns the relation around. Necessity is now the subject, freedom the object. If I understand this rightly, Schelling means merely that in comedy, character is fixed and fated, while the world and its order are treated with freedom and irony. Obviously, Aristophanes is Schelling's great example.

Modern dramatic poetry is viewed as a mixture of tragedy and comedy and thus something like a return to the epic. Shakespeare is Schelling's example, and like August Wilhelm Schlegel he decides that in Shakespeare character replaces ancient fate, character becomes fate for the Shakespearean hero.42 Shakespeare appears as the greatest inventor of the “characteristic,” and is thus considered deficient in beauty and too close to realism. Schelling shares the view of the Schlegels that Shakespeare was a highly conscious artist, and supports it by a reference to Shakespeare's poems in which he finds tender subjective feelings, clearly and consciously elaborated. There is nothing left of the Storm and Stress view of Shakespeare as a divine savage.

Schelling puts Calderón even higher than Shakespeare: especially the Devoción de la Cruz which he read in A. W. Schlegel's translation. Everything there happens through Providence, through Christian fate, according to which there must be a sinner to demonstrate the power of Divine Grace.43 The fall of man is the involuntary fault of the hero: he must be sacrificed in order to be saved. Likewise in form and execution Calderón seems perfect to Schelling. Only Sophocles is his equal.44

Faust is treated, surprisingly, as modern comedy in the highest style. Schelling recognized that Faust (though he knew then only the fragment of 1790) must and will be saved and raised to higher spheres.45 Schelling ends his lectures expressing hope for a union of the arts, for a revival of the Greek drama, of which modern opera is only a caricature.46 He points, like many Germans of the time, toward the ideal proclaimed by Wagner. But generally speaking, Schelling's ideal of poetry is by no means a romantic confusion of the arts: rather it is a highly stylized collective art, Greek in its austere taste for sculpture and the sculpturesque. In practice, however, Schelling's Hellenism is modified by his appreciation of Dante, Cervantes, Calderón, and Goethe, by his praise of Christian tragedy, by his hope for a new philosophical poem, and his constant recognition of man's continuous myth-making power.

Schelling's Philosophie der Kunst is not always organized with due proportion and shows signs of haste, understandable in writing for lectures. Unfortunately it was not published until 1859, when it could no longer have any direct effect. Yet it had circulated in MS and a Schellingian, Friedrich Ast (1778-1841), in his System der Kunstlehre (1805) gave currency to his ideas. Though Hegel may not have read Schelling's lectures, he starts from Schelling's position and in their different ways so do Schopenhauer and Solger. Coleridge, for a period, was a Schellingian and considered himself chiefly an expounder of Schelling. Emerson sometimes sounds like Schelling, and so does Bergson, who apparently drew on Ravaisson as an intermediary.


Saintsbury called Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801) not only the “greatest critic among the German romantics,” preferring him to the Schlegels, but also, “in a sense the greatest critic of Germany.”47 But this seems extravagant, for Novalis in his theory of poetry is clearly dependent on Schelling, and his concrete criticisms hardly ever go beyond mere aphoristic statements of opinions. Saintsbury, as usual, confuses well phrased pronouncements of literary taste with criticism—forgetting that criticism always demands analysis, explanation, and substantiated evaluation.

Still, Novalis has something personal to say also on poetry; he gives a more mystical twist to Schelling's theory and connects it more clearly with the special conception of poetry as dream and fairy tale. Poetry in Novalis is virtually identified with religion and philosophy, and the poet is exalted beyond any other human being. A sense of poetry, he recognizes, has much in common with a taste for mysticism.48 It is thus, like the mystical state, undescribable and undefinable. “Who does not immediately know and feel what poetry is cannot be taught any idea of it.”49 At the same time Novalis identifies poetry with free association and with play50 (evidently in Schiller's sense) as well as with thinking—since both thinking and writing poetry are the free productive use of our organs51—and ultimately with truth itself. “Poetry,” he is able to say, “is the truly, absolutely real. That is the core of my philosophy. The more poetic, the truer.”52

If we accept these identifications and expansions of terms, we can understand why Novalis (through the mouth of his poet Klingsohr) can deplore the notion that “poetry has a special name and that poets make up a special guild. It is nothing special. It is the peculiar mode of action of the human spirit. Does not man poeticize and aspire every minute?”53 Poetry, then, is thought, play, truth, aspiration, in short, all of man's free activity. Novalis can then say that “love is nothing but the highest natural poetry,”54 and that “the best poetry is quite near to us and an ordinary object is frequently its favorite material,”55 and even that “poetry rests wholly upon experience.”56 But it would be a total misunderstanding, of course, to interpret these passages as a defense of realism. They merely mean that everything is poetry, that everything can be transformed into poetry and assume poetic and thus cosmic significance. Actually, Novalis expressly condemns “imitation of nature.” His view of poetry is just the opposite.57 In practice he exalts the fairy tale as the highest poetic form and wrote totally unrealistic prose himself.

The poet is a priest. “The genuine poet … is always a priest” and the original union of priest and poet should be restored in the future.58 The poet is the servant of man's first gods, “of the stars, spring, love, joy, fertility, health and happiness.”59 He alone deserves the name of sage. The “genuine poet is omniscient—he is a real world in miniature.”60 We should understand that the division of poet and thinker is deceptive. “It is a sign of disease and a diseased constitution.”61 The poet is the voice of the universe,62 and the representative of the genius of humanity.63 These are all old themes of the Platonic tradition, fervently and extravagantly phrased.

Novalis' views seem to me more interesting and more distinct when he defines his conception of poetry and of genres more concretely. Poetry is conceived of as thoroughly symbolical, dreamlike, musical. We must not be deceived by such pronouncements as “the more personal, the more local, the more temporal, the more peculiar a poem, the nearer it is to the center of poetry.” “A poem must be as inexhaustible as a person or a good proverb.”64 He refers here only to the peculiarly exact ritual of poetry, the individual and multiple meaning of its symbols, and does not defend local color, realism, or mere personal idiosyncrasy. It is a protest against neoclassical abstractionism and generality. But Novalis speculates that there might be and suggests there should be “stories without connection, but with association, like dreams—poems merely euphonious and full of beautiful words, but without sense and connection. At most, single stanzas would be comprehensible. They must be only fragments of the most diverse things. At most, true poetry can have a broad allegorical meaning and an indirect effect like music.”65 Might poetry, he asks, be nothing but “inward painting and music, modified of course by the nature of the mind”?66 This idea must not, however, be confused with the poetic music and painting in Tieck and Goethe,67 for these poets want descriptive poetry and poetry to imitate music, while Novalis asks for a poetry that would be somehow more musical and more pictorial in the peculiar manner of poetry.68

This obscure idea becomes clearer when we examine in detail what Novalis thought the central genres, the fairy tale and the novel, should be. “The fairy tale is, as it were, the canon of poetry … everything poetic must be fairytale-like. The poet worships Chance.”69 A fairy tale, as he defines his notion of it, is actually like a dream picture without connection, an assemblage of marvelous things and events, e.g. a musical fantasy, the harmonic sequences of an Aeolian harp, or Nature herself.70 After saying “I believe I am able to express my mood best in the fairy tale,” Novalis adds ingenuously that “everything is a fairy tale,”71 since the world is obviously a mystery and a dream. The poet of fairy tales is also a prophet of the future, because in the fairy tale the original world, the world before time and history, the age of freedom, the golden age of the past, foreshadows the golden age to come.72

The novel (Roman) is only a variant of the fairy tale (Märchen), as Novalis' own novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen shows. The term romantisch, apparently not yet stabilized in the Schlegelian sense, is derived by Novalis from Roman, a “kind of fairy tale.” Romantic poetics is thus the “art of making an object strange and yet familiar and attractive.”73 Since everything is strange, he can say that “nothing is more romantic than what we usually call the world and fate. We live in a colossal novel [Roman].”74 The novel is also free history, as it were, the mythology of history.75Romantiker (Novalis seems to have coined the word) is used by him as synonymous with novelist.76 The novel must be poetry through and through.77 “Romantic,” in Novalis, can assume even a mystical sense, as when a “personal God” is called a “romanticized universe” or personality the “romantic” element of the ego.78 If we interpret these baffling shifts of meaning in the light of the whole system, “romantic” here means the essential, the truly real, what today it has become the fashion to call “existential.” We see why Novalis declares the annihilation of contradiction “as perhaps the highest task of the higher logic,”79 since in his dialectics everything turns into everything else just as things do in a fairy tale. Poetry is metamorphosis in the sense in which the poem “Die Vermählung der Jahreszeiten” (“The Marriage of the Seasons”)80 prophesies the fusion of future, present, and past, spring, autumn, summer and winter, youth and age. “Philosophy is the theory of poetry. It shows what poetry is, that it is one and all.”81 The En kai pan of mystical pantheism is here directly invoked for poetics.

While holding such extreme monistic views, it is surprising that Novalis can make any distinctions at all and that he is quite aware of the part the rational and the linguistic play in poetry and the poetic process. Poetic creation is described as a “double activity of creating and comprehending, united in one moment; a mutual perfecting of image and concept.”82 Especially “the young poet cannot be cool, cannot be conscious enough.”83 “Nothing is more indispensable to the poet than insight into the nature of every trade, familiarity with the means to reach every goal, and presence of mind to make the most appropriate choice according to time and circumstances. Enthusiasm without understanding is useless and dangerous, and the poet will work few miracles who himself is surprised by miracles.”84 “Poetry must be practiced as a strict craft.”85 We may well imagine that Novalis felt no contradiction between this view of the poet as craftsman and his view of the poet as magician and prophet. He is both, just as a humble medieval painter would ply his craft and at the same time feel the inspiration of religion.

Novalis is also perfectly aware of the difference between “real, perfected, achieved art, working through outer organs, and imaginary art.”86 He can say, and Croce would support him, “We know something only insofar as we can express, i.e. make, it.”87 This emphasis on the union of the conscious and the unconscious and on the role of language and expression needs to be interpreted in the context of Novalis' general philosophy. Consciousness is certainly not Cartesian rationalism but rather a state which must have passed through the unconscious; it is in fact identical with “irony,” which he defines as “genuine consciousness, true presence of mind.”88 This highest consciousness is not reason, ratiocination, but illumination. Similarly, language is not merely the tool of the poet's craft which he must know and cherish89 but a world of signs and sounds,90 of hieroglyphics, which allows us to read the great book of nature, to decipher its mysteries.91 Words to Novalis are not general signs,92 but “magic words,” “tones,” “incantations.”93 “As the garments of a saint still preserve miraculous powers, so many a word is hallowed by some sublime memory and has become almost in itself a poem. For the poet language is never too poor, but it is always too general. He needs frequently recurrent words, played out by use,”94 presumably in order to revive them, to make them over into magic words. “The world is a universal metaphor of the spirit, its symbolic image.”95 Thus Novalis can wish for a “tropology that comprises the laws of the symbolic construction of the transcendental world.”96 Language is magic, just as poetry and science are magic; they are all to “raise man above himself,” reconcile him again with nature, lead him back to the golden age, transform the world into paradise. “Through poetry arise the highest sympathy and cooperation, the most intimate union of the finite and infinite.”97

One can understand that in such a view of the world there is really no room for criticism. “Criticism of poetry is monstrous. The only possible decision (and that is difficult) is whether anything is poetry or not.”98 This is a reasonable attitude if poetry is actually divine and revelatory. At most, Novalis would admit “productive criticism,” the “ability to produce the very product to be criticized.”99 But this makes the critic a poet and at the same time abolishes criticism. Actually, there is still some hope for criticism. Novalis concludes that we should

censure nothing that is human. Everything is good, but not everywhere, not always, not for everybody. In judging poems e.g. one must beware not to censure anything which, taken strictly, is not a real artistic mistake, a false tone in every connection. We should assign to every poem, as exactly as possible, its precinct, and that is enough criticism for the vanity of its author. For we must judge poems only in this respect, whether they should have a wide or narrow, near or distant, dark or bright, high or low place. Thus Schiller writes for the few, Goethe for the many. Today we have paid little attention to advising the reader how to read a poem—under what circumstances alone it can please. Every poem has its relations to all kinds of readers and diverse circumstances. It has its own environment, its own world, its own God.100

Criticism thus seems a strategy of finding the place of a work of art, discovering its proper readers, defining its position in the world of poetry. A book, Novalis realizes, causes thousands of sensations and activities, some determined and defined, some free. An ideal review would be a complete extract or essence of everything that can be written or said about it.101

In this sense Novalis wrote no review and very little criticism. But he described and defined his own relation to several authors in some detail. His judgment of Shakespeare is not unrelated to what he says of poetry. He protests against the Schlegels' emphasis on Shakespeare's artistry. After all, art in his conception belongs to nature. Shakespeare is “no calculator, no scholar”; his works, “like products of nature, bear the imprint of a thinking mind”; they are throughout full of “correspondences with the infinite structure of the universe, coincidences with later ideas, affinities with the higher powers and senses of mankind. … They are symbolic and ambiguous, simple and inexhaustible as these, and nothing more senseless can be said about them than to call them works of art in that limited, mechanical sense of the word.”102 Earlier, Novalis, under the influence of A. W. Schlegel's essay on Romeo and Juliet, saw Shakespeare in terms of unreconcilable contrasts: poetry and antipoetry; harmony and disharmony; the vulgar, low, and ugly next to the romantic, lofty, and beautiful; the real next to the fictional.103 The history plays especially exemplify this struggle between poetry and nonpoetry.104 But Hamlet, strangely enough, is called a satire on a modern civilized age, an expression of English national hatred for Denmark,105 and Shakespeare's poems are considered similar to the prose of Cervantes and Boccaccio, quite as “elegant, pedantic, and complete.”106 Late in his short life Novalis expressed puzzlement at Shakespeare, who, he says, is darker to him than Greece. “I understand the wit of Aristophanes, but I am far from understanding that of Shakespeare. On the whole, my understanding of Shakespeare is very imperfect.”107

Novalis necessarily felt nearer to his German contemporaries and predecessors. He worshiped Schiller as a person and as a moral force, prophesying that he would be “the educator of the coming century.”108 He endorsed his review of Bürger, finding it even too mild.109 He made a few shrewd remarks which show that he recognized some of the limitations of the Schlegels and Tieck. But his reaction to Goethe and especially to Wilhelm Meister is more fully stated and most characteristic. At first he saw in Meister the ideal romantic novel: its philosophy and morals are romantic, everything is presented with romantic irony.110 But then he discovered—and he wonders that he could have been blind so long—that the novel is pretentious and precious, unpoetic in the highest degree, a satire on poetry, religion, etc. It is a Candide directed against poetry.111 It is throughout prosaic and modern.112 The romantic perishes there, as well as natural poetry and the marvelous. Nature and mysticism are forgotten. Novalis, himself a nobleman, also feels resentment at what he considers its glorification of the hunt for the patent of nobility. One does not know who comes off worse, poetry or nobility, since Goethe considers poetry as belonging to nobility and nobility as belonging to poetry.113 In contradistinction to the Schlegels, who had exalted Wilhelm Meister as the romantic novel, Novalis feels its prosiness, its Philistinism, its snobbishness. It is “odious,” even “silly” (albern). His own Heinrich von Ofterdingen was, in effect, written against this. It is an apotheosis of poetry,114 which celebrates the union with the universe, with nature, with the one and the all, with death and the dream:

Die Welt wird Traum, der Traum wird Welt.115


Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder (1773-98) and his friend Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) are usually associated with Novalis, but their aesthetic thought and intellectual background were actually very different. Novalis stems from Hemsterhuis, Schiller, and Schelling. Wackenroder derives from Hamann and Herder. Tieck is an eclectic who reflects, almost year by year, the aesthetic theories of his contemporaries, beginning with Wackenroder and ending with a long attachment to the theories of his friend Solger.

Wackenroder was hardly a literary critic. One could collect some literary opinions from his correspondence or note the rather severely critical paper on Hans Sachs's plays which he wrote for one of the first antiquarian historians of German literature, Erduin Julius Koch. But the aesthetic theories propounded in Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders (1797) and Phantasien über die Kunst (1799), though ostensibly devoted to painting or music, are nevertheless relevant, because in them Wackenroder expresses his attitude toward art in general and his own art in particular, under the mask of his “art-loving lay brother” and the musician Joseph Berglinger. His view of art and indeed the whole tone of his writing are too important and novel to be ignored in a history of criticism.

Clearly Wackenroder thinks of art primarily as serving religion, as being a religion, as being revelation. All good artists are inspired, they wait and pray for “immediate Divine assistance.”116 In his naive style Wackenroder tells a story of Raphael, to whom, in a dream, the finished picture of the Madonna appeared; when he awoke he was able to copy it from memory. In support of this invention Wackenroder quotes an actual letter by Raphael to Castiglione in which he said that “in the absence of beautiful women, he availed himself of a certain idea which came to his mind.” But Wackenroder, ignoring the fact that Raphael was not speaking of the Madonna but of Galatea,117 translates “idea” as “Bild” and “mente” as “Seele,” and thus gives the neo-Platonic passage about an internal idea the quite unwarranted interpretation of a “dream picture.”

Art as divine inspiration is one of the two languages of God; the other is nature. “Art speaks to man through images and uses thus a writing in hieroglyphics, whose signs we know and understand externally. But art fuses the spiritual and the non-sensual into visible shapes.” Art and Nature “move together our senses and our spirit; or rather, it is as if all parts of our incomprehensible being would melt into a single new organ, which grasps and comprehends the heavenly miracles in this double fashion.”118 Ciphers, the double language of nature and art—these are ideas which we met before in Hamann but which appear in Wackenroder in a new context and with a new sentimental fervor. For the same idea he can also use the neo-Platonic and Leibnizian image of nature and art as “two magic concave mirrors … which for me reflect all things in the world symbolically, through whose magic pictures I learn to know and understand the true spirit of all things.”119 Ostensibly, in this conception of art, poetry is excluded, since “words” are expressly disparaged. “It is only the Invisible hovering above us that words do not draw down into our minds.”120 But surely words here must mean rational words, everyday words, or the language of science, and not poetry, which is one of the arts, Wackenroder's own art.

With this view of art as inspiration, the proclamation of a mysterious sign language of God, it is not surprising that Wackenroder disparages all criticism and all thought about art. “Whoever with the divining rod of searching understanding wants to discover what can be felt only from inside, will always discover only thoughts about feeling and never the feeling itself. An eternal hostile gulf is fixed between the feeling heart and the investigations of research. Feeling can only be grasped and understood by feeling.”121 Thus there should not and cannot be any comparison between works of art. “The true touchstone of the excellence of a work of art is if one forgets all other works because of it, and not even thinks of wanting to compare it with others.”122

If works of art cannot be compared, because all genuine works show the same quality of inspiration, universal toleration must be the consequence. While Wackenroder is usually classed as the inspirer of artistic medievalism and the movement of the Nazarenes (which began some ten years after his death in 1798), actually his view of art is broad and eclectic: Gothic and Renaissance painting please him equally well, as does 18th century music, and in theory he recommends universal toleration. “To God a Gothic temple is as pleasing as a temple of the Greeks; the crude war music of savages is to Him just as charming a sound as artful choruses and church songs.”123 Why damn the Middle Ages for not building like Greece? We must “feel ourselves into” all strange beings, shed the intolerance of the understanding. “Beauty: a marvelously strange word! First invent new words for every single artistic emotion, for every single work of art!”124 Superstition is better than belief in a system, adoration better than dogmatism. The advantage of our age is our elevation: we stand as if on the summit of a mountain: many lands and peoples lie around us and at our feet. “Let us then enjoy this happiness and stray with serene glances over all times and peoples and let us always try to feel what is human in all their manifold feelings and works of feeling.”125 The voice of Herder speaks here again, even more fervidly: each work of art is unique, and good in its place, and we must enjoy the world of art in all its wonderful variety. There is still piety and genuine humanistic fervor in Wackenroder. It was in later historicism and eclectic antiquarianism that they disappeared.

Since art consists in inspiration from above and the communication of emotion, no place is left in it for technique or craft. Joseph Berglinger, the musician who had felt its inspiration like a divine intoxication (the more potent the darker and more mysterious its language), is indignant when he discovers that art is craft, that all melodies are based on a single mathematical law, that “instead of flying freely” he “had to climb around in the clumsy scaffolding and cage of the grammar of art” and learn its laborious mechanics.126

Wackenroder thus feels, perhaps more strongly than any of his contemporaries, the alienation of the artist from society and the conflict between art and life, poetry and prose, reality and dream. Berglinger perishes in this conflict “between ethereal enthusiasm and the low misery of the earth.”127 He gradually comes to accept “the idea that an artist must be artist only for himself, for the exaltation of his own heart and for one or a few people who understand him.”128 But we must not forget that Wackenroder puts these sentiments into the mouth of a fictional figure, that he himself feels a certain distance to them, and that he sees the human deficiency of those who feel so strongly the gulf between reality and art. Berglinger (and possibly this was Wackenroder's bitter self-criticism of his own limitations) was one of those created rather to “enjoy art than to practice it.”129 There is, Wackenroder recognizes, a difference between Phantasie and the incomprehensible creative power of the greatest artists. Berglinger perishes in this conflict with the world: he is the “divided” artist, ambitious and finally frustrated and impotent, the precursor of Kapellmeister Kreisler in E. T. A. Hoffmann's stories. The ideal artists are Dürer or Raphael, men who lived humbly in the service of their Maker, in a time when enthusiasm for art and divine inspiration were general, when art and religion were identical, one life-giving stream.130

In the last chapters Wackenroder wrote for the Phantasien über die Kunst, shortly before his death in his twenty-sixth year, a perceptible change in his view of art may be observed. His early religious piety and trust seem to have deserted him. He now doubts whether our feelings, “sometimes so sublime and grand that we enclose them like relics in costly monstrances, and joyfully kneel before them,” really come from our Creator, or whether we are not selfishly adoring our own heart.131 Poetry (Dichtung) is now, by a fanciful etymology common at the time, the art of condensing the emotions (Verdichten) which wander forlornly in life. Art in general is the preservation of feelings, with no hint of any metaphysical significance. At most, art is something stable in the incessant, monotonous alternation of days and nights, in that “uninterrupted, queer chess game of white and black squares, in which no one finally wins but grievous Death.”132

Art lends us a helping hand; it keeps us hovering over the vast, empty abyss, suspended between heaven and earth. Art, the “Oriental Legend of a Naked Saint”133 suggests, is the way to salvation from the incessant deafening roar of the wheel of Time, which the saint had to imitate compulsively with ecstatic mad gestures until he was freed by the sounds of a song. This saint's legend seems almost to anticipate Schopenhauer, who celebrated the effect of art in “stopping the wheel of Ixion” and temporarily and illusorily alleviating the pain of existence. But this hope of salvation through art, especially through music, through its “criminal innocence, its terrible, oracular ambiguous obscurity”134 has now a desperate sound, far different from the cheerful piety of Wackenroder's early German artists. Wackenroder died too soon to elaborate his new point of view. Only his identification of religion and art, his simple trust in inspiration and genuine feeling, his sense of the divorce between art and life, of the artist's solitude in an unfriendly society, are remembered today.

Ludwig Tieck is usually considered the head of the German romantic school. As critic he cannot, however, be ranked with the Schlegels. His mind was too loose, too incoherent to contribute to a theory of literature; his taste, though well-defined, was rarely expounded in arguments substantial enough to make him a good practical critic. His work as a literary scholar, however meritorious at its time and place, is now hopelessly obsolete. It would be easy to dismiss him on all three counts. Yet something can be said for Tieck as a critic.

Tieck is an eclectic who reflects the influences of his time and of his friends. He passed through several fairly distinct stages: an early preparatory period which reflects his reading in English aesthetics and in Herder; a period (mainly between 1797-99) in which he adopts his friend Wackenroder's religion of art; a later period (mainly between 1800-03) which shows the influence of the Schlegels; and then, after a pause, a new period (after about 1810) when he accepts the guidance of his friend F. W. Solger.135 We can trace all the key concepts of the time in Tieck's writings, though they are used uncertainly and shiftingly. For example, he oscillates disconcertingly between a conception of “genius” as pure inspiration and a Schlegelian stress on the share of consciousness in creation.136 So “irony,” which Tieck employed profusely and originally in his satirical comedies, is used in his critical writings sparingly and vaguely. Only much later, under the influence of Solger, does Tieck arrive at distinctions between “lower” and “higher,” and “positive” and “negative” irony. He then condemns “vulgar” irony and accepts an interpretation which makes it identical with objectivity, with the poet's power over his material.137 Tieck did much to popularize the term “romantic,” but he himself used it quite loosely, in the old sense of anything marvelous or medieval. Late in life he insisted that all poetry since antiquity is “romantic” and that it is impossible to draw a distinction between the “romantic” and the “poetic.”138 Clearly, not much in the way of theory can be learned from Tieck.

In Tieck's many writings we can find, of course, a mass of literary opinions: indeed much of his fiction and drama is literary satire and parody, against the group of surviving rationalists in Berlin, against the tremendously successful playwrights, Kotzebue and Iffland, against many of his fellow romanticists, and late in his life against the Young Germans. From his last years we have recorded conversations in which Tieck pronounces on almost every writer of world literature.139 But little of this is elaborated and substantiated, analyzed and argued. It is merely stated, for Tieck wants criticism to convey an immediate feeling of his personality.140

The mass of editorial labors, translations from Elizabethan dramatists, the translation of Don Quixote, the collaboration and supervision of the German Shakespeare, after August Wilhelm Schlegel had given it up—all this has only historical interest today. Research has shown that Tieck's translations and revisions are often grossly inaccurate.141 Today we would have no sympathy for his enthusiasm for the Shakespearean apocrypha. At one time, at least, Tieck took the extravagant position of assigning as many as 62 plays to Shakespeare. The English who did not agree only earned his scorn: they had not read Shakespeare “in his context.”142 His praise of such plays as the Pinner of Wakefield or Locrine seems especially extravagant, since he thought Marlowe and Webster overrated. But he praised and analyzed Middleton's Changeling and was an admirer and close student of Ben Jonson.143

However, nothing came of Tieck's great book on Shakespeare, which he had worked on all his life. What has been published as its remains, in 1920, is no more than a pathetic heap of notes, annotations, and remarks, most of which date back to about 1794. The two chapters of an introduction (1815) contain merely general reflections on the Middle Ages, Christianity, chivalry, etc. The theory behind the project was the historical approach: not to look at Shakespeare as an “isolated phenomenon” but to “deduce him from his time and environment and especially his own mind.”144

Of his published papers on Shakespeare the earliest one, written when he was only twenty, “Shakespeare's Treatment of the Marvelous” (1793), is critically the most interesting. It is an excellent exercise in psychological criticism in the English manner. Tieck knows that Shakespeare is interested in theatrical effect, in creating illusion. He shows how this is achieved in different ways in comedies such as the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream and in tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth. In the “romantic” plays a whole consistent world of the marvelous is evoked, while all powerful emotions are toned down in order not to disturb the illusion. In the tragedies the spirit world appears more remotely in the background and hence much more mysteriously and frighteningly. The paper shows traces of 18th-century rationalistic misconceptions: Shakespeare's handling of the marvelous is thought to be an attempt at hiding the lack of rules, at making us forget the laws of aesthetics. Hamlet seeing the ghost in the closet scene or Macbeth seeing Banquo's ghost at the banquet is action supposedly capable of natural explanation, of an allegorical sense.145 Yet on the whole the piece is full of sensitive observations and is surely superior to earlier discussions of the same topic by Mrs. Montagu and Joseph Warton. Compared with it, Tieck's next published piece, “Letters on Shakespeare” (1800), is rambling and diffuse. He announces bardolatry on principle: one cannot criticize a work of art, just as one cannot scold nature. He boasts that nobody before him, certainly no “printed Englishman,” has understood Shakespeare, but he says little that is concrete beyond praising the advantages of Shakespeare's age (familiar since Hurd and Thomas Warton), the variety of Shakespeare's plays, and the freedom imagination was allowed by the physical make-up of the Elizabethan theater.146

Tieck was intensely occupied with the revival of Elizabethan stagecraft. He directed performances purged of the usual 19th-century encumbrances; and in a late novel, Der junge Tischlermeister (1837), he described in great detail a fictional amateur performance of Twelfth Night, with close attention to the staging in Elizabethan style.147 There is much other evidence for Tieck's grasp, rare among his contemporaries, of Shakespeare as man of the theater, and of the art of acting. From his visit to London in 1817 we have shrewd criticisms of John Phillip Kemble, Macready, and Kean.148 But one can only doubt Tieck's profound understanding of Shakespeare if one reads his paradoxical theories of Shakespeare's characters: Lady Macbeth is called a “delicate and loving soul,” King Claudius is defended and praised as a ruler and as a strong character, Polonius is called a “true statesman,” Hamlet's behavior to Ophelia is explained by her supposed pregnancy, and the monologue “To be or not to be” is argued not to be about suicide.149

Tieck's failure as a Shakespeare critic seems most clearly demonstrated by the novel Dichterleben (1825, 1829), in which Shakespeare, Greene, Marlowe, Nashe, Florio, the Earl of Southampton, the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, etc. appear as fictional figures. The book is curious for being one of the earliest novelistic treatments of the death of Marlowe and of the triangle between Shakespeare, Southampton, and the Dark Lady. As a picture of Elizabethan England, however, it is incredibly sentimental and false. It has no historical accuracy or atmosphere and little narrative interest. Southampton recites “This royal throne of Kings, this sceptered isle” to the tearful father of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare, a sentimental weakling, talks like a German romanticist: through writing Romeo and Juliet he feels himself “created” and his “own essence brought to life.”150

Likewise, Tieck's interest in Spanish literature leaves us with a similar sense of disappointment. There is hardly any criticism of Cervantes in Tieck's writings, though he translated Don Quixote and suggested that his daughter translate Persiles (1837). Only his defense of the insertion of the novella “El Curioso Impertinente” may be quoted as an illustration of the Schlegelian method of finding organic unity in a great work at all costs. He sees it as an illustration of the destructive folly of a man who wants his ideal verified, contrasting with Don Quixote's own unperturbed illusionism.151

Tieck was the first German deeply interested in Calderón, and was the first to imitate his meters and devices in German drama. He infected August Wilhelm Schlegel with his enthusiasm; but when Schlegel's translation created a vogue of Calderón in Germany, Tieck moderated his earlier admiration. He saw in Calderón contrivance, rigid conventionality, bombast, and cruelty, and developed an opposing interest in the more realistic Lope de Vega, questioning whether he is not the greater poet of the two.152 Tieck also knew many of the other less known Spanish dramatists of the Golden Age: Moreto, Rojas, Montalván, etc. and engaged in erudite researches which today would be called “comparative literature.”153

Tieck also played a certain role in the revival of older German literature. In 1803 he brought out a badly modernized collection of Minnelieder. Its introduction proved very influential. Jakob Grimm tells us that he caught his enthusiasm for the study of German antiquities from it. It is, however, no monument of erudition, but rather a popular rehearsal of some of the Schlegels' opinions. It tells us that there is only one poetry, one art. He praises his age for understanding all kinds of poetry, Shakespeare, the Italians, and the Spaniards. He paints a sentimental picture of chivalry and courtly love and describes the 12th and 13th centuries as the great age of the flowering of “romantic” poetry. As for the German Minnesang itself, Tieck has hardly anything to say beyond commending the poems for their sweet sound, skillful rhyme schemes, and naiveté.154

Furthermore, Tieck initiated the study of the early German drama by publishing a collection, Deutsches Theater (1817), which reprinted for the first time the 16th century dramatist Jakob Ayrer, some plays of the English comedians, and dramas of Andreas Gryphius.

But all these activities are completely overshadowed, in critical importance, by Tieck's editions of Lenz, Novalis, and Heinrich von Kleist,155 and by his discussions of Goethe, in which a coherent and original taste emerges. Tieck has a strong feeling in favor of the German Storm and Stress and the early Goethe. He greatly prefers the young Goethe to the later: Goetz von Berlichingen and Werther are extolled. Still, his whole attitude even to the early Goethe is by no means uncritical. He emphasizes the weakness of Goethe's fictional protagonists. Even Faust is passive in his relation to Gretchen. Goethe's plays are undramatic, he has no historical sense, and is not a good critic: especially his Shakespeare criticism finds no favor with Tieck. Goethe's later classicism seems to Tieck an aberration. The association with Schiller was detrimental to both. Tieck finds the second part of Faust repellent and he has no use for Goethe's other writings. Yet he interprets the early Goethe with sympathy and insight. To him Goethe is the problematic artist, not unlike Goethe's own Tasso or Goethe's friend Lenz or Kleist, in their revolt against society and in their nearness to madness and suicide.156 Thus Tieck could edit the writings of the then almost forgotten Lenz, though he made no claims for his greatness and recognized that he was a mere caricature of Goethe.157 The same fellow feeling attracted him also to Kleist, whom he had barely met during his lifetime but whose writings he rescued and published. To modern Kleist enthusiasts the introductory essay on Kleist will appear vague in its biographical information and excessively cool in its appreciation of the works. Tieck's interest is clearly psychological and personal. He is attracted by the “dark force” inside Kleist which destroyed him and by his “sudden, baffling desire to leap over both truth and nature and to put the empty and nothing above reality.” He likes in Kleist's writings the German historical element and the romantic fairy tale touches; but he is repelled by the mystical and bizarre and can see in Kleist, ultimately, only a “sublime mannerist.”158 The same interest in the poète maudit accounts for Tieck's sympathy for Grabbe, for whose Herzog von Gothland he wrote an introduction and whom he tried to help personally.159 It was inevitable that Tieck should prefer the Robbers to all the other plays of Schiller and that he condemn his later development, especially the Bride of Messina, for its contrived classicism, its operatic lyricism, and its conception of irrational fate. Schiller, who founded the German stage, was also, in Tieck's eyes, the first to destroy it.160

Later in his life Tieck tried to forget his romantic past. He wrote to Friedrich Schlegel that he had “no pleasure in all the things we have instigated.” He resented being considered the “head of the so-called romantic school.”161 He judged his own younger contemporaries severely and unsympathetically: Brentano and his sister Bettina seemed to him histrionic and insincere, E. T. A. Hoffmann a writer of mere grotesques, a “scribbler.”162 Tieck also had no use for Young Germany, whose political radicalism went against his grain. In speaking of Heine he gave vent to his anti-Semitism; but he also thought him only a poor imitator of Goethe and complained of his impertinence, vulgar irony, and monotony.163

In all of Tieck's criticism the discussions of Goethe, Lenz, and Kleist have the most personal tone. They suggest that Tieck was profoundly involved in the problem of the artist in society, in the danger of poetry to a poet's mental health. Personally Tieck had escaped the danger and could interpret his own evolution as one toward sanity and truth. At the same time he preserved an interest and sympathy for the artist “at the brink” of the abyss, since as a young man he had experienced this feeling on his own pulses. Now, in retrospect, knowing his studies of his fellow artists, the young Goethe, Lenz, and Kleist, we can find added interest in scattered pronouncements of the early Tieck which occur in a fictional context and yet are revealing, not only biographically but also critically, as extreme formulations of problems and ideas which only much later received systematic discussion. Freud could not have stated more clearly the association of art and lust than did Tieck in his early novel William Lovell (1796). “Poetry, art, and even devotion are only disguised hidden lust … sensuality and lust are the spirit of music, of painting and of all art … the feelings for beauty and art are only other dialects and ways of pronunciation; they mean nothing beyond man's urge for sensual pleasure.”164 In Dichterleben Marlowe, the artist who suffers shipwreck because he could not restrain himself, says the same thing, associating poetry with lust and cruelty, with the desire “both to create and to destroy.” Now, however, Tieck rejects this view. His spokesman, Shakespeare, denies that it is true of the highest poetry and talks romantically and conventionally of the “desire for the Invisible,” the union of “the eternal with the earthly.”165

The early Tieck, contributing to Wackenroder's Phantasien, found the formula for the most extreme aestheticism, both its dangers and attractions. He wants us to “change our life into a work of art.” The artist is an actor who looks on life as on a part to play. He has no firm convictions. He knows that art is a “seductive, forbidden fruit; whoever has once tasted its innermost, sweetest juice, is irrevocably lost to the active, living world. … And in the middle of the tumult he sits quietly like a child in its baby chair and blows compositions into the air like soap bubbles.”166 This is Tieck speaking through a fictional mask; yet he is speaking his own deepest mind, characterizing himself and what he feels to be the curse and plight of the artist. Even death should appear as part of a work of art. “Oh you weak, fragile human life! I want always to consider you as a work of art, which delights me and which must have a conclusion in order to be a work of art and to delight me. Then I shall always be content, then I shall be equally far removed from vulgar joy and oppressive melancholy.”167

Tieck himself had the actor's temperament, the gift of mimicry, the plastic impersonality which made Brentano say that he was “the greatest acting talent who never trod the stage.”168 Tieck himself recognized this trait in his character, saying, “I am the more an individual the more I can lose myself in everything.” He even admitted that he would act out ideas for a whole year before he actually came to believe them. At times his talent along with his love for poetry seemed to him the most evil thing in him, which might destroy him completely.169 He is afraid of the dream world which he has tapped in his writings, of the eerie world of the Blonde Eckbert, the Runenberg, and Pokal.170 Tieck himself escaped into historical realism and irony. But he preserved a taste for the problematical, broken, and antisocial artist, which is only imperfectly overlaid with admiration for the versatility, sanity, and impersonality of Shakespeare. Tieck was no metaphysician like Friedrich Schlegel, no mystic like Novalis, no theorist like August Wilhelm Schlegel. But he contributed importantly to a description and criticism of the romantic artist.


Jean Paul (Johann Paul Richter, 1763-1825) is the author of an Introduction to Aesthetics (Vorschule der Aesthetik, 1804) which deserves attention in our history, since it is not an aesthetics but rather a poetics or, more correctly, a series of chapters on aspects of literary theory: poetry in general, imagination, genius, Greek and romantic poetry, the comic, humor and wit, characters and plot, the novel and style. Though the book is written in a florid, highly metaphorical style, full of recondite comparisons and allusions and unending displays of pedantic wit, it propounds a sane theory of literature and adds something new and personal on questions rarely discussed at that time: the technique of the novel, characterization and motivation, and the theory of the comic, humor, and wit.

It is not easy to define Jean Paul's general position. He is very satirical about Schelling and the Schellingians, “polarization,” “the indifference of the subjective and objective pole,” and so on.171 He attacks the Schlegels for their Fichtean idealism (which to Jean Paul was pernicious solipsism and egoism), their violent partisanship, their self-conceit, and their limited, exclusive taste;172 he has little use for Schiller's aesthetics, which he considers formalistic and frivolous, misunderstanding the play concept.173 His personal and philosophical associations were with Herder and F. H. Jacobi. At times we might think that Jean Paul was simply a good 18th-century empirical psychologist: he could even say that Kames's Elements of Criticism is of a “higher critical school than the high one at Jena,” i.e. Schiller and the Schlegels.174 The avowed purpose of his book is, in part at least, self-analysis and self-observation in a very concrete way. Jean Paul has most to say about the kind of novel he was writing himself: the sprawling humorous romance, his own strange mixture of the fantastic, dreamy, and sentimental with the odd and grotesque.

But while Jean Paul preserved a considerable independence among the literary parties of the time and also his ties with an earlier past, he agreed with the romantics on fundamental issues of poetics. In spite of his reservations against the Schlegels and Schelling, his main position is the same: the proclamation in the preface to the first edition that “the newer school is right in the main”175 must be taken as final. Not only is Jean Paul dependent on Friedrich Schlegel for a number of specific points, (E.g. Sämtliche Werke, ed. Berend, ii, 113-4, 233, 56-7, 157, 215. Jean Paul e.g. endorses Friedrich Schlegel's saying that all poetry must be romantic; SW, ii, 113; cf. Friedrich Schlegel, fragment 116.) but their basic views of poetry are identical. Though Jean Paul tried to keep a dispassionate balance between the classical and romantic in his theory, there cannot be any doubt where his preference lay in practice. But as opposed to the Schlegels he kept his admiration for the English humorous novel of the 18th century, for Richardson, Sterne, Fielding, and even Smollett, from whom his own art, at least in part, was derived.

Poetry, Jean Paul argues, does not imitate reality, nor is it a pure expression of personal emotion. Naturalistic art is attacked as “materialism”; too lyrical, emotional, or thinly fantastic art is labeled “nihilism.” The one is too particular, the other too general. Art should be the union of the particular and the general.176 It does not copy and it must not annihilate the world. Rather it should decipher its mysterious language. Thus poetry cannot be teaching. It offers signs. “The whole world, all time is full of signs; the reading of the letters is what is missing; we need a dictionary and a grammar of the signs; poetry teaches reading.”177 In interpreting the world in its own terms, poetry creates a miniature world, a second world, reborn by mind.178

The poet achieves this interpretation by imagination. Like Schelling and August Wilhelm Schlegel, Jean Paul distinguishes between the lower power he calls “Einbildungskraft,” which is only a more powerful, more vivid memory, and the higher “Phantasie” or “Bildungskraft,” which makes all parts a whole, which “totalizes everything.”179 The great poet has genius which Jean Paul distinguishes sharply from mere talent. Talent is partial, genius requires the whole man: “all his powers are in bloom at the same time.”180 He depicts all life, not merely its parts. He draws on the unconscious, which is the mightiest power in a poet, since poetry is kindred to dreaming and dreaming is involuntary poetry.181 The poet must hear his characters, not merely see them: the character must tell him—as happens in a dream—what he has to say, not the poet the character. “A poet who has to reflect whether a character in a specific situation is to answer yes or no should discard him. He is a stupid corpse.”182 But while Jean Paul at times can speak of genius as if it were identical with instinct and writing identical with dreaming, he also stresses the role of consciousness in the creative process. He draws a doubtful distinction between the whole as produced by inspiration and the parts which can be “cultivated in peace.”183 Jean Paul very emphatically rejects the “fever of passion” as poor inspiration and constantly insists that all art is and should be self-conscious.184 He himself prominently used the theme of the “double” in his novels, as he had a vivid consciousness of man seeing himself, doubling, splitting up into two egos, the one acting, the other observing. In his novels a man is terrified by his own image in a mirror, meets his double, makes his wax figure, looks at his own body and asks: “Somebody is sitting there and I am in him. Who is that?”185 So also in his poetic theory he feels the dualism between the dream life on which he draws and the transformation accomplished by art, which cannot be anything but a conscious manipulation of language. A novelty in Jean Paul's discussion of genius and talent is his recognition of an intermediate type: the “passive” genius, the feminine man who lacks the true creativity of the greatest but is as universal as genius himself. Jean Paul gives Moritz and Novalis as examples.186 Similarly, while consciousness is necessary to the artist, there is also a “sinful” consciousness which destroys and dissolves the world of imagination and the instinct of the unconscious.187

From the Schlegels Jean Paul draws the main division of poetry into classical and romantic. But Jean Paul avoids the term “classical,” as he associates it with excellence and perfection of every kind. He prefers to speak of Greek or plastic poetry in contrast to romantic or musical poetry.188 The fervid hymn to Greece and the Greeks, “this beauty-intoxicated people with their serene religion in eye and heart,”189 the view of Greek poetry as sculpturesque, objective, morally graceful, joyfully peaceful, is not new to readers of Winckelmann and Friedrich Schlegel's earliest writings, but it is surprising in Jean Paul, who had nothing of the Greek spirit. In him the nostalgia for Greece seems an even more romantic dream than in the other Germans, for surely there were few less serene and objective minds than his. Romantic poetry is described as the direct result of Christianity, from which chivalry and courtly love are derived. “A Petrarch who would not be a Christian is an impossibility: Mary alone ennobles all women romantically.”190 In the second edition of Vorschule (1813) Jean Paul, in response to criticisms, somewhat modified his account of the Christian romantic: he now recognizes that there are romantic traits in Homer and Sophocles,191 long before Christ, and that there is a Nordic, Indic, and Near Eastern romanticism which is based on their non-Christian religions. He now adds also the distinction between the romanticism of the North and that of the South, in line with concepts elaborated by Bouterwek and Madame de Staël. Surveying modern poetry, he observes sensibly that “every century is differently romantic.”192 He even doubts the value of all such dichotomies; it is as if we divided all nature into straight and crooked lines. The crooked, he observes slyly, as well as the infinite line, is romantic poetry. But what can one gain for the understanding of “dynamic life” from such distinctions? Naive and sentimental, subjective and objective do not help us to distinguish between the different romanticism of Shakespeare, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Cervantes, or the different objectivity of Homer, Sophocles, Job, and Caesar.193

The distinction between the genres is handled by Jean Paul with a like measure of levity. In the first edition he has nothing to say about the lyric. In the second edition he adds a meager section on the lyric, where he makes, in passing, the fateful suggestion that “the epic presents an event which develops from the past, the drama an action which extends into the future, the lyric an emotion which is enclosed in the present.”194 This association of the main genres with the dimensions of time and tense has since caught the fancy of many writers on poetics from Dalls to Staiger.195 But Jean Paul elsewhere ignores it and even contradicts it when he associates epic with the past and drama with the present.196 In practice he distinguishes the epic and the drama but at length discusses the novel, which to him holds an intermediate position between the two. He can thus distinguish an epic novel from a dramatic novel: the epic novel includes the romantic novel, which is similar to a dream or a fairy tale and thus needs no beginning or end and allows any number of episodes (as does the epic in the Schlegels' theory). The dramatic novel is more closely plotted and seems to Jean Paul the preferable form. But on the whole Jean Paul thinks of the novel as some kind of “poetic encyclopedia,” a genre allowing great freedom.197

Plot and motivation, in comparison to character, are minimized. Plot assumes meaning only in terms of character and is thought of as following the invention of character. Motivation is considered dangerous if over-rigid and excessive. Jean Paul sees many relations between plot, motivation, and character. For instance, he points out that very rigid characters are not good for a novel because they decide every action beforehand and thus make it predictable, while purely passive characters do even more damage because they shift the burden to the plot, which then disintegrates easily into a series of chance events.198 In discussing characters Jean Paul applies his ideal of the union of the particular and universal: every humorous character, even a Walter Shandy and Uncle Toby, must have something to make him universal and symbolic, and every universal character must be individualized to become a speaking and memorable figure. Still, Jean Paul defends perfect, idealized characters, though they may be very difficult to handle, since generality increases with ideality.199 Yet the poet must depict a complete world, a pandemonium and a pantheon, both his particular devils and his particular angels.200 He must depict the gamut of human types, the “races of the inner man,” the “mythology of souls,”201 in order to create his second world. Jean Paul argues that poets need not know these situations and characters in real life; in each man there are all forms of humanity and the poet knows them as if by anticipation; he knows both Caliban and Ariel. The reader will find the characters true and right, even though he could not have met them in real life, since it is the poet who gives speech and awareness to humanity.202 Each character, Jean Paul pleads, needs a punctum saliens, a “dominant tone,” though he admits that a great poet can convincingly reconcile the most discordant traits.203 Characters should have “rootwords,” their own vocabulary, but they should also be characterized by physical traits—sometimes only one physical trait—and even by their names.204 Jean Paul must have been one of the first novelists to reflect at length on the naming of novelistic figures. His standards of judgment, of course, are never those of verisimilitude and sheer illusion. He allows the novelist to endow his characters with his own wit and imagination, even though they should speak their own language of will and passion.205 Some of these distinctions seem not very convincing or at most seem confined to very specific types of the novel. Also, Jean Paul's observations on style are often little more than defenses of his own practice: he prefers “optic” to “acoustic” figures, defends catachresis and rhythmic prose, and, of course, loves puns and learned allusions, since verbal art is closely related to wit and wit to imagination.206

In many ways the sections devoted to wit, humor, and the comic are the most original in the Vorschule. They were among the first attempts to deal with these concepts speculatively in the context of a poetics and have proved extraordinarily influential. F. T. Vischer's discussion comes from Jean Paul; Coleridge reproduced his views; and Meredith used him.207 But while one must grant the historical merit of Jean Paul's classifications and the ingenuity of some of his formulas, it seems impossible to be satisfied with his distinctions today. One reason for Jean Paul's failure is his lack of clear distinction between psychology and poetics. Definitions of the comic, the witty, the humorous can be simply a matter of descriptive psychology, just like definitions of love, hate, joy, despair, or any other emotion.208 The question becomes aesthetic only if it is centered on the use to which the comic or the humorous is put in a work of art, or on its function in particular forms such as comedy or satire, or on the ways it defines the pervasive attitude of a particular author. Jean Paul does not draw these distinctions but rather tries elaborately to describe the varieties of the comic, interpreting the words to make their meaning conform with his ideals.

Thus “wit” for Jean Paul is a psychic power entirely apart from the comic. Wit is the discovery of similarities between incommensurable entities.209 Jean Paul distinguishes then between a wit of understanding and a graphic, visual wit. Graphic wit is important in art: it can either animate a body or embody a soul.210 It is thus the metaphorical power in general, the poetic power itself, which is in the service of the symbolic view of the world. Puns thus can be defended as a technique for discovering remote similarities, producing surprise by coincidences and “wild pairings without priest,”211 and also (an interesting point) for displaying our freedom from subservience to the sign by drawing attention to the sign itself.212 Wit is a great liberator and equalizer. Jean Paul writes eloquently how necessary it is for the Germans to cultivate wit, since wit would give them freedom and equality just as these would give them wit.213 Wit is thus basic to poetry and needed in a healthy and free society. But it can do these things only because Jean Paul does not distinguish between social wit and wit in literature. The term is conceived in psychological and linguistic and not in aesthetic terms. Wit is completely divorced from the comic and so becomes hardly distinguishable (in spite of Jean Paul's efforts) from “ingenuity,” “acumen,” and even “invention,” with which the term has been associated historically. If wit and ingenuity were the same, works of great combinatory power such as the Critique of Pure Reason would be witty.

The comic is likewise seen as a general phenomenon of life, but here Jean Paul gets involved in metaphysics. The comic is “sensually intuited infinite Unreason”; there is an “objective contrast between the striving or being of the ludicrous beings with the sensuously intuited relation”;214 and there is also a subjective contrast which Jean Paul explains by a “lending” of our insight to the subject, the ludicrous being. To note Jean Paul's example: Why is it comic that Sancho Panza spends a whole night suspended over a shallow ditch? His action is not unreasonable because he could not know that there was no deep abyss and sensibly enough did not want to risk a fatal drop. Still, “lending our insight” to Sancho Panza does not describe what actually happens. If we “lent” our knowledge to Sancho his action would be merely absurd and silly.215 Besides, even if “imputation”—a term later taken up by Vischer and Lipps216—occurs, it seems unable to take care of all the varieties of the comic. Nonetheless, Jean Paul is surely right in rejecting Hobbes's (and implicitly Bergson's) theory of laughter as derived from a feeling of superiority, a “sudden glory.” (Sämtliche Werke, 11, 108. Addison, Voltaire, Beattie, and Goethe had used such arguments against Hobbes. For a modern statement directed against Hobbes and Bergson, see Max Eastman, Enjoyment of Laughter, New York, 1936.) He knows that laughter may be childish and good-natured; we do not mind if hundreds and thousands laugh with us.

Though examples are drawn from literature, the question of the comic is not focused on its aesthetic use. It is different with humor, a more narrowly definable phenomenon which Jean Paul was able to describe in terms of artistic values. He starts with Kantian concepts; humor is for him a species of the comic, the romantic comic. It is the “sublime in reverse,” it does not “annihilate the individual, but rather the finite by contrast with the Idea. Humor knows no individual foolishness, no fools [as in satire] but only folly and a mad world.”217 Jean Paul here brings to a climax the evolution which this term had been previously undergoing in England. At first “humor” was associated with “humors,” with oddities, “humorous characters,” riders of hobby horses. Only in the 18th century did it begin to take on a serious or sentimental undertone. (See a history of the term in “Les Définitions de l'humour” in Fernand Baldensperger, Études de l'histoire littéraire (Paris, 1907), pp. 176 ff. Kames, Elements of Criticism (9th ed. Edinburgh, 1817), 1, 332, says: “This quality [of humor] belongs to an author, who, affecting to be grave and serious, paints his objects in such colors as to provoke mirth and laughter.” Cf. Vol. 1 of this History, p. 120.) With Jean Paul it becomes a peculiar form of the comic in which a philosophy of toleration, a serious conception of the world, is implied: an insight into its contradictions and a forgiveness for its follies. Jean Paul's humor is closely allied to hypochondria. The most serious, the most melancholy nation, the English, are the most humorous, and the most tragic times in history gave birth to the greatest humorists. As opposed to the older notion that humor is a distorted view, Jean Paul finds humor just the opposite, the largest and freest view of the world, sub specie aeternitatis. In the language of Schellingian metaphysics, which Jean Paul here adopts, the finite is here annihilated by the eternal Idea.218

Obviously, Jean Paul's concept of humor is very near that of romantic irony as elaborated by Friedrich Schlegel.219 Jean Paul, like Schlegel, defends the complete consciousness of the humorist. He recognizes, for example, that Sterne is a highly conscious artist: he argues that conscious manipulation allows even the use of the dirty and obscene because it is neutralized by humor. Swift's Yahoos or his “Lady's Dressing-room,” which shocked Thackeray, did not shock Jean Paul.220 The clown in drama is defended as the chorus of comedy. But irony in the narrow sense is confined by Jean Paul to the “semblance of the serious” and is, in general, suspected of frivolity, cynicism, and mere aestheticism.221 Jean Paul has a deep suspicion of aestheticism: his novel Der Titan (1800-1803), written just before his book on aesthetics, depicts its dangers in the demonic self-destroying figure of Rocquairol. The double consciousness of the actor and the spectator was for Jean Paul a great personal temptation against which he fought all his life.222 His elaborate distinctions between the comic, the ironic, the witty, and the humorous serve, at least in part, to establish his own ideal, which is both aesthetic and moral, a vision of the world which sees its incongruity and folly but views it with concern and sympathy.

Jean Paul was hardly a good practical critic. It is possible, of course, to collect a mass of opinions from his varied writings about most German writers and a few foreign ones.223 They would throw light on his general theoretical position, such as his veneration for Herder, his coolness to Schiller and Goethe, and his generous praise for many contemporaries: Tieck, Novalis, Fouqué (whom he grossly overrated), and E. T. A. Hoffmann, whom he introduced into literature but with whose later writings he seems to have been disappointed.224 We could collect a number of appreciative remarks about the English novelists of the 18th century. Jean Paul has the usual romantic admiration for Shakespeare but condemned Paradise Lost.225 His praise of Molière seems to oppose August Wilhelm Schlegel's low opinion, but he also endorses Schlegel's preference for the farces.226 Little of all this, however, is argued or based on any analysis or characterization. Jean Paul did do some formal reviewing, but most of it is slight. The two extensive pieces on Madame de Staël's De L'Allemagne and Corinne are shrewd and penetrating. They show up her sentimentality and the superficiality of her understanding of German literature and philosophy.227 A feather in Jean Paul's cap was the favorable paragraph (1825) on Schopenhauer's Welt als Wille und Vorstellung which at the time was almost completely ignored by reviewers and public.228 Still, one is hardly prepared for Jean Paul's high regard for practical criticism. He remarks that a collection of reviews would be of more use to an artist than the newest aesthetics. “In every good review is hidden or revealed a good aesthetics, and more than that, one that is applied and free and the briefest of all and, by examples, the clearest.”229 He can say that the best poetics would be to characterize all poets.230 He makes some efforts of this kind, surveying, for instance, the prose style of the main German authors,231 but the characterization itself is almost always only metaphorical, of the sort which was later called “impressionistic.” It agrees with his views that the critic should only point out beauties and that criticism is only a new poetry of which the work of art is the subject.232 It is the logical consequence of the extreme view of totality which Jean Paul formulated: “The best in every author is what is not in the particular and which cannot be shown at all, because the splendor of the context does not tolerate the pointing to a detail.”233 But this would be critical paralysis and all that we have said about Jean Paul's literary theory must have shown that it is not a mere poetry about poetry but a serious intellectual construct, the strength of which is precisely in its distinctions, definitions, and descriptions, not of authors or works but of categories and devices, of the technique of the novel, and the nature of humor.


  1. See “Das älteste Systemprogramm des deutschen Idealismus,” in Hölderlin, Werke, ed. Pigenot (3d ed. Berlin, 1943), 3, 623-5:

    Ich bin nun überzeugt, dass der höchste Akt der Vernunft, der, indem sie alle Ideen umfasst, ein ästhetischer Akt ist, und dass Wahrheit und Güte nur in der Schönheit verschwistert sind. Der Philosoph muss ebensoviel ästhetische Kraft besitzen, als der Dichter. Die Poesie bekommt dadurch eine höhere Würde, sie wird am Ende wieder, was sie am Anfang war—Lehrerin der Menschheit; denn es gibt keine Philosophie, keine Geschichte mehr, die Dichtkunst allein wird alle übrigen Wissenschaften und Künste überleben.

    I accept the view that this MS was written by Schelling and not by Hölderlin. Cf. Ludwig Strauss, “Hölderlins Anteil an Schellings frühem Systemprogramm,” Deutsche Vierteljahrschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte, 5 (1927), 679-747.

  2. In Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, ed. Schelling and Hegel, 2 (Tübingen, 1803), 35-50.

  3. Sämtliche Werke, 3, 628.

  4. Ibid., pp. 620, 627.

  5. Ibid., p. 619.

  6. Ibid., p. 626.

  7. Ibid., 4 227.

  8. Ibid., 5, 348-9.

  9. Ibid., p. 348: “Ineinsbildung.”

  10. Ibid., 7, 292-3.

  11. Ibid., p. 301: “nur wie durch Sinnbilder redender Naturgeist”; p. 300: “diese unverfälschte Kraft der Schöpfung und Wirksamkeit der Natur wie in einem Umrisse.”

  12. Ibid., p. 316: “Die Gewissheit, dass aller Gegensatz nur scheinbar, die Liebe das Band aller Wesen, und reine Güte Grund und Inhalt der ganzen Schöpfung ist.”

  13. Ibid., 3, 628: “Was wir Natur nennen, ist ein Gedicht, das in geheimer wunderbarer Schrift verschlossen liegt. Doch könnte das Rätsel sich enthüllen, würden wir die Odyssee des Geistes darin erkennen, der wunderbar getäuscht, sich selber suchend, sich selber flieht.”

  14. Ibid., 5, 405, 390-1.

  15. Ibid., p. 395.

  16. Ibid., p. 411.

  17. Ibid., p. 432: “Insofern war Christus zugleich der Gipfel und das Ende der alten Götterwelt.”

  18. Ibid., p. 433.

  19. Ibid., p. 436.

  20. Ibid., p. 437.

  21. Ibid., p. 439.

  22. Ibid., p. 441.

  23. Ibid., p. 442.

  24. Ibid., p. 445.

  25. Ibid., p. 446.

  26. Ibid., p. 447.

  27. Ibid., p. 667.

  28. Ibid., p. 577.

  29. Ibid., p. 593: “wenn die Architektur überhaupt die erstarrte Musik ist.”

  30. Ibid., p. 640.

  31. Ibid., p. 646.

  32. Ibid., p. 667.

  33. He refers to the “famous Meda,” apparently an error for Medoro; ibid., p. 671.

  34. Ibid., p. 683.

  35. Ibid., p. 683.

  36. Ibid., p. 685.

  37. Ibid., pp. 686-7.

  38. Kritisches Journal, 2, 57-62. Not in collected edition.

  39. See La poesia di Dante (Bari, 1948), pp. 180-1.

  40. Sämtliche Werke, 5, 690.

  41. Ibid., p. 710.

  42. Ibid., p. 720.

  43. Ibid., p. 729.

  44. Ibid., p. 729.

  45. Ibid., p. 732.

  46. Ibid., p. 736.

  47. Saintsbury, 3, 386-7.

  48. Gesammelte Werke, ed. Seelig, 4, 302.

  49. Ibid., p. 301: “Wer es nicht unmittelbar weiss und fühlt, was Poesie ist, dem lässt sich kein Begriff davon beibringen.”

  50. Ibid., p. 167.

  51. Ibid., p. 219.

  52. Ibid., 3, 141: “Die Poesie ist das echt absolut Reelle. Dies ist der Kern meiner Philosophie. Je poetischer, je wahrer.”

  53. Ibid., 1, 260: “Poesie einen besondern Namen hat und die Dichter eine besondere Zunft ausmachen. Es ist gar nichts Besonderes. Es ist die eigentümliche Handlungsweise des menschlichen Geistes. Dichtet und trachtet nicht jeder Mensch in jeder Minute?”

  54. Ibid., p. 260: “oder die Liebe ist selbst nichts als höchste Naturpoesie.”

  55. Ibid., p. 258: “Die beste Poesie liegt uns ganz nahe, und ein gewöhnlicher Gegenstand ist nicht selten ihr liebster Stoff.”

  56. Ibid., p. 259: “Die Poesie beruht ganz auf Erfahrung.”

  57. Ibid., 5, 294.

  58. Ibid., 2, 41: “Der echte Dichter ist aber immer Priester, so wie die der echte Priester immer Dichter geblieben—und sollte die Zukunft nicht den alten Zustand der Dinge wieder herbeiführen?”

  59. Ibid., 1, 231: “Es sind die Dichter, diese seltenen Zugmenschen, die zuweilen durch unsere Wohnsitze wandeln und überall den alten, ehrwürdigen Dienst der Menschheit und ihrer ersten Götter, der Gestirne, des Frühlings, der Liebe, des Glücks, der Fruchtbarkeit, der Gesundheit und des Frohsinns, erneuern.”

  60. Ibid., 3, 98: “Der echte Dichter ist allwissend—er ist eine wirkliche Welt im kleinen.”

  61. Ibid., p. 320: “Die Trennung von Poet und Denker ist nur scheinbar und zum Nachteil beider. Es ist ein Zeichen einer Krankheit und krankhaften Konstitution.”

  62. Ibid., 4, 314.

  63. Ibid., 2, 41.

  64. Ibid., 4, 286: “Je persönlicher, lokaler, temporeller, eigentümlicher ein Gedicht ist, desto näher steht es dem Zentro der Poesie. Ein Gedicht muss ganz unerschöpflich sein wie ein Mensch und ein guter Spruch.”

  65. Ibid., p. 266: “Erzählungen ohne Zusammenhang, jedoch mit Assoziation, wie Träume. Gedichte, bloss wohlklingend und voll schöner Worte, aber auch ohne allen Sinn und Zusammenhang, höchstens einzelne Strophen verständlich; sie müssen wie lauter Bruchstücke aus den verschiedenartigsten Dingen sein. Höchstens kann wahre Poesie einen allegorischen Sinn im grossen haben und eine indirekte Wirkung wie Musik etc. tun.”

  66. Ibid., p. 267: “Solle Poesie nichts als innre Malerei und Musik etc. sein? Freilich modifiziert durch die Natur des Gemüts.”

  67. Ibid., p. 284.

  68. Ibid., 1, 258-9.

  69. Ibid., 4, 165: “Das Märchen ist gleichsam der Kanon der Poesie—alles Poetische muss märchenhaft sein. Der Dichter betet den Zufall an.”

  70. Ibid., p. 172.

  71. Ibid., p. 126: “Poetik: Im Märchen glaub ich am besten meine Gemütsstimmung ausdrücken zu können. (Alles ist ein Märchen.)”

  72. Ibid., 3, 262-3.

  73. Ibid., 4, 301: “Die Kunst, auf eine angenehme Art zu befremden, einen Gegenstand fremd zu machen und doch bekannt und anziehend, das ist die romantische Poetik.”

  74. Ibid., p. 43: “Nichts ist romantischer als was man gewöhnlich Welt und Schicksal nennt. Wir leben in einem kolossalen Roman (im Grossen und Kleinen).”

  75. Ibid., p. 290.

  76. Ibid., p. 188.

  77. Ibid., p. 212.

  78. Ibid., 3, 124.

  79. Ibid., 4, 263: “Den Satz des Widerspruchs zu vernichten, ist vielleicht die höchste Aufgabe der höhern Logik.”

  80. Ibid., 1, 353.

  81. Ibid., 3, 96: “Philosophie ist die Theorie der Poesie. Sie zeigt uns, was die Poesie sei, dass sie eins und alles sei.”

  82. Ibid., 5, 247-8:

    Das “Geheimnis der schönen Entfaltung” ist ein wesentlicher Bestandteil des poetischen Geistes überhaupt und dürfte im lyrischen und dramatischen Gedicht wohl auch eine Hauptrolle spielen, freilich modifiziert durch den verschiedenen Inhalt, aber ebenfalls sichtbar als besonnenes Anschauen und Schildern zugleich; zweifache Tätigkeit des Schaffens und Begreifens, vereinigt in einen Moment—eine Wechselvollendung des Bilds und des Begriffs.

  83. Ibid., 1, 251: “Der junge Dichter kann nicht kühl, nicht besonnen genug sein.”

  84. Ibid., p. 250: “Nichts ist dem Dichter unentbehrlicher als Einsicht in die Natur jedes Geschäfts, Bekanntschaft mit den Mitteln, jeden Zweck zu erreichen, und Gegenwart des Geistes, nach Zeit und Umständen die schicklichsten zu wählen. Begeisterung ohne Verstand ist unnütz und gefährlich, und der Dichter wird wenig Wunder tun können, wenn er selbst über Wunder erstaunt.”

  85. Ibid., p. 252: “‘Die Poesie will vorzüglich,’ fuhr Klingsohr fort, ‘als strenge Kunst getrieben werden.’”

  86. Ibid., 3, 89-90: “Die Kunst zerfällt, wenn man will, in die wirkliche, vollendete, durchgeführte, mittelst der äussern (Leiter) Organe wirksame Kunst—und in die eingebildete (unterwegs in den innern Organen aufgehaltene, in den innern Organen als Nicht-Leiter isolierte) und nur mittelst dieser wirksame Kunst.”

  87. Ibid., p. 94: “Wir wissen etwas nur, insofern wir es ausdrücken—id est, machen können.”

  88. Ibid., 2, 41: “Was Schlegel so scharf als Ironie charakterisiert, ist, meinem Bedünken nach, nichts anderes als die Folge, der Charakter der echten Besonnenheit, der wahrhaften Gegenwart des Geistes.”

  89. Ibid., 1, 258.

  90. Ibid., p. 259.

  91. Ibid., p. 386. Cf. 3, 72, on “Hieroglyphistik.”

  92. Ibid., 3, 23.

  93. Ibid., p. 12: “Jedes Wort ist ein Wort der Beschwörung. Welcher Geist ruft—ein solcher erscheint.”

  94. Ibid., p. 23: “Wie Kleider der Heiligen noch wunderbare Kräfte behalten, so ist manches Wort durch irgendein herrliches Andenken geheiligt und fast allein schon ein Gedicht geworden. Dem Dichter ist die Sprache nie zu arm, aber immer zu allgemein. Er bedarf oft wiederkehrender, durch den Gebrauch ausgespielter Worte.”

  95. Ibid., p. 107: “Die Welt ist ein Universaltropus des Geistes, ein symbolisches Bild desselben.”

  96. Ibid., p. 26: “Von der Bearbeitung der transzendentalen Poesie lässt sich eine Tropik erwarten, die die Gesetze der symbolischen Konstruktion der transzendentalen Welt begreift.”

  97. Ibid., p. 23: “Durch Poesie entsteht die höchste Sympathie und Koaktivität, die innigste Gemeinschaft des Endlichen und Unendlichen.”

  98. Ibid., 4, 302: “Kritik der Poesie ist Unding. Schwer schon ist zu entscheiden, doch einzig mögliche Entscheidung, ob etwas Poesie sei oder nicht.”

  99. Ibid., 3, 24: “Zur echten Kritik gehört die Fähigkeit, das zu kritisierende Produkt selbst hervorzubringen.”

  100. Ibid., 2, 192:

    Tadle nichts Menschliches! Alles ist gut, nur nicht überall, nur nicht immer, nur nicht für alle. So mit der Kritik. Bei Beurteilung von Gedichten z.B. nehme man sich in acht, mehr zu tadeln als, streng genommen, eigentlicher Kunstfehler, Misston in jeder Verbindung ist. Man weise möglichst genau jedem Gedichte seinen Bezirk an, und dies wird Kritik genug für den Wahn ihrer Verfasser sein. Denn nur in dieser Hinsicht sind Gedichte zu beurteilen, ob sie einen weiten oder engen, einen nahen oder entlegnen, einen finstren oder hellen, einen hellen oder dunkeln, erhabnen oder niedrigen Standort haben wollen. So schreibt Schiller für wenige, Goethe für viele. Man ist heutzutage zu wenig darauf bedacht gewesen, die Leser anzuweisen, wie das Gedicht gelesen werden muss—unter welchen Umständen es allein gefallen kann. Jedes Gedicht hat seine Verhältnisse zu den mancherlei Lesern und den vielfachen Umständen. Es hat seine eigne Umgebung, seine eigne Welt, seinen eignen Gott.

  101. Ibid., 3, 66-7.

  102. Ibid., 4, 262:

    Shakespeare war kein Kalkulator, kein Gelehrter—er war eine mächtige, buntkräftige Seele, deren Erfindungen und Werke wie Erzeugnisse der Natur das Gepräge des denkenden Geistes tragen und in denen auch der letzte scharfsinnige Beobachter noch neue Übereinstimmungen mit dem unendlichen Gliederbau des Weltalls, Begegnungen mit spätern Ideen, Verwandtschaften mit den höhern Kräften und Sinnen der Menschheit finden wird. Sie sind sinnbildlich und vieldeutig, einfach und unerschöpflich wie jene, und es dürfte nichts Sinnloseres von ihnen gesagt werden können, als dass sie Kunstwerke in jener eingeschränkten, mechanischen Bedeutung des Worts seien.

  103. Ibid., p. 299.

  104. Ibid., p. 301.

  105. Ibid., p. 258.

  106. Ibid., p. 299: “Shakespeares Verse und Gedichte gleichen ganz der Boccazischen und Cervantischen Prosa: ebenso gründlich, elegant, nett, pedantisch und vollständig.”

  107. Ibid., p. 293: “Shakespeare ist mir dunkler als Griechenland. Den Spass des Aristophanes versteh ich, aber den Shakespeares noch lange nicht. Shakespeare versteh ich überhaupt noch sehr unvollkommen.”

  108. Ibid., 5, 156: “Der Erzieher des künftigen Jahrhunderts.”

  109. Ibid., p. 163.

  110. Ibid., 4, 60.

  111. Ibid., p. 252.

  112. Ibid., p. 266.

  113. Ibid., 5, 291.

  114. Ibid., p. 290.

  115. Ibid., 1, 304.

  116. Werke und Briefe, p. 15.

  117. I owe this point to a note in H. H. Borcherdt's edition of Herzensergiessungen (Munich, 1949), p. 126.

  118. Werke und Briefe, pp. 69-70:

    Sie redet durch Bilder der Menschen und bedienet sich also einer Hieroglyphenschrift, deren Zeichen wir dem Äussern nach kennen und verstehen. Aber sie schmelzt das Geistige und Unsinnliche … in die sichtbaren Gestalten hinein … rühren unsere Sinne sowohl als unsern Geist; oder vielmehr scheinen dabei … alle Teile unsers (uns unbegreiflichens) Wesens zu einem einzigen, neuen Organ zusammenzuschmelzen, welches die himmlichen Wunder auf diesem zweifachen Wege fasst und begreift.

  119. Ibid., p. 147: “und es ist mir eine sehr bedeutende und geheimnisvolle Vorstellung, wenn ich sie zweien magischen Hohlspiegeln vergleiche, die mir alle Dinge der Welt sinnbildlich abspiegeln, durch deren Zauberbilder hindurch ich den wahren Geist aller Dinge erkennen und verstehen lerne.”

  120. Ibid., p. 67: “Nur das Unsichtbare, das über uns schwebt, ziehen Worte nicht in unser Gemüt herab.”

  121. Ibid., p. 222: “Wer das, was sich nur von innen heraus fühlen lässt, mit der Wünschelrute des untersuchenden Verstandes entdecken will, der wird ewig nur Gedanken über das Gefühl, und nicht das Gefühl selber, entdecken. Eine ewige feindselige Kluft ist zwischen dem fühlenden Herzen und den Untersuchungen des Forschens befestigt. … Sokann auch das Gefühl überhaupt nur vom Gefühl erfasst und ergriffen werden.”

  122. Ibid., p. 211: “Wie ich denn überhaupt glaube, dass das der echte Genuss, und zugleich der echte Prüfstein der Vortrefflichkeit eines Kunstwerks sei, wenn man über dies eine alle andern Werke vergisst, und gar nicht daran denkt, es mit einem andern vergleichen zu wollen.”

  123. Ibid., p. 52: “Ihm ist der gotische Tempel so wohlgefällig als der Tempel des Griechen; und die rohe Kriegsmusik der Wilden ist ihm ein so lieblicher Klang, als kunstreiche Chöre und Kirchengesänge.”

  124. Ibid., p. 54: “Schönheit: ein wunderseltsames Wort! Erfindet erst neue Worte für jedes einzelne Kunstgefühl, für jedes einzelne Werk der Kunst!”

  125. Ibid., p. 55: “So lasset uns denn dieses Glück benutzen, und mit heitern Blicken über alle Zeiten und Völker umherschweifen und uns bestreben, an allen ihren mannigfaltigen Empfindungen und Werken der Empfindung immer das Menschliche herauszufühlen.”

  126. Ibid., p. 124: “Das ich, statt frei zu fliegen, erst lernen musste, in dem unbehülflichen Gerüst und Käfig der Kunstgrammatik herumzuklettern!”

  127. Ibid., p. 130: “Warum wollte der Himmel, dass sein ganzes Leben hindurch der Kampf zwischen seinem ätherischen Enthusiasmus und dem niedrigen Elend dieser Erde ihn so unglücklich machen und endlich sein doppeltes Wesen von Geist und Leib ganz voneinanderreissen sollte!”

  128. Ibid., p. 128: “Er geriet auf die Idee, ein Künstler müsse nur für sich allein, zu seiner eignen Herzenserhebung und für einen oder ein paar Menschen, die ihn verstehen, Künstler sein.”

  129. Ibid., p. 131: “mehr dazu geschaffen war, Kunst zu geniessen als auszuüben?”

  130. Ibid., p. 147.

  131. Ibid., p. 206: “Es scheinen uns diese Gefühle, die in unserm Herzen aufsteigen, manchmal so herrlich und gross, dass wir sie wie Reliquien in kostbare Monstranzen einschliessen, freudig davor niederknieen, und im Taumel nicht wissen, ob wir unser eignes menschliches Herz, oder ob wir den Schöpfer, von dem alles Grosse und Herrliche herabkommt, verehren.”

  132. Ibid., p. 217: “dass das ganze Leben des Menschen, und das ganze Leben des gesamten Weltkörpers nichts ist, als so ein unaufhörliches, seltsames Brettspiel solcher weissen und schwarzen Felder, wobei am Ende keiner gewinnt als der leidige Tod.” Cf. ibid., p. 226. Dichten comes from dictare and has nothing to do with verdichten (to condense).

  133. Ibid., p. 197.

  134. Ibid., p. 227: “Und eben diese frevelhafte Unschuld, diese furchtbare, orakelmässig-zweideutige Dunkelheit, macht die Tonkunst recht eigentlich zu einer Gottheit für menschliche Herzen.”

  135. A much fuller treatment is in Robert Minder, Un poète romantique allemand: Ludwig Tieck, esp. pp. 305 ff.

  136. See the quotations and discussion in Marie Joachimi, Die Weltanschauung der deutschen Romantik (Jena, 1905), pp. 181 ff.

  137. See Rudolf Köpke, Ludwig Tieck (Leipzig, 1855), 2, 173, 238; and Schriften (Berlin, 1828), 6, xxvii-xxix.

  138. Köpke, Tieck, 2, 173, 237.

  139. Köpke, “Unterhaltungen mit Tieck, 1849-1853,” Tieck, 2, 167-256.

  140. Kritische Schriften, 2, 183: “die unmittelbarste, nächste Empfindung meiner Persönlichkeit.”

  141. There is ample information in the books by Henry Lüdeke, ed. Das Buch über Shakespeare, and Edwin Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck, the German Romanticist.

  142. Kri. Schr. 1, 237: “im Zusammenhange.”

  143. Ibid., 1, 230, 234, 283, 303; on Middleton see pp. 293 ff. Tieck translated Volpone (1798) and the Silent Woman (1800). On his studies of Ben Jonson see Walther Fischer, “Zu Ludwig Tiecks elisabethanischen Studien: Tieck als Ben Jonson-Philologe,” Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, 62 (1926), 98-131.

  144. Das Buch über Shakespeare, ed. Lüdeke, p. 406: “den Dichter nicht mehr als eine isolierte Erscheinung zu betrachten, sondern ihn aus seiner Zeit und Umgebung abzuleiten, hauptsächlich aber ihn aus seinem eigenen Gemüt zu entwickeln.”

  145. Kri. Schr., 1, 37, 38, 65, 73, etc.

  146. Ibid., pp. 149, 152, 159: “kein gedruckter Engländer.”

  147. Schriften (28 vols. Berlin, 1828-54), 28, 258 ff., esp. 265-9.

  148. Kri. Schr., 4, 318 ff. See the full account of Tieck's visit in Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck and England, pp. 48 ff.

  149. Cf. Nachgelassene Schriften, ed. R. Köpke (Leipzig, 1855), 2, 154 ff.; Dramaturgische Blätter (Breslau, 1825-26), 2, 74, 118. Goethe in reviewing this book rejects Tieck's view of Lady Macbeth. Werke, 38, 22: “eine zärtliche liebevolle Seele.” Also Kri. Schr., 3, 257: “ein wahrer Staatsmann”; cf. pp. 264, 277.

  150. Schriften, 18, 265, 256: “als würde ich erst durch mein Gedicht erschaffen, und mein eigenstes Wesen zum Leben gebracht.”

  151. On Tieck's Spanish studies cf. the two books by J.-J. Bertrand, Tieck et le théâtre espagnol, Paris, 1914; and Cervantes et le romantisme allemand, Paris, 1914. See Schriften, 23, 46 ff.; in “Eine Sommerreise.”

  152. Kri. Schr., 2, 194-5, 249. Letters to Solger, Nov. 10 and Dec. 17, 1818, in Tieck and Solger. The Complete Correspondence, ed. Percy Matenko (New York, 1933), pp. 476, 493-4.

  153. Kri. Schr., 2, 61-92.

  154. Ibid., 1, 185-214. J. Grimm, Kleinere Schriften (8 vols. Berlin, 1869-90), 1, 6; 4, 7.

  155. The eds. of Lenz, 1828, Novalis, 1802 and 1846, and Kleist, 1826.

  156. Kri. Schr., 2, 175 ff., esp. 187, 205, 207, 208, 230.

  157. Ibid., p. 243.

  158. Ibid., pp. 24, 34, 55: “eine dunkle Macht … ein plötzliches, grelles Gelüst, beide zu überspringen, und das Leere, Nichtige, dennoch höher als die Wirklichkeit zu stellen … ein grossartiger Manierist.”

  159. Köpke, 2, 22 ff.

  160. Kri. Schr., 2, 309, 347, 349. Köpke, 2, 193 ff. In Dramaturgische Blätter there are several laudatory papers on Schiller's plays, e.g. on Wallenstein.

  161. Ludwig Tieck und die Brüder Schlegel, ed. H. Lüdeke (Frankfurt, 1930), p. 169; letter of August 26, 1813: “Ich habe überhaupt keine Freude an allen den Sachen, die wir veranlasst haben.” Köpke, 2, 173.

  162. Ibid., 206, 204, etc. On Bettina see letter of Tieck to Solger, May 5, 1818; Tieck and Solger, pp. 436-8.

  163. Köpke, 2, 208. See letter to Brinckmann, Nov. 17, 1835, in Euphorion, Supplement, 13, p. 71.

  164. Schriften, 6, 213: “Poesie, Kunst, und selbst die Andacht [ist] nur verkleidete, verhüllte Wollust … Sinnlichkeit und Wollust sind der Geist der Musik, der Malerei und aller Künste … Schönheitssinn und Kunstgefühl sind nur andere Dialekte und Aussprachen, sie bezeichnen nichts weiter, als den Trieb des Menschen zur Wollust.”

  165. Ibid., 18, 60, 62; “zu schaffen und zu vernichten … in Sehnsucht nach dem Unsichtbaren … das Ewige mit dem Irdischen.”

  166. Wackenroder, Werke und Briefe, Berlin [1948?], pp. 195, 232, 230, 231: “lasset uns darum unser Leben in ein Kunstwerk verwandeln … Das ist's, dass der Künstler ein Schauspieler wird, der jedes Leben als Rolle betrachtet … die Kunst ist eine verführerische, verbotene Frucht; wer einmal ihren innersten, süssesten Saft geschmeckt hat, der is unwiederbringlich verloren für die tätige, lebendige Welt … Und mitten in diesem Getümmel bleib' ich ruhig sitzen, wie ein Kind auf seinem Kinderstuhle, und blase Tonstücke wie Seifenblasen in die Luft.”

  167. Schriften, 5, 308, conclusion of Act I of Verkehrte Welt (1798): “Ach du schwaches, leichtzerbrechliches Menschenleben! Ich will dich immer als ein Kunstwerk betrachten, das mich ergötzt und das einen Schluss haben muss, damit es ein Kunstwerk sein und mich ergötzen könne. Dann bin ich stets zufrieden, dann bin ich von gemeiner Freude und von dem lastenden Trübsinne gleich weit entfernt.”

  168. Bettina von Arnim, Frühlingskranz, ed. W. Oehlke (Berlin, 1920), 1, 371: “das grösste mimische Talent was jemals die Bühne nicht betreten.”

  169. Ludwig Tieck und die Brüder Schlegel, ed. Lüdeke, p. 144; letter to Friedrich Schlegel, Dec. 16, 1803: “ich bin un so mehr ein Individuum, um so mehr ich mich in alles verlieren kann.” Tieck and Solger, ed. Matenko, p. 363; letter to Solger, March 24, 1817: “es ist mir schon sonst so gegangen, dass ich Gedanken, die nachher mein Leben wurden, vorher wohl ein Jahr in mir, ich möchte sagen, nur mimisch nachgemacht habe.” Ludwig Tieck und die Brüder Schlegel, p. 146; to F. Schlegel: “Vorzüglich ängstigte mich Alles, was mir bis dahin das Liebste gewesen war: meine Liebe zur Poesie, mein Talent schienen mir recht eigentlich das Böseste in mir, was mich ganz zu Grunde richten musste.”

  170. See the discussion of Tieck's views of dreams and use of dreams in Albert Béguin, L'Âme romantique et le rêve (2d ed. Paris, 1946), pp. 217-38.

  171. Vorschule, in Sämtliche Werke, ed. Berend, 11, 8, 14, 74.

  172. See esp. “Jubilate-Vorlesung” in Vorschule, SW, 11, 377 ff. also note in “Clavis Fichtiana,” SW, 9, 476. Unprinted notes on the Schlegels in Berend, Jean Pauls Aesthetik, pp. 37-8, and cf. p. 104.

  173. E.g. SW, 11, 74-5, 75n., 80. The preface to the 2d ed. of Quintus Fixlein (1796) attacks Schiller's Briefe über aesthetische Erziehung.

  174. In Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben von J. P. Richter, ed. Ernst Förster (Munich, 1863), 3, 39: “Eine höhere kritische Schule als in der hohen von Jena” (1799).

  175. SW, 11, 19: “Meine innigste Überzeugnung ist, dass die neuere Schule im ganzen und grossem recht hat.”

  176. Ibid., pp. 22, 25, 37.

  177. Ibid., pp. 425, 234: “Blosse Zeichen geben; aber voll Zeichen steht ja schon die ganze Welt, die ganze Zeit; das Lesen dieser Buchstaben eben fehlt; wir wollen ein Wörterbuch und eine Sprachlehre der Zeichen. Die Poesie lehrt lesen.”

  178. Ibid., pp. 235, 21.

  179. Ibid., p. 38: “Die Phantasie macht alle Teile zun Ganzen … sie totalisiert alles.”

  180. Ibid., p. 46: “Im Genius stehen alle Kräfte auf einmal in Blüte.” Cf. p. 53.

  181. Ibid., pp. 49, 196. There a note from Jean Pauls Briefe und bevorstehender Lebenslauf (Gera, 1799), p. 147. Albert Béguin, L'Âme romantique et le rêve, pp. 167 ff., has a good chapter on Jean Paul's dreams.

  182. SW, 11, 196: “Er muss euch—wie ja im Traume geschieht—eingeben, nicht ihr ihm. … Ein Dichter, der überlegen muss, ob er einen Charakter in einem gegebenen Falle Ja oder Nein sagen zu lassen habe, werf' ihn weg, es ist eine dumme Leiche.”

  183. Ibid., p. 48: “Die Teile werden von der Ruhe erzogen.”

  184. Ibid., pp. 28, 46, on “Besonnenheit”; see pp. 123 and passim.

  185. Especially Leibgeber in Siebenkäs and Schoppe in Titan. A history of the double in literature, with a section on Jean Paul, is in Otokar Fischer, Duše a slovo (Prague, 1929), esp. pp. 179 ff., and in Ralph Tymms, Doubles in Literary Psychology, Cambridge, 1949.

  186. SW, 11, 41, 44.

  187. Ibid., p. 49.

  188. Ibid., p. 56.

  189. Ibid., p. 57: “Dieses schönheitstrunkne Volk noch mit einer heitern Religion in Aug' und Herz.”

  190. Ibid., pp. 75-6, 79: “Ein Petrarch, der kein Christ ist, wäre ein unmöglicher. Die einzige Maria adelt alle Weiber romantisch.”

  191. Ibid., pp. 76, 80.

  192. Ibid., p. 80: “Jedes Jahrhundert ist anders romantisch.”

  193. Ibid., pp. 74-5.

  194. Ibid., p. 254: “Das Epos stellt die Begebenheit, die sich aus der Vergangenheit entwickelt, das Dramo die Handlung, welche sich für und gegen die Zukunft ausdehnt, die Lyrik die Empfindung dar, welche sich in die Gegenwart einschliesst.”

  195. E. S. Dallas, Poetics, London, 1852; Emil Staiger, Grundbegriffe der Poetik, Zurich, 1946.

  196. SW, 11, 142.

  197. Ibid., p. 233: “Poetische Enzyklopädie.” Cf. pp. 234-5.

  198. Ibid., p. 231.

  199. Ibid., p. 201.

  200. Ibid., pp. 202, 197.

  201. Ibid., p. 194: “Rassen des innern Menschen”; p. 206: “Seelenmythologie.”

  202. Ibid., p. 193.

  203. Ibid., pp. 208-9: “Dieser hüpfende Punkt … Hauptton (tonica dominante).”

  204. Ibid., p. 211: “Wurzelworte des Charakters.” On naming see pp. 252-3.

  205. Ibid., p. 212.

  206. Ibid., pp. 260, 275, 303, 177 ff.

  207. See Friedrich Vischer's Aesthetik, 1 (Reutlingen, 1846) on the objective comic (the farce), the subjective comic (wit), the absolute comic (humor); on Jean Paul, ibid., e.g. pp. 354-5, 385, and passim. S. T. Coleridge, Miscellaneous Criticism, ed. T. M. Raysor, pp. 117-20, 440-6. George Meredith, On the Idea of Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit (1877).

  208. I accept here, though not completely, Croce's view. See “L'umorismo” in Problemi di estetica (1903; 4th ed. Bari, 1949), p. 281. See also Estetica (Bari, 1946), pp. 100, 385.

  209. SW, 11, 158.

  210. Ibid., p. 170.

  211. Ibid., p. 178: “Eine wilde Paarung ohne Priester.”

  212. Ibid., p. 179.

  213. Ibid., pp. 184 ff.

  214. Ibid., p. 102: “Der sinnlich angeschaute unendliche Unverstand.” “Den. Widerspruch, worin das Bestreben oder Sein des lächerlichen Wesens mit dem sinnlich angeschauten Verhältnis steht, nenn' ich den objektiven Kontrast.”

  215. Ibid., p. 97: “Wir leihen seinem Bestreben unsere Einsicht.”

  216. Ibid., p. 99: “Unterschiebung.” Vischer, Aesthetik, 1, 385. Theodor Lipps, Komik und Humor (Hamburg, 1898), pp. 60 ff.

  217. Ibid., p. 112: “Der Humor, als das umgekehrte Erhabene, vernichtet nicht das Einzelne, sondern das Endliche durch den Kontrast mit der Idee. Es gibt für ihn keine einzelne Torheit, keine Toren, sondern nur Torheit und eine tolle Welt.”

  218. Ibid., pp. 116, 113, 114-5.

  219. See the chapter on Friedrich Schlegel, above, and literature on irony quoted in note on p. 15.

  220. SW, 11, 124. On Yahoos, MS quoted in Berend, Jean Pauls Aesthetik, pp. 110-11: “Wie kann man Swift die Yahoos so übelnehmen, da sie doch nur die satirische Karikatur enthalten, wenn er auch im Leben über Menschen zürnte?—Warum soll jedes satirische, d.h. poetische Wort von ihm ein wahres sein?”

  221. SW, 11, 134: “Schein des Ernstes.”

  222. On Jean Paul's fictional attack on aestheticism see K. J. Obenauer, Die Problematik des aesthetischen Menschen in der deutschen Literatur (Munich, 1933), pp. 182 ff.

  223. Much is collected in Berend, Aesthetik, and in Paul Nerrlich, Jean Paul und seine Zeitgenossen, Berlin, 1876.

  224. See the “lecture” on Herder concluding Vorschule, SW, 11, 420 ff.; reviews of Fouqué in Kleine Bücherschau (1825), and in SW, 16, 357, 360, 370. Jean Paul wrote an introduction to E. T. A. Hoffmann's Phantasiestücke (1814); in ibid., pp. 288-93. On relations to Tieck, Novalis, etc. see Nerrlich, pp. 246, 250, 252, 253-6.

  225. SW, 11, 200-1, 235; on Milton, p. 227. Shakespeare was “his God”: Wahrheit aus Jean Pauls Leben, under March 21, 1805.

  226. SW, 11, 133.

  227. Ibid., 16, 297, 329. Carlyle translated Jean Paul's review of De l'Allemagne in Fraser's Magazine (1830). See Carlyle, Works, Centenary ed. (London, 1899), 26, 476-501.

  228. SW, 16, 468.

  229. Ibid., p. 6n.: “In jeder guten Rezension verbirgt oder entdeckt sich eine gute Aesthetik und noch dazu eine angewandte und freie und kürzeste und durch die Beispiele—helleste.”

  230. First ed. of Vorschule (Hamburg, 1804), pp. 805 ff.: “Die beste Poetik wäre, alle Dichter zu charakterisieren.”

  231. SW, 11, 259.

  232. Ibid., p. 343: “Denn alle echte positive Kritik ist doch nur eine neue Dichtkunst, wovon ein Kunstwerk der Gegenstand ist”; p. 350: “Fehler lassen sich beweisen, aber Schönheiten nur weisen.”

  233. MS quoted in Berend, Aesthetik, p. 77: “Das Beste in jedem Autor ist, was nicht im einzelnen liegt, und gar nicht zu zeigen ist, weil der Glanz des Zusammenhangs keinen einzelnen Fingerzeig verträgt.” Cf. SW, 11, 355, 337-8.

1. Schelling is quoted from Sämtliche Werke, ed. K. F. A. Schelling, 14 vols. 1856-61. Letters and poems can be found in Aus Schellings Leben in Briefen, ed. G. L. Plitt, 3 vols. 1869-70. From the extensive literature I use M. Adam, Schellings Kunstphilosophie, in Abhandlungen zur Philosophie und ihrer Geschichte, 4, 1907; and Jean Gibelin, L'Esthétique de Schelling d'après la Philosophie de l'art, Paris, 1934.

2. Novalis is quoted from Gesammelte Werke, ed. Carl Seelig, 5 vols. Zürich, 1945. Eduard Havenstein, Friedrich von Hardenbergs aesthetische Anschauungen, Palaestra, 84 (Berlin, 1909) is of little use. Helmut Rehder, “Novalis and Shakespeare,” PMLA, 63 (1948), 604-24, interprets Novalis' pronouncements well.

3. Wackenroder is quoted from Werke und Briefe, Berlin, 1938; reprint [1948]. There are three good essays on Wackenroder, of which the last is easily the best: Heinrich Wölfflin, “Die Herzensergiessungen eines Kunstliebenden Klosterbruders,” in Studien zur Literaturgeschichte: Michael Bernays gewidmet (Hamburg, 1893), pp. 61-73; I. Rouge, “Wackenroder et la genèse de l'esthétique romantique,” in Mélanges Henri Lichtenberger (Paris, 1934), pp. 185-203; and Gerhard Fricke, “Bemerkungen zu Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroders Religion der Kunst,” in Festschrift Paul Kluckhohn und Hermann Schneider gewidmet (Tübingen, 1948), pp. 345-71.

4. Tieck's criticism is quoted from Kritische Schriften, 4 vols. Leipzig, 1848-52 (cited as Kri. Schr.) and from Das Buch über Shakespeare, ed. Henry Lüdeke, Halle, 1920. Full discussions are in Robert Minder, Un poète romantique allemand: Ludwig Tieck, Paris, 1936; and in Edwin H. Zeydel's Ludwig Tieck, the German Romanticist, Princeton, 1935. On his relations to English literature see H. Lüdeke, L. Tieck und das alte englische Theater, Frankfurt, 1922; and Edwin H. Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck and England, Princeton, 1931. On Calderón and Tieck: J.-J. Bertrand, Tieck et le théâtre espagnol, Paris, 1914. Incidental discussion of criticism in Raymond M. Immerwahr, The Esthetic Intent of Tieck's Fantastic Comedy, St. Louis, 1953. More specialized articles, etc. are quoted in Minder's bibliography.

5. Jean Paul's Vorschule der Aesthetik is quoted from Vol. ii of Sämtliche Werke, ed. Eduard Berend, Weimar, 1935 (cited as SW, 11) Eduard Berend's Jean Pauls Aesthetik (Berlin, 1909) is the best study.

Jochen Schulte-Sasse (essay date 1988)

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SOURCE: Schulte-Sasse, Jochen. “The Concept of Literary Criticism in German Romanticism.” In A History of German Literary Criticism, 1730-1980, edited by Peter Uwe Hohendahl, pp. 99-177. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

[In the following excerpt, Schulte-Sasse traces the development of German Romantic critical theory from its early stage, associated with the social critique of contemporary conditions, to its later stage when the movement's critical potential was diminishing.]


If we want to assess the Romantic concept of criticism in terms of social history, we first have to explain its relationship to the Romantic philosophy of history, for at least the early Romantic concept of criticism is anchored in a philosophy of history. In 1798 Friedrich Schlegel noted: “Classical and progressive are historical ideas and critical opinions—There c[riticism] and h[istory] are joined.”1 Just as the opposition of classical (= antique) and progressive (= modern, Romantic, mannered, and so on) has to be understood from the point of view not only of the history of art but of history in general, so too is its critical content not only artistic but also socio-analytical. An explanation of these ideas is all the more important because Schiller developed a critique of society that was similar in many respects without, however, giving up the hope embodied in the Enlightenment's philosophy of history and its linear model of progress. In spite of all the ambivalence previously discussed, the cultural and political status of art in Schiller's theory was defined by its social function; art was to alter not only individuals but also the whole of society—concretely and within the chronological dimension. Numerous statements proposing similar projects can be found in early Romanticism. One of Friedrich Schlegel's Athenäum Fragments provides a good example: “The revolutionary desire to realize the kingdom of God on earth is the elastic point of progressive [i.e., Romantic] civilization [Bildung] and the beginning of modern history” (FS, [Friedrich Schlegel, Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde and the Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971.] 192). In the previous fragment he had assigned criticism rather than art the major burden in the poiesis of this golden future: “Christianity seems to me to be a fact. But only a fact in its beginning stages, one, that is, that can't be represented historically in a system, but can only be characterized by means of divinatory criticism” (FS, 192). The characterization of criticism as divinatory (able to foresee or foretell future events, thus accelerating their arrival) recurs frequently. Criticism alone can locate the contemporary and timely as well as the historico-philosophical content of Romantic art, whose “primal strength in predestining and apprehending the future is so essential” (KA, [Friedrich Schlegel, Kritische Friedrich-Schlegel-Ausgabe, ed. Ernst Behler et al. (Munich: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1958.] 18:311); by unfolding the content of art in a reflexive and divinatory fashion, criticism alone can raise art's historico-philosophical potential to the level of consciousness: “Without criticism, indeed without divination, no progression” (KA, 18:14).

Thoughts like these seem to lessen the distance between early Romantic views of history on the one hand and the views of the Enlightenment and German Classicism on the other. However, on closer examination, one sees that in the historico-philosophical formulations themselves the concrete historical tension between the present and the future has already been transformed into an ahistorical opposition (even if that opposition is motivated by a critique of social conditions) between social reality and art, criticism, and philosophy. As Novalis wrote in 1798-99 in his Allgemeiner Brouillon (General scratch pad): “Philosophy is basically antihistorical. It advances from the future and from necessity to the real—it is the s[cience] of the universal sense of divination. It explains the past from the perspective of the future, which is the opposite of what history does. (It views everything in isolation, in the state of nature—unconnected)” (N, [Novalis, Schriften, ed. P. Kluckhohn and R. Samuel (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1960-75.] 3:464f.). What is decisive is Novalis's characterization of the future as philosophically necessary (which robs the category of its historical content) and the isolation and separation of the object to be observed and judged from history, a method he addresses directly in his parenthetical remark. Unlike Friedrich Hölderlin, whose Hyperion finds only “an infinite emptiness” in ideas devoid of history and who burdens his protagonist with the task of “discovering new meaning within limits … i.e., within history,”2 the Romantics insist that the gulf between philosophically deduced ideal and social, historical reality cannot be overcome simply through cultural policies.

That the Romantic critical impulse is constantly in danger of being transformed into culturally pessimistic esotericism is shown by Friedrich Schlegel's critique of Fichte's Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters (1808): “To see the reference contained in Fichte's characterization of the epoch one need only recall the basic division between the great majority of those unable to see beyond ordinary enlightenment and the small minority of those who aspire to traverse those boundaries somehow in order to reach a higher or highest pretersensuality [Übersinnliches], or who think they already possess it; since their spirit is the remnant of a past age, the forerunner of a future one, or since it has risen above time, it no longer belongs exclusively to their era.”3 First of all, a philosophical, historical, and temporal tension is transformed here into a pessimistic (and static) cultural opposition between the masses who have fallen victim to the instrumental reason associated with the baser form of enlightenment and an intellectual aristocracy that wants to elevate itself to pretersensuality, the opposite of social-sensual reality. The shift appears quite openly in Schlegel's concluding phrase that is superficially reminiscent of “enlightened” historico-philosophical discourses: “or since it has risen above time, it no longer belongs exclusively to their era.” The early Romantic philosophy of history aims, as Gisela Dischner aptly puts it, at “transcendence or surpassing instead of progress or advancement.”4

The extent to which this shift in accent had already led the Romantics to favor a cyclical model of history over the linear one characteristic of Enlightenment philosophy is shown clearly by A. W. Schlegel's Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst from 1801-2; these lectures have to be seen as a programmatic attempt to explain early Romantic theories of art in a relatively “popular” and accessible form. For Schlegel, it remained “problematical whether in the longest span of time in the most extensive history … one could identify more progress or retrogression. … [François] Hemsterhuis describes the waxing and waning of culture quite ingeniously as an elliptical motion, in which humanity finds itself near the sun in one age and far from it in another.” Of interest here is Schlegel's discovery of the principle that turns every essentially linear model of history into a chimera; it is human individuality, which he does not regard as historically determined: “No matter how early [history] begins to deal with the individuals who intervene in events in order to show … that their characters were determined in this way or that, and thus to regard them again as effects, it necessarily leaves some original kernel in them inexplicable. For the creation of individuals is the secret that nature has reserved for itself, and here is the basis for the wonderful magic of history, in which otherwise no unexpected roles could appear.”5 Consequently, what can be analyzed and planned—that is, the feasible in history—is invaded by something synthetic and organic that undermines this feasibility. For the Romantics, though, that which can only be negative in the eyes of Enlightenment thinkers turns into a positive critical tool. The critical force of organic, genial individuality is based on the fact that it does not allow itself to be subjugated by the spirit of analytic, instrumental reason controlling modernity.

Art represents the synthetic-organic and the individual par excellence. In terms of production aesthetics, art is the expression of the artist's individuality. From the point of view of reception aesthetics, art provides individuals with the opportunity to perceive and contemplate the sociocritical principle of individuality in concrete form and to strengthen that principle in themselves. However, such a conception leaves the Romantics with a dilemma: how can one justify the practice of criticism and the concept of artistic completion through criticism when art is conceived of as the expression of individuality? Organic individuals cannot be analyzed, nor is a comparative criticism of individuals legitimate, because any critical analysis would destroy their organic nature. Furthermore, any concept of complete and perfect individuality is itself contradictory if completion refers to a (general) ideal of perfection as it does here, for perfection cannot unfold itself thousands of times into (particular) individuals if these individuals are supposed to be “individual” at all.

The Romantics attempted to eliminate this dilemma by introducing the notion of an art history, which would, on the one hand, sublate the contradiction between the particular and the general in the ideal of art and, on the other, form the basis for a higher form of history in which history and individuality would be reconciled. In his 1801-2 lectures, A. W. Schlegel outlines the dilemma as follows: “The object of history” in a general and specific sense “can only be that in which infinite progress takes place,” but if one transfers this concept to the history of art, then in art history every “individual manifestation of art … has to be shown to be an indeterminate distance from absolute perfection, and yet we only call something a real work of art when it is in itself complete.” For Schlegel, the solution to this apparent contradiction lies in considering “a given work of art from its own perspective … it need not achieve an absolute height, it is complete when it is the best of its kind, in its sphere or its world. And this explains why it can, at the same time, be one link in an infinite chain of progressions and nevertheless satisfactory and independent in itself.” This kind of progress could, however, be labeled more precisely as the mere cumulative succession of historical events. Accepting such a progressive concept of art history, one not centered on notions of qualitative developments, allows the Romantics to treat the history of both art and criticism (which for A. W. Schlegel “is not only the indispensable organ of theory and art history but also the link between the two”) as the potentiation of art: “Perfect, apprehensible art history would, although in prosaic form, raise poesy to the second power”; in other words, the discourse of art history can “square” the mere existence of individual works. All the individual works taken together constitute art (in the singular), which is the highest form of human expression. But art needs the discourse of art history for its artistry to become visible. For A. W. Schlegel the “whole species” of humanity is not an abstraction; it is rather nothing less than “the immortal individual” himself.6

And for Friedrich Schlegel, in his Forster review, this humanity “extends beyond the genius.” The practice of criticism is concerned with this broader tribunal, “the immortal individual,” whereas for the genius and his products the following is true: “No literary artist can be so worthy of imitation that he will not someday have to be considered obsolete and surpassed. The pure value of the individual continues forever, but particularity, even of the greatest [genius], is lost in the universal stream.”7 Only art history, with “criticism” as its organ, is able to cross the stream of history to the unity of the whole. Criticism here is the constitutive instrument for a form of art, not yet realized, that is no longer viewed in terms of works but rather as aesthetic reflection through the medium of individual works. That such a conception of art can (but need not) undermine a critical attitude toward individual works of art, as well as toward criticism and art history, is shown by a remark A. W. Schlegel made in this connection: “However much we are repelled by the barbarism and non-art [Unpoesie] produced in many epochs, perhaps including our own, who can know if the genius [God] will not take all these thousandfold deviant forms and figures of humanity and shape them into a great work of art.”8 This would mean that all historical events, whatever they are, are justifiable.

In comparison with the Enlightenment, the accent here is on aesthetic contemplation rather than on the critical representation of a different, better world. The latter is nevertheless a dominant aspect of early Romanticism. Novalis, for example, stressed the power of graphic, perceptually present symbols as “the means of education for a distant goal” (N, 2:489): “All of representation is based on making things present—the not yet present and so on—(the miraculous power of fiction). My Glauben und Liebe is based on representative faith [i.e., faith that leads to the representation of the not yet present; Novalis is fully aware of the paradox that he wants to re-present something that never has been present]. So, too, the assumption—perpetual peace is already achieved—God is with us—here is America or nowhere—the golden age is here—we are magicians—we are moral and so on” (N, 3:421).

Novalis knew that unless a poetic work expresses an ideal in its representations—an ideal defined by its opposition to the really existing conditions of social life—it unfortunately loses any historico-philosophical importance and cultural-political relevance. The artistic representation of that ideal, however, can never represent anything real; it is, in other words, necessarily speculative because it cannot be deduced from any total conception of history. In 1800 the Enlightenment philosophy of history was still so effective and so much in control of public discourse that Novalis apparently believed he could make his own project comprehensible only with conscious, reformulated references to the discourse of an “enlightened” philosophy of history: “Nothing is more poetic than remembrance and conjecture, or a mental image of the future. The lowly present links the two [past and future] through limitation—Contiguity arises through ossification—crystallization. There is, however, a spiritual present—that identifies both by dissolving them—and this mixture is the poet's element, his atmosphere” (N, 2:468). The lowly present is what really exists, where instrumentalization has ossified or crystallized reason and where a critical discourse, including its “enlightened” references to history or to the future, can only be narrow and accidental. In opposition, Novalis posits a spiritual present brought about by the use of reflexive reason; in this present the past and future have dissolved into one another and are identical. That means, however, that the spiritual present, since all time is sublated there, is no longer present in a historical sense; it has become a historically transcendent ideal world. For this reason Hans-Joachim Mähl correctly speaks of the “transcendent reality [Überwirklichkeit] of the future” in Novalis.9 The historico-philosophical tension between a negative present and a better future that intrinsically structured the literature of the Enlightenment shifts in Romanticism into a tension between poetry and reality. The Romantics avoided articulating this tension in poetic language in order to permit literature to retreat totally into the ideal world and thus to remain untainted by the ossification of all thought pervading everyday life. The symbolic presence of the ideal world in poesy should be a thorn in the side of the present: “Ideal language belongs to the realization of the ideal world” (N, 2:561).

Both the retreat of the better world into an “infinite, fairytale distance” (Mähl) and the representation of this world in Romantic art (in such characters as the poet, woman, lovers, or the child and in the ideal situation of Romantic communication) doubtlessly contributed to the process of institutional dissociation of art, described above, and therefore to making the function of the entire medium a compensatory one. However, one should not overlook the fact that at least the early Romantics intended (and in so doing they could be regarded as the first avant-garde movement in art)10 to reconnect art with life: that is, to return art to the realm of experience. The beautiful appearance of art was not just supposed to remind people of a better world; the represented modes of communication were supposed to be present, to be acted out, in Romantic groups. The formation of such groups was an essential part of the Romantic aesthetic program, not a mere side effect, and this was another reason that criticism and not the individual work of art became the most important activity in the realm of art. For in the eyes of the Romantics, communication through art was the only form of praxis able to free itself from the reified relationships of society. The Romantic project “was therefore not limited to the ‘reconciliation of truth with reality’ (Hegel) only in the realm of ideas; rather it aimed at changing people's lives, but without giving up its speculative character in favor of day-to-day political pragmatism.”11 The ultimate failure of this project was connected with the Romantics' insufficient insight into the functional dissociation of various subsystems within modernity; a real understanding of the institutional character of art was not yet historically possible. Only such insight would have allowed them to see the dialectic inherent in the process: namely, that the institutional organization of modernity changed the function of art in such a way that even the most radical criticism contained in individual works was defused by the medium in which it was expressed.

The Romantics thought of their analysis of social totality not in terms of institutions and system theory but in categories that were essentially epistemological or concerned with a critique of the nature of knowledge. In their analysis of the increasingly universal dominance of the principle of exchange value in modern societies, they recognized that the constitution of subjectivity would have to become a problem in modernity. For if this principle actually had a universalizing effect, it could no longer simply be supposed epistemologically that individuals are able to act vis-à-vis social totality in the way that idealist theories of knowledge conceived of cognizing subjects: that is, as free centers of knowledge (centered in themselves) confronted by objects that they can take cognizance of without being influenced by them. Hence, the Romantics were interested in the conditions necessary for the possibility of an independent constitution of subjectivity in the face of social totality (which tended to incorporate and generalize everything): that is, the conditions for the possibility of a form of individuality that, in the confrontation with social totality, would prove itself to be free. Totality viewed as the “slowly disintegrating and destructive force of conditions”12 is “absolutely incomprehensible” (N, 2:152) to the individual, because adequate understanding, in according cognitive power over its content to a knowing subject, would call the totalizing effects of social structures themselves into question and suspend the effect these structures have on individuals. However, if this effect exists, as the Romantics claimed, the basic problem is as follows: how can subjectivity constitute itself free from the domination of society if the structures of this society are already inscribed on the individual through socialization, and if subjectivity can never experience itself as originally free? The question is also broached in terms of a philosophy of language; in their eyes a society's language is not an independent, immutable, readily available tool but is structured and determined by the communicative interaction that takes place in a given society. Language, existing only in a historically concrete form, muddles human thought. The question then becomes, how is it possible for us to free ourselves from the social and ideological contamination of language?

In answering this question the Romantics started from the problematic posed in Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, even though they corrected and varied his results. Fichte had assumed that the fundamental act of positing an other (Nicht-Ich)—that is, the positing of intentional objects or mental images (Vorstellungen) in our minds—is an absolutely necessary precondition for human thinking, an act that happens unconsciously or preconsciously and that forms the basis or starting point for our intellectual identity. This means that the concrete, always already existing difference between a thinking ego and its intentional objects can be neither eliminated nor sublated and that the ego exists only when it is already filled with mental images. The chain of intentional objects that make up human thinking cannot be traced back to its origin and thereby overcome, because, according to Fichte, an ego empty of intentional objects is inconceivable. All we can do is remain within such chains of intentional objects, merely comparing different intentional objects and deciding for one group of them as opposed to another according to rules prescribed by an accepted formal and ideologically bound logic.13 Fichte's philosophy therefore stays within the realm of a (logocentric) mode of thinking that reflects upon and works with “identities.” For a theory of literary criticism this approach means that we can criticize, favor, or reject the norms and values represented in literature in an open discussion; that these norms and values are identifiable; and that our conclusions, based on a critical comparison of these “identities,” are justified by the persuasive force contained in our arguments. This philosophy does not concede the possibility that we can transcend the process of argumentation in an epistemologically meaningful fashion, thus freeing ourselves radically from the logical constraints of always already existing mental identities; nor would it grant us permission to transcend the realm of rational argumentation, even if that were possible in a meaningful sense. This epistemological model also underlies Kant's conception of criticism, as well as his notion of the public sphere and of progress: “The critique … arriving at all its decisions in the light of fundamental principles of its own institution, the authority of which no one can question, secures to us the peace of a state governed by rules, a state, in which our disputes have to be conducted solely by the recognised methods of lawful action.” A necessary precondition for such action, according to Kant, is the freedom “to submit openly for discussion the thoughts and doubts with which we find ourselves unable to deal, and to do so without being decried as troublesome and dangerous citizens. This is one of the original rights of human reason, which recognizes no other judge than that universal human reason in which everyone has his say.”14

Can the very process of forming an opinion be guided by a form of reason that is not dependent on a gesture of force and is not always already entangled in the interests of a society based on exchange value? The early Romantics answered this question in the negative. They realized—and here they attacked the epistemological presuppositions of both Kant and Fichte (which, by the way, are the same presuppositions implicit in most ideology-critical interpretations of literature published in the 1970s)—that they were incapable of providing and justifying a praxis of writing and reading with whose help individuals could remove the inscription of social totality from their minds and bodies. The Romantics saw that such an approach raises logocentric thought to the only form of thinking, whereas it was the specific goal of the Romantic project to destroy the universal power of “petrifying and petrified reason” (Novalis), so that freely reflecting subjects could constitute themselves in spite of social totality. As Novalis wrote in 1795-96 in his Fichte-Studien, which can be read as an assault on Fichte's epistemological presuppositions: “I do not exist to the extent that I posit myself but to the extent that I sublate (suspend) myself—I do not exist to the extent that I am in myself and apply myself to me [i.e., stay within the limits of my already established identity]” (N, 2:196). Sublation (suspension) refers to an emancipation from those preordained (ideo)logical deductions that were inscribed on our consciousness during the process of socialization.15

The Romantics believed that they could reach this goal with the help of a program emphasizing critical readings of art in which the individual work would become the starting point for infinite reflection; they spoke of art as the occasion, incitement, vehicle, beginning, or pivotal point in this process. The way they put the question epistemologically forced them to develop a new reception aesthetics (Wirkungsästhetik) in which art would not achieve its effect automatically and almost necessarily—as was the premise of the aesthetics of Sentimentality and the Enlightenment—but rather attain its effect through self-activating individuals who, in the medium of art, free themselves from all petrifying and petrified inscriptions in their minds. Unlike the reception aesthetics of Sentimentality and Enlightenment, which held that a work of art was the sole source of positive aesthetic effects (the reader needed only to react passively if the work was of high quality), even unlike German Classicism's dialectical notion of an appropriate understanding's dependence on the quality of both the individual work and the individual reader, Romanticism completely shifted the accent to the critical recipient: “Nothing is to be done with the object; it is a medium, nothing more” (N, 2:142). Art mediates free subjectivity. The ego that is able to use art in this sense, becomes him- or herself a work of art: “The ego is not a natural product—not nature—not a historical being—but an artistic one—an art—a work of art” (N, 2:253).

This is why, for Romantic art criticism, the work itself and the notion of value immanent in works and existing independent of their reception are no longer constitutive. What is decisive is that particular characteristic of art that the Romantics attempt to describe in such terms as infinite, inexhaustible, and the like—a characteristic that refers to the reader's state of mind rather than to an objective feature of the work. An individual work can nevertheless be centered in itself and formally closed, so long as it does not present the reader with an ossifying interpretation of the world and prevent him from thinking further, beyond the formal and ideological limits of the work. For Friedrich Schlegel in one of the Athenäum Fragments, “A work is cultivated [gebildet, which also means well-formed] when it is everywhere sharply delimited but within these limits is still limitless and inexhaustible” (FS, 204). For Tieck, every “genuine work of art” makes “an infinite description possible.”16 A work need not, however, be well-formed or cultivated, “sharply delimited,” to be aesthetically valuable; the infinity contained even in a sharply delimited individual work must be activated by the critic. Since for early Romanticism the essence of art lies precisely in the act of infinite reflection, there is no difference in the value of a closed narrative work, a fragment, or a group of more or less independent works that merge in the act of aesthetic reception; they can all become the “incitement” of or occasion for infinite reflection. As Friedrich Schlegel wrote in his Philosophische Fragmente, “Fr[agmentary] forms are perhaps the most correct for everything ct. [central]”; and “Fr[agments] [are] t[he] spirit and t[he] form of universality” (KA, 18:359f.).

The notion that continuums of aesthetic reflection are inexhaustibly interpretable can be traced to Kant's concept of the aesthetical idea. In his Critique of Judgment Kant wrote: “By an aesthetical idea I understand that representation of the imagination which occasions much thought, without however any definite thought, i.e. any concept, being capable of being adequate to it; it consequently cannot be completely compassed and made intelligible by language.”17 One can describe the history of mentalities from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century as the gradual disciplining and instrumentalization of human thought (“instrumentalization” meaning the reduction of reason to an instrument for the exploitation of nature). If human thought in the sixteenth century still tended, as Michel Foucault argued in The Order of Things, toward erratic, “illogical” associative thinking based on vague similarities, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such thought was gradually replaced by a form of thinking that proceeded step by step according to rules. However, the logification of thought in the course of the modernization of Western society also produced a variety of problems. What sort of theoretical and institutional basis is there for innovative thinking when the ideal is step-by-step, rule-governed thought whose absolute dominance would, however, lead to a short-circuiting or sterilizing of thinking in general? Attempts to differentiate between the positive and negative sides of imagination led to the conceptual bifurcation embodied in the negative term fancy (Phantasie as well as Phantasterei) and the positive term imagination (Einbildungskraft), in which the imagination was further defused by limiting all its positive activities to the functionally dissociated aesthetic realm.18

This limitation did not mean, however, that the healthy effects of its use should be confined within the boundaries of the aesthetic realm. To the contrary, the productivity that reflexive reason is allowed to develop there supposedly helps it maintain its productive ability for those instances outside the aesthetic realm when instrumental reason is insufficient. Kant therefore called the imagination “a productive faculty of cognition,” in whose use “we feel our freedom from the law of association (which attaches to the empirical employment of imagination).” This means that such freedom has to be guaranteed freedom from logic. A chain of aesthetical ideas that “takes the place of logical presentation” in aesthetic cognition not only transforms an idea into another mode of representation—namely, into a sensate or graphic one, as the thinkers of Enlightenment asserted; they promoted the sensate (anschauliche) mode of representation as an adequate means of educating the masses—but also “enlivens the mind by opening to it the prospect into an illimitable field of kindred representations.”19 In other words, the chosen mode of representation does not remain external to its content; transforming ideas from one mode of representation to another and leaving them otherwise unchanged is impossible. In contrast to their function during the Enlightenment, each mode now fulfills a completely different function within the discursive organization of society.

The prospect Kant speaks of becomes visible only to the extent that the individual is successful in freeing himself from the strangulating corset of instrumental reason. For Kant, such acts of emancipation were only sporadically necessary, so that the individual could, when the need arose, momentarily overcome instrumental reason. In other words, he derived its necessity in functional terms. For the early Romantics, on the other hand, such acts of emancipation were the basic condition necessary for the possibility of subjectivity; they were supposed to lead to a permanent and fundamental emancipation from instrumentality.

This is another reason why Romantic art criticism had to oppose all codifications and uses of rules. As I pointed out above, the validity of rules is always an indication of the degree to which art has been integrated into social communication. In addition, the application of a fixed canon of rules in criticism fosters the instrumentalization of the critical process, which makes it unsuitable for sublating the technical reification of thought. All criticism that is bound by rules has to pay close attention to the details of aesthetic structures, which are commonly ideological configurations as well; in psychohistorical and psychological terms such criticism and its correspondent literature tend to be an integral part of a society emphasizing the value of strong superegos, whose intellectual identities closely reflect norms and values characteristic of that society. Criticism emancipated from the rules of poetics can associate freely. A. W. Schlegel therefore wrote:

Of course, there were many who claimed to be critics and who wrote exhaustive evaluations of art, although they were not capable of doing so. That is particularly true of those who preferred to judge, or who judged exclusively, on the basis of so-called correctness. … [With this term] they referred … to perfection of individual elements of a work of art, including the smallest details, which supposedly could be achieved without reference to the work as a whole. One could label this form of criticism atomistic … in that it views a work of art as a mosaic, a laborious assemblage of minute, dead particles, even though everything that earns the name [of art] has an organic nature, in which individual elements exist only through the mediation of the whole.20

The reflective continuum of art that sublates logical, instrumental thought has an organic nature. Such a conceptual framework, filled as it is with metaphor, originates logically in the binary opposition of the two semantic fields that structure Romantic thought. Since everything mechanical or machinelike is relegated to the negative field (discussed above), the infinite reflective continuum intended in (to use Schlegel's term) “progressive universal poesy” is interpreted to be organic.

That the Romantic concept of art as an infinite reflective continuum was not the result of an escapist attitude—that is, of an aestheticistically motivated fear of taking sides in the struggle for cultural or ideological hegemony (as one could still read until recently)—is repeatedly made clear by the structure of the arguments used in Romantic discourse: the opponent against whom the argument is directed, who therefore structures the Romantics' own discourse ex negativo, is the instrumentalization of culture. As A. W. Schlegel put it: “the products of mechanical art are dead and limited; the products of the higher, spiritual arts are alive, internally mobile, and infinite. The former serve some external purpose, whose achievement they do not transcend, and the reasoning that proposed them can understand them at every level.”21 It becomes obvious here that notions of infinity and inexhaustibility were conceived of together with the concept of the living or the organic; the aspects of art covered by these concepts, which are activated in the act of criticism—that is, brought to life from a state of mere potentiality—are supposed to protect art (in its double sense of artistic objectifications and the critical, subjective act) from reification.

Of course, conceiving of art's radically critical nature in such terms threatens it with semantic atrophy—semantic in the sense of identifiable, even if unstable, units of meaning. When Friedrich Schlegel refers to Romantic poetry in the famous 116th Athenäum Fragment, where he calls it “progressive, universal poetry,” he says that it must be “free of all real and ideal self-interest, on the wings of poetic reflection, and can raise that reflection again and again to a higher power, can multiply it in an endless chain of mirrors” (FS, 175). This comes close to propagating a mode of aesthetic writing that is empty of content. As Heinz-Dieter Weber put it, Schlegel formalizes “the text into a substratum of the occasion for reflection,” because a text is valuable not when it can be read for various semantic effects but only “when, in the interest of openness and of establishing a [reflexive] progression that is impossible to halt, it devotes itself to ‘promoting self-reflection’ … so that, in the final analysis, every text that permits this is equally valuable. As a result the demand for an apparently progressive reflective continuum can be met in such a way that the impulse behind new productive creations no longer exists.”22

The question is whether any mode of reading of works of art, which will always remain self-contained (semantically delimited in one sense or another), can ever transcend the individual work's ideological structure: that is, whether the semantic structure of any work of art can ever be so “infinite” and “inexhaustible” that all its ideological delineations are necessarily sublated by the aesthetic mode of presentation claimed for “universal poetry.” The Romantics themselves noticed that the idea of reflexive infinity does not necessarily contradict the idea of self-containment. Novalis, for example, envisioned the possibility that closure and infinity exist concurrently in art: “Something is absolutely at rest when the external world regards it as absolutely immobile. However much it may alter itself internally, in the view of the external world it remains at rest. This sentence refers to all self-modification. The beautiful therefore appears to be so immobile. Everything beautiful is a self-illuminated, completed individual” (N, 2:461). The question arises whether, in spite of its internal, conceptual “inexhaustibility” (see N, 3:664), the border that separates it from the external world does not force a definite ideological dimension onto the text—whether the fluctuation involved in aesthetic reflection, which sublates conceptual certainty, does not always take place within a definite and definable ideological framework, which would mean that although the reflective flux Friedrich Schlegel speaks of cannot be halted, it is nevertheless ideologically specific.

Again, the early Romantics apparently saw this themselves. At least, such an insight would provide an explanation for why on the one hand they retreated from the concept of the closed work of art and favored as poetic genres the open novel and the fragment, and why on the other hand they tended to free the critic's aesthetic reflections from the limits placed on them by the internal structure of a work. The category of wholeness already makes this clear, because in Romantic thought wholeness is never a merely objective characteristic; it never refers to an evaluative quality emanating from the act of artistic production that is present for all times. In Romantic thinking, aesthetic wholeness tends to be something that the recipient produces for himself, independently. As Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling wrote in his Philosophie der Kunst: “For someone who, when confronted with art, does not succeed in contemplating it freely, that is, contemplating it at the same time passionately and actively, enthusiastically and deliberately, all the effects of art are merely natural effects [which is how the era of Sentimentality viewed aesthetic effects]; he behaves like a being in nature, and he has never really experienced or recognized art. What moves him are, perhaps, individual beauties, but in a true work of art there is no individual beauty; only the whole is beautiful. Therefore, whoever does not bring himself to comprehend the idea of the whole is completely incapable of judging a work.”23 During the High Enlightenment, Moses Mendelssohn and Lessing still held that even if the work as a whole did not possess any aesthetic qualities, the “individual beauties” contained in a work of art possessed a completely positive validity.24 In the meantime the book market had developed into an important industry; as such, it was subject to the principle of profit maximization, which led to an ever-increasing rationalization of the writing process—including the establishment of so-called writing factories in which writers specialized in different modes of writing, to the exploitation of various literary effects used to influence the public, and to the harmonization of the literature written for the marketplace with the normative demands imposed upon social life by the process of modernization.25 In this emerging context the new emphasis on wholeness as a central criterion in art criticism was intended to be socially critical. Concentrating on the whole aesthetic structure—a critical adjustment demanded for an adequate reading—was supposed to give the reader the strength to free himself from the emotive mechanisms of the culture industry. Schelling wrote in just this sense when attacking the culture industry's writing strategies: “Serious, theoretical instruction in art is all the more necessary in this age of the literary Peasant War being waged against everything elevated, great, theoretical, yes, even against beauty itself in poetry and art; where what is frivolous, emotional, or, in a base sense, aristocratic is idolized and accorded the greatest honor.”26

The Romantic aesthetic of effect (Wirkungsästhetik) therefore aimed at an intellectualization of aesthetic reception without ever allowing that reception to arrest its motion within a conceptual framework. According to Romantic terminology, this intellectualized reading of art remained “organic,” “free-floating,” and “infinite” because it never fell prey to “petrifying reason.” The project claimed for itself that it wanted to deconstruct not only the reification of thought but also the rigidity of emotional reactions (and thereby the social inscriptions on the body, the psyche, and the intellect) brought on by the culture industry. The failure of this project as a result of its idealistic presuppositions is discussed below. Still, it is doubtlessly true that the Romantics were conscious of the social dimensions of their project. As Schelling concluded from his own deliberations: “Part of general social education (allgemein gesellschaftlichen Bildung) should be … to have formed in oneself the ability to grasp the idea of the whole, as well as the reciprocal relationship of the parts to the whole and, in addition, that of the whole to the parts.” In an almost Adornean argument Schelling then proceeds to deduce the necessity of a synthesis of philosophy, artistic production, and criticism: “But this is possible only through science and especially through philosophy. The more exactly the idea of art and the work of art is constructed, the more it becomes possible to influence not only laxness in critical judgments but also frivolous attempts in producing art or poetry, which are generally made without any idea of what art is. … Only philosophy can reopen those ancient productive wellsprings of art, now generally sealed shut, for reflection.”27

How the critic is to be freed from a one-sided dependence on the inner structure of the work of art becomes clearer after an examination of the way Friedrich Schlegel linked the following two ideas in his Charakteristik des “Wilhelm Meister”: in artistic reception it is necessary (and here he begins by repeating a Romantic idea that I documented above with A. W. Schlegel and Schelling) “to be able to abstract from individual features in order to comprehend the totality while hovering above those [individual features], to be able to survey a mass and retain the whole while listening for its most hidden elements and connecting those most disparate. We have to raise ourselves above our own loves and become capable of annulling in our thoughts those things we cherish; otherwise, no matter what other abilities we have, we will be without any feeling for the universal.”28 The intellectual annihilation of what we cherish—that is, of the beautiful—is necessary because liberation from society's “text” cannot take place within the semantic and ideological borders of an individual work; it can occur only while contemplating “infinity” or “the universe” in a way that encompasses all possible points of view. When Walter Benjamin says that “the moment of self-annihilation, the potential negation through reflection, cannot outweigh the thoroughly positive aspect of raising the level of consciousness in the person engaged in reflection,”29 he fails to realize that the negation advocated by Schlegel is the precondition for the critic's elevation in the act of reflection. The intellectual annihilation of the beautiful has nothing to do with the critical negation of a failed work, and it is completely consistent with the fundamentally affirmative nature of Romantic criticism. Intellectual annihilation means a mode of thinking that sublates what it negates; that subsumes and includes specific, concrete ideas—that is, potentially all possible semantic “identities”—while at the same time floating between these “identities,” never arresting their meaning; that keeps those ideas in a constant state of flux, thus creating a semantic zero point at which our attention is not focused upon individual, identifiable ideas. Such a state of reflection is both complex and protected from naive, positional thinking; it is intended to permit thinking that is not constrained by always already existent social inscriptions.

This concept is radically different from Fichte's early position. Fichte assumed that thinking was possible only as a process of proceeding from one mental content to another. For him, the “infinity of reflection” could exist only as endless human argumentation, as a set of logical steps from content to content. However, for the early Romantics, as Walter Benjamin has shown, what is important is “not the infinity of process but the infinity of correlation. … Fichtean reflection means reflection within the absolute Thesis [i.e., within the positing of the other, which for the individual has always already taken place]; it is reflection that is supposed to remain within the Thesis, and is not intended to have any meaning outside it, because there it would lead nowhere.”30 The early Romantics wanted to rescue the ego's capacity for self-limitation, its capacity to transgress the realm of the always already posited; for Fichte, these limitations predate the ego. As a result, Romantic literary criticism scarcely concerns itself with plot structure and character constellations. Criticism of character always has to discuss the figures as ideological paradigms, while criticism of plot has to view the shift from narrative configuration to narrative configuration as a temporal and figurative unfolding of semantic strategies. That kind of critical practice would be possible only on the basis of Fichte's epistemological presuppositions, which in this regard are closer to the late Enlightenment than to Romanticism. By way of contrast, Romantic literary criticism, because of its sociocritical and epistemological presuppositions, by and large has to abstract from the specific sets of semantic oppositions immanent in a work of art, for “criticism is far more than the merely aesthetic form of explicating art” to which it is so frequently “denigrated” (KA, 2:14). The mode of argumentation in Romantic reviews reflects this idea with formulations such as Friedrich Schlegel's observation about Georg Forster: “However, it is not just this or that view but rather the dominant tone of all his works that is really moral.” On the one hand, Schlegel disassociates himself from the concept of morality based on positional thinking in terms of opinions, in which one opinion in contrast to another is moral: Forster is moral on the basis of his unique personal stance, not because of his specific convictions. On the other hand, Schlegel also distances himself from the practice of reviewing that concentrates on individual works: “It is just as absurd to attempt to get to the bottom of a particular work without already knowing [all the other works of] an author; only by repeatedly studying all the works that were produced by and in one mind can one find the real [individual] point of view, which is what matters in the end.”31

Since Romantic criticism is not interested in evaluating individual works, it remains “without an answer to the question of art's meaning.”32 For poetry as “the high art of constructing transcendental health” (N, 2:535) is initially supposed to provide only the preconditions for arriving at meanings that are not merely restatements of those established in a reified and alienated public discourse. Poetry is supposed to rejuvenate that discourse. As a result, Novalis can write: “Poetry is the basis of society, just as virtue is the basis of the state” (N, 2:534). For Friedrich Schlegel, the functional effect achieved by poetry as a medium is actually its most important task; its success guarantees that humanity will empower itself: “Education's most important task is to empower one's transcendental [i.e., reflecting] self, to be the ego of one's ego.”33 Criticism makes it possible to achieve this state.

We constantly have to remind ourselves that Romantic criticism was not interested in judging or ordering objective values. In fact, the concept of (objective) value did not interest the Romantics in the least. Friedrich Schlegel's early and isolated formulation, that the critical genius's only task “is to determine the value or lack of value of poetic works of art” (KA, 2:14)—which is often quoted out of context and is thus easily misunderstood—does not alter this view. The Romantics were equally uninterested in the concept of judgment, which is so constitutive for the current notion of critique. In their eyes an act of judgment that attempts to establish the value of a literary work is a reification of the critical process, the ossification of activity. “At the stage of mere judgment the individual feels himself to be passive,” wrote Novalis in 1797 (N, 2:363). Friedrich Schlegel's Gespräch über die Poesie, for example, makes it clear that the early Romantics regarded this form of reification as part of the quantifying process they associated with acts of exchange. Antonio, one of the characters in Schlegel's work, attacks his friends by claiming that, “the principles underlying their criticism … were to be found in [Adam] Smith's writings about the wealth of nations. They were happy only when they could put another classical writer into the public treasury. … For the same reason, and in the same manner, they were just as proud of the fabrication of the best pairs of scissors as they were of the best poetry” (KA, 2:289). The Romantic concept of literary criticism implies a process taking place within the subject and acting upon him: “Being critical means elevating thought so far above all constraints that a magical insight into the falsity of these constraints will result in the concurrent comprehension of the truth.”34 In Romanticism, as Walter Benjamin has already emphasized, critical and reflective attitudes toward art are fundamentally the same.

In an early essay, Über das Studium der griechischen Poesie (1795), Friedrich Schlegel used the ancient-versus-modern opposition to argue that in contrast to its modern counterpart, ancient art was “beautiful,” which for him meant “disinterested” (interesselos). He reproached modern art for having a one-sided interest in cognition; as “interested” art it preferred the typical and the general. The early Schlegel, for whom the term “modern” had not yet become the positive, historico-philosophical concept it was in his later writings, was apparently thinking of the semiotic, ideological function of art in the Enlightenment and its integration into the public discussion of norms and values. He accused modern art of “aesthetic heterogeneity” and compared it unfavorably to the autonomy of ancient art. The semiotic and ideological utilization of the institution of art in the eighteenth century (a form of utilization that has since been continued in popular literature) was what made it possible for Schlegel to view ancient art as the ideal reflection of a better society. His assessment expressed the socially critical desire for a world freed from particular interests, a world not ruled by the abstract principles of exchange. In the Lyceum Fragments Schlegel criticized his earlier study by speaking of its “revolutionary rage for objectivity” (FS, 150); the phrase refers to the intellectual gesture with which the early Schlegel projected everything positive into the distant past, without conceiving of a strategy for overcoming the social negativity of the present. Once this “rage for objectivity” is overcome, his strategy changes, but his goals remain the same. At this point he starts to believe that a redefined form of modern poetry—namely, ironic poetry—could shoulder the burdens he had previously placed on (what was interpreted as objective) beauty in premodern poetry. Carl Schmitt's criticism of Romanticism, that it had attempted to “use the past as a negation of the present,”35 is basically true only for the short initial phase of early Romanticism and for late Romanticism, not for the most productive and most important period between approximately 1798 and 1806. Following this initial phase, the early Romantics postulated a concept of “universal poetry” that was generally not interested in using the past as a mirror in which their contemporaries could discern the negative aspects of the present. On the contrary, with their concept of universal modern poetry they intended to intervene actively in social reality to “make poetry lively and sociable, and life and society poetical” (FS, 175). Irony in art and in criticism was an important means to that end.

The concept of Romantic irony converges with the concept of criticism, just as it does with the concept of reflection. All three aim at overcoming the classical aesthetic of representation with an aesthetic of production, in which what is to be produced is not so much a work as an ability or an attitude that can induce a more humane praxis. In Lyceum Fragments 42, Schlegel defines irony “internally,” that is, as a subjective potential rather than the objectified irony contained in a work (which is not as important to him): it is “the mood that surveys everything and rises infinitely above all limitations, even above its own art, virtue, or genius” (FS, 148). Irony involves a free-floating condition, which is not positive per se (that would lead to a new form of ossification in aesthetic indeterminacy) but rather implies a momentary liberation from “dependency”: that is, from the system of social acts of (communicative or material) exchange. While floating free of the dictates of reality, the ironic critic can supposedly make decisions that are not predetermined by the relations of dependency inherent in society. The reference to reality always has to be preserved; otherwise, the dialectical tension between ironic reflection and social reality would be lost. If it is lost, there are only two possible modes of existence left: the existence of the philistine, who is completely under the sway of reality; and the existence of the aestheticistically isolated artist. Consequently, Schlegel says that irony “contains and arouses a feeling of indissoluble antagonism between the absolute [Unbedingte] and the relative [Bedingte]” (FS, 156). This indissoluble antagonism and irony's anarchic, deconstructive relationship to that pole of this opposition where everything is “determined” by the intricate web of social totality are the result of the Romantic analysis of society.

The Romantic discourse was structured by three questions to which the Romantic concepts of criticism, irony, and reflection were supposed to provide answers: (1) How is it possible for subjectivity to be constituted freely? (2) How can the relations of dependency in society be breached? (3) How can free subjects interact with one another humanely in modern society? This fact is inadequately dealt with whenever (as has repeatedly been the case since Rudolf Haym's influential monograph Die romantische Schule, 1870, and Carl Schmitt's studies) Romanticism is accused of subjectivism or egocentricity with a resultant loss of objectivity. Carl Schmitt was certainly correct in writing: “Irony and intrigue are not ideas around which society can crystallize, nor can a universal social order be structured around the need not to be alone, but rather to be a free-floating participant in an energizing discussion.”36 However, Schmitt's conclusions presuppose an analysis of society and an epistemology that the Romantics no longer accepted: namely, mental activity as the crystallizing point for political activity, and subjects as powerful centers of cognition and action—which in turn implies the possibility of constructing society on the basis of rational judgments. The degree to which the failure to reconsider such presuppositions can hinder an understanding of both the Romantic project as a whole and individual concepts becomes clear when Lothar Pikulik, for example, in his study of “Romanticism as an experience of normality's insufficiency,” writes in affirmative reference to Schmitt that for “the Romantics reality was only an occasion for the development of the subjective play of fantasy.”37 Aside from the fact that the statement inadvertently allows Schmitt's pre-Fascist notion of political order to show through, the intended direction of the effects exercised by irony and fantasy are reversed: Schmitt's formulation, “the Romantic keeps avoiding reality, but ironically,” eliminates the strategic, deconstructive dimension in the relationship of irony and fantasy to what exists.

It is certainly true that one can find statements—taken out of context—that make the Romantic project look like a flight from reality. To add a further example to the ones presented at the beginning of this essay, in A. W. Schlegel's Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst one can read: “The fantasy removes this disturbing medium [reality] and submerges us in the universal; it creates and activates within us a magic kingdom of constant change in which nothing exists in isolation, rather where, through a miraculous creation, everything becomes part of everything else.”38 However, interpreting such statements as obvious calls for a flight from reality is false. The disturbing medium of reality is, in fact, the purely quantitative utilitarianism that has been drilled into us; it has to be deconstructed before “active reason” can become “productive imagination” (N, 3:460) and initiate discussions of norms and values that are freed from the ostensible constraints of reality. Fantasy is revealed to be nothing other than productive imagination operating in the face of ossified reality. Fantasy, reflection, and irony are the constitutive components of the critical discourse on art, whose primary function is to allow the critic to enter into a productive relationship with reality, one that is freed from instrumentally crippled reason. It is interesting to note how Novalis introduces the category of productive reason in his Allgemeiner Brouillon: “What if understanding [Verstand] were not a sense of qualities but only of quantities—and active memory in contrast only a sense of qualities.” He begins the fragment with this question, before explaining his use of the term “memory” shortly thereafter: “Categories of memory—categories of reason—active reason is productive imagination” (N, 3:460). The Romantics radicalized Kant's distinction between Verstand (understanding) and Vernunft (reason) by turning the terms into sociocritical categories fundamentally opposed to each other and by aestheticizing the concept of reason. Fantasy liberates reason from thinking only in quantities.

With such ideas, the early Romantics come astonishingly close to anticipating similar ideas in Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment. This is also true of their reflections on language. For just as the subject, through his or her socialization, is always already integrated into the conditioned relationships of modernity, so too has the language available to writers always already accommodated itself to the structure of modernity. Whereas Horkheimer and, even more, Adorno therefore concluded that the import of any statement, especially in philosophy, has to be surrendered to an unconventional, obtuse style, which is intended not only to impede easy reading but also to generate new meaning, the Romantics viewed their own ironic, fanciful playing with language as a means of breaking out of a language deformed by instrumental reason: “A pure thought—a pure image—a pure sensation are all thoughts, images, and sensations—that were not awakened by a corresponding object [such as a sign] but rather emerged outside so-called mechanical laws—outside of the mechanistic sphere. Fantasy is one such extra-mechanical force” (N, 3:430). Art that is saturated with this force, as Schelling wrote in his Philosophie der Kunst (a book that was very influential in early Romanticism), “impresses [einbilden] the infinite on the finite, the ideal on the real.”39

In his 1808 review of Fichte, Friedrich Schlegel dealt with that author's attacks on the concept of fantasy and on the “fanciful” playfulness of modern writing; Schlegel argued against Fichte's avowed intention of “rooting out fantasy from the human mind, because it can degenerate into raving fanaticism.” In spite of all of Fichte's insightful criticism of the contemporary situation, Schlegel accuses him of ultimately viewing social reality affirmatively. In an ironic reference to Fichte, Schlegel contends “that many otherwise extremely intelligent men were absolutely unable to transcend their own age; no matter how much effort they expend to rise above it, no matter how decisive the rigor they turn against it, they nevertheless fall back under its sway, because they lack … an anchor outside their own era.” The result of this affirmative attitude is that “the vast majority in any age, the legitimate elite of its sensible and well-educated members, … just like Herr Fichte, [regard] art as nothing more than the portrayal of reasonable and moral life. For them nature is dead material, the means and a tool for the realization of goals prescribed by reason; that state is best developed [ausgebildet] where the state has inculcated all its citizens to the greatest degree [with the desire to unite] their customs and efforts in its one purpose.”40

In the eyes of the Romantics, uniting society into one interdependent network—which would suffocate every “qualitative” difference while pressing art into its customary service of reproducing that society ideologically—robs art of its sociocritical potential, which can be guaranteed only through its use of deconstructive, anarchic fantasy and irony. It is interesting that Schlegel's argument connects the institutionalization of art that took place in the Enlightenment with the exploitation and subjugation of (external and internal) nature in the economy and with the organization of the modern state for the purpose of gradually improving economic (re)production. It is also interesting that he does not see any difference between so-called high literature, in those instances when its role within the institution of art was limited to portraying moral life, and popular literature. Both of them (and this view is historically accurate; ever since Romanticism, popular literature has continued the institutional tradition begun with the Enlightenment's functionalization of art as a mediator of life-practical norms and values, although it is increasingly in the service of the easily assailable interests of the culture industry) fall victim to the dialectic of Enlightenment. As a result of their voluntary integration into the process of social communication, both “high” and “low” literatures reproduce established modes of speaking and thinking; even the critique of contemporary conditions, if it accepts the rules of public discussion, remains locked within the system of binary oppositions inherent in the system. In the “age of books” (KA, 2:332) it is generally true that “paper cement … glues people together” (N, 2:488). Reading popular novels, as Antonio puts it in Schlegel's Gespräch über die Poesie, “really serves no purpose other than killing time and destroying the imagination” (KA, 2:330). Reading that has become a “necessity” (KA, 2:330)—that is, an addiction—produces a uniform set of human reactions; the “paper cement” unites people by leveling their differences for the purpose of more easily achieving the aims of the modern state.

The project behind Romantic art and art criticism is an attempt to break out of this set of relationships. The “original chaos of human nature,” which fantasy is supposed to recreate (KA, 2:319), refers to a free-floating condition directed against a one-sided systematic order and against hierarchical thinking. The “infinity” that art is supposed to represent symbolically, while criticism activates it, thus actualizing its functional goal, refers to that which is not ossified in (semantic, ideological, linguistic, psychological, and so on) identities. If fantasy and irony can introduce “infinity” into reality, the ossifications of social reality will dissolve. It is precisely this thrust behind the Romantic project that is overlooked when Romanticism is decried for its egocentricity and its loss of objectivity.

What is decisive in the Romantics' conception of their own project, however, is not the destructive but the productive moment in this free-floating state.41 To be sure, Friedrich Schlegel, who wrote in his Transzendentalphilosophie in 1801 that absolute freedom for the fantasy was “the ultimate goal of everything” and “the most valuable possession,” also asserted in the same context that “a society organized in accordance with this concept of freedom would be anarchy—one could call it the kingdom of God or the golden age. Essentially it would be complete anarchy” (KA, 12:84). Yet at the same time he wrote: “The essence of humanity consists of understanding [Verstand, i.e., reason as an instrumental tool in the material reproduction of society] and fantasy.” In the same context he had defined understanding (Verstand) as “the highest power of consciousness [as long as the latter is merely] concerned with the notion of lawfulness in the relationship of the whole to individual elements”: that is, as the indispensable form of thought that operates with well-defined identities, while fantasy is that which “propels the finite into the infinite, where lawfulness ceases.” The early Romantics' idealistic anthropology allowed them to imagine both the liberation of humanity from the inscriptions of social totality and the construction of new, socially untainted identities as a process originating in the free-floating state of liberated consciousness created by irony and fancy. They viewed imagination as a human capacity untouched by and independent of the social process. They assumed “that lawfulness [i.e., the production of new modes of lawful thinking in this condition] would [then] be determined by freedom, which would result in a relative freedom; whoever promulgates the laws himself is relatively free” (KA, 12:85).

For the Romantics the reconstruction of “transcendental health” is impossible as long as individuals remain agonistically isolated. In isolation the individual cannot think difference; he or she can only think in traditional terms, can only proceed along the chain of preexistent identities. In other words, in order to communicate meaning successfully in the usual sense, the individual has to disregard the Other, suppress difference, and attempt to fit him- or herself into an already functioning, preexistent semantic structure. In playing with the components of the German for “to ponder” (nachdenken: nach = after, and denken = think), Schlegel says that what we call thinking “is really more thinking ‘after’ [i.e., a thinking that is dependent on the thinking that preceded it] than [self-active] innovation [Dichten]” and therefore “a particularly wrong-headed form of individuality” (KA, 19:95). The result is that the individual who sticks to the ideal of linguistic transparency, and therefore tends to suppress difference, ossifies in his “delimited individuality” (KA, 19:95); or he constantly and inadvertently falls back into a state of ossification if he is always unable to “transcend his own identity anew, in order to search out and find a supplement to his own most personal essence in the depths of an other,” thus sublating his subject-centered thinking in a “play of [real] communication and approximation,” which leaves difference intact and which, for Schlegel, is “the business [i.e., purpose] and the force of life” (KA, 2:286). Novalis expresses the same idea in Fichtean terminology, while correcting Fichte: “Instead of a non-ego—thou” (N, 2:430). But if the “thou” remains a mental image for the ego—a non-ego in the Fichtean sense—the individual who does not accept the otherness of the other as challenge to his own identity reifies that other by relegating it to the realm of already established mental images.42

In the eyes of the Romantics the encounter between “I” and “thou,” which changes the identity of both for the better, is possible in only one medium, the medium of poetic language. Novalis, for example, developed a theory of the interchangeability of the center (I, or the ego) and the periphery (thou), which was oriented toward a theory of mediation that leaves difference intact. Poetry as mediator of otherness offers the individual an opportunity for reflection that is not delimited by the boundaries of his or her own identity. Whereas Fichte held that cognitive freedom can be found only in the form of a subject-centered reflection, in which the individual turns the attention of his reflexive reason to his own identity, thus questioning it, the Romantics were convinced that such self-reflection on the transcendental rules under which we act was not enough to guarantee that the ego would accept an other in its otherness. According to Novalis, the latter becomes possible only in an “appropriate state of dialogue” (N, 2:649), in which we recognize the reflecting other as a reflecting self—that is, as a (different) free center; this supposedly is the state that poetry engenders in humans. Poetry thus becomes a precondition for the possibility of a dialectical—nonsolipsistic—self-constitution of subjectivity. In his Fichte studies, Novalis characterizes the dialectical nature of this “appropriate state of dialogue” as follows: “The first designator interacts with the second. The former is guided by the signs of the latter, while the latter is guided by the signs of the former—a quasi-free contract.” As soon as the first designator, the creative artist or the critical writer, “thinks in terms of signs and signifieds, he anticipates in his imagination the other's will. … The other's will has to occur concurrently with the action that takes place within the former” (N, 2:110f.).

Art results from and initiates mimetic assimilations of otherness. This concept of approximating the other's will in mimesis also has hermeneutic consequences for criticism. From the perspective of the Romantics, any attempt to come up with a “correct” interpretation of what an individual work of art “means,” an ideal that still underlies most academic interpretations, implies an agonistic stance that corresponds to the social principles of a society based on competition. As in the agonia of antiquity, interpretations compete hermeneutically by claiming victory—that is, truth. However, as Novalis says, poetry should initiate “the most intense sympathy and interaction [Coactivität]” (N, 2:533). Its criticism, exhausting itself hermeneutically by constantly trying to comprehend the otherness of the other, should develop interpretative categories that are not always already determined by the agonistic praxis of society. The act of interpreting texts therefore converges with criticism in a dialogical ideal the Romantics called symphilosophein, which is the act of philosophizing together, an ideal that shrinks at the thought of formulating any final doctrine. “The only complaint I have regarding the attempt to interpret Goethe,” says Antonio toward the end of the first version of the Gespräch über die Poesie, “is that the judgments it contains are often expressed too peremptorily [imperatorisch]. It may very well be that there are people living in the boondocks who hold completely different views on one thing or another” (KA, 2:349).

For the Romantics, the relativity of artistic judgments has nothing to do with an epistemological skepticism. “The aforementioned subjectivity in even the most thorough judgments in no way justifies,” according to A. W. Schlegel, “a general skepticism regarding art. Various people could, in fact, have the same center in front of them, but because each of them is standing at a different point along the circumference, they would describe differing radii leading to it.”43 The philosophical perspectivism that Schlegel advocates here, which was at the root of the early Romantic concept of the characteristic—that is, that which is distinguished by an unmistakably individual perspective on things—and of criticism as a genre characterizing the characteristic, is derived from Leibniz.

This historical reference to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is interesting because it helps to explain the relationship among the concepts “organic,” “individuality,” and “characteristic” and their common connection to the Romantic critique of civilization. In his Monadology Leibniz had written: “And as the same city looked at from different sides appears entirely different, and is as if multiplied perspectively; so also it happens that, as a result of the infinite multitude of simple substances, there are as it were so many different universes, which are nevertheless only the perspectives of a single one, according to the different points of view of each monad.”44 Interpreting individuality as an indivisible substance was a reaction to the process of modernization. In the seventeenth century this process was most visible in the development of scientific and analytic thought, which attempted to explain everything according to the model of mechanics; the machine was a common metaphor in all kinds of discourses. Claims for the universal validity of this mode of explanation threatened the qualitative unity of subjectivity. Leibniz therefore tried to prevent the dissociation of subjectivity as a unity of cognition and consciousness by proclaiming the ego to be an indivisible substance. In his view, these substances or monads were centers of meaning and analysis, and they could in turn comprehend and explain totality from the point of view of their own (particular) perspective and maintain their individuality within this perspective. Interpreting individuality as a substance implicitly contains a critique of the penetration of calculation into the sphere of experience. Organic individuality was conceived of as a fortress that would be able to withstand the negative side effects of modernization.

It was precisely this aspect of Leibniz that was taken up by the Romantics. They hoped that what was individual and characteristic in art and art criticism would be able to resist both the sociohistorical and the intellectual process of abstraction. In his review of Goethe's novel Elective Affinities, Karl Solger wrote: “Here [in the modern world] the first-born is the individual, who carries the image of God within himself. And to be sure, he does not carry an image of a universal or an absolute God, but rather one that endows this particular element of finite appearance (which we now call the individual) with his very own essence, belonging only to him. Today, therefore, everyone can find his own God only within himself, and also his philosophy and his art, or whatever he would like to call it.”45 Solger says respectfully that even when Goethe reflects on particular things, he remains “characteristic”: that is, individual in his perspective.

Early Romanticism's valorization of what is characteristic of an individual testifies to the strategic, anarchic-deconstructive character of its project. Although German Classicism, which was far more concerned with using beauty to present an ideal image to the present, classified the characteristic above simple imitation (see, for example, Goethe in Der Sammler und die Seinigen from 1799), it relegated the characteristic to a position far below beauty as a representation of the ideal. Friedrich Schlegel's early essay Über das Studium der griechischen Poesie contained the same negative judgment of the characteristic; for the reasons outlined above he complained of “the absolute profusion of the characteristic, the individual, and the interesting in the whole mass of modern poetry.”46

With the Romantics' transition from an aesthetic of representation to one of the production of subjectivity, this judgment changes quite decisively. From this point on the early Romantics turn against the ideal of an objectively beautiful object implicit in representational aesthetics, because objective beauty can also suppress the individuality threatened by modernity. Now that the “mode of representation” is considered to be an ideal through which “even the most limited object” can gain “a totally unique and independent essence,” and through which “yet another aspect, a new variation of universal and, in spite of all the changes, authentic human nature, a small part of the infinite world” can be portrayed, Friedrich Schlegel would like “to see the doubtful and ominous attribute of immortality completely eliminated from our concept of what is classical.”47

The notion of the characteristic introduces an (apparent) paradox into the Romantic project of art criticism. Within the history of art criticism in general, the central concepts of Romantic art criticism, which structure Romantic theory as well as individual reviews and interpretations of works of art, are, of course, thoroughly specific and historically unique instances (that is, characteristic) of the group known as the Romantics. At the same time, however, the Romantics claim that their insights into art and their own “characteristic” products in art criticism possess a universal validity, which—strictly speaking—recognizes only their own criticism as real criticism. But this obviously contradicts their concept of criticism as the poetry of poetry and their concept of criticism as characterization, because both these concepts presuppose the existence of histories in which otherness cannot be sublated: a history of criticism that consists of “characteristic” (that is, incompatible) critiques, and a history of art that also consists of “characteristic” (that is, historically specific) works of art. In other words, the historicity of their own categories would make logically impossible a history of criticism (which A. W. Schlegel described as a collection of the “most impudent, witty, direct expressions of the mind”) based on these categories. Either the evaluation of historical instances of art and art criticism would occur according to the “characteristic” perspective of the Romantics, thus destroying the otherness of other “characteristic” perspectives, or it would end in an absolutely tolerant relativism, which would be too shallow to comprehend otherness. This apparent paradox becomes visible, for example, in Schlegel's critique of Forster when he denies that Forster has “any real feeling for the artistic representation of the beautiful” but nevertheless highly praises his judgment in artistic matters: “Even the most perfect representation could not reconcile him to a content that injured his sensitivity, offended his morality, or failed to satisfy his intellect. … Forster's unique theory of art is interesting as a specific opinion if for no other reason than that it is so completely his own and so much the product of his emotions, but above all because it regards its object from the indispensable point of view of cultured society, which will never achieve such a degree of connoisseurship that artistic merit will allow it to forget justice and the demands of morality and reason.”48

How is it possible to resolve the paradox between the respect for the artistically positive “uniqueness” of Forster's critical judgment and the accusation that he is missing a feeling for art, especially if both art and judgments about it should be characteristic? And what of the “demands of morality and reason” on art, which the Romantics generally regarded as a sign of the reviewer's rationalistic limitations and his relapsing into the strictures of instrumental reason, as well as an indication that art was mistakenly made to serve some social function?

The resolution of this apparent paradox, in the Romantic mind, is that the concept of the characteristic is used at two different levels: first and foremost with reference to individual works and individual judgments, but also with reference to the “universal-poetic” characterization of something “characteristic,” a characterization to the second power, which transcends specific instances of art and art criticism by relating them to the infinite continuum of history. In other words, “characterization” as a critical genre exists at both levels of reflection. According to Friedrich Schlegel in his Charakteristik des “Wilhelm Meister,” any characterization, at whatever level, “is not supposed to function like a mere epigraph reporting what a thing really is, where it is located in the world, and where it is supposed to be; that would simply require a complete, undivided human being who would make the work the center of his activity as long as was necessary.” A real characterization “crosses the borders of the visible work with conjectures and assumptions” and “supplements, rejuvenates, and reshapes the work” from its own peculiar perspective.49 At any rate, a higher mode of characterization will add to critical reflection “by relating it to the universe” and establishing a connection between the individual work and its history, including the history of its reception, as a higher continuum of aesthetic reflection. “On the other hand, our own efforts are directed,” as A. W. Schlegel wrote: “at forcing artistic criticism to adopt a historical point of view, i.e. at regarding every work of art, no matter how closed upon itself that work might be, as belonging to a chain determined by the conditions of its production and existence, and at comprehending it on the basis of what existed before, what followed it, and what is still to come.” Shortly thereafter he also called the historical point of view the “disinterested viewpoint [Indifferenzpunkt],”50 in which identifications with specific moral positions are sublated by focusing on the complexity of history. History here is apparently being aestheticized—without necessarily being depoliticized at the same time. Reflecting on the characteristic within the endless continuum of history is the highest form of aesthetic reflection; it is criticism as the poetry of poetry, in which the first level of poetry can be a characteristic work or an artistic judgment.

What is interesting about the dialectical relationship of the two levels of reflection is that literature promoting “justice and the demands of morality and reason” can be an extremely valuable instance of art on the first level. The early Romantics have no complaints about socially engaged literature if it is permeated by the consciousness of its own historicity and contextuality. To be sure, such literature is not an expression of the highest form of consciousness (which is reserved for Romantic universal poetry, poetry written from the second level of reflection), but it is still necessary in particular eras—presupposing, of course, that it does not completely exclude the higher form of consciousness. Forster, according to Friedrich Schlegel, “respected … the value of universal receptivity,”51 which means he remained open to other positions. For the Romantics, the necessity of such openness did not follow from an “enlightened” model of open, public discussion but rather from the traps of modernity in which everything is controlled by “the purposes of the state” and the hegemony of instrumental reason.

The ideal of openness inherent in the Romantic project is not connected with a linear concept of historical progress as was the case in the Enlightenment; it is epistemological in nature and contains a latent readiness to engage in “infinite” aesthetic reflection outside of the traditional boundaries of the aesthetic. The Romantics held that such openness does not necessarily exclude a latent disposition to make morally unequivocal, “finite” judgments—that is, to engage in political issues and choose sides; they were convinced that the latent disposition to reflect prevents engaged judgment in specific cases from ossifying into merely positional thinking. The Romantics were arguing against the agonistic identification of and with one's own position, which usually leads to a systematic fortification of that position and remains unproductively intolerant of any contradiction. As Friedrich Schlegel wrote in his Forster review: “In a system of doctrines complete freedom even from the smallest contradiction might be an important virtue. For an individual, whole person taking an active part in society, however, such uniformity and rigidity are generally the result of blind one-sidedness and obstinacy, or even of the complete lack of unfettered personal opinions and perceptions.”52 The latter, however, are aesthetic qualities that predispose one to the aesthetic use of critical reflection. That the deconstruction of agonistically ossified identities (the term “identities” always refers here to the dialectic between “semantic” identities in language and personal identities) was viewed as an aesthetic process was related to the fact that the eighteenth century interpreted the mimetic concern for the particular and the individual—that is, a collection of “vivid impressions through observing an object”53 that did not precipitously subsume the individual in some general category—as an aesthetic stance. The deconstruction of “generalized” identities was viewed as a recovery of the particular, which by definition is an aesthetic procedure. To be sure, the Romantics removed the cognitive moment, affirmatively connected with an overall concept of cognitive progress that had previously been considered constitutive of the aesthetic perception of objects, and replaced it with a strategic aspect: the deconstructive, rescuing force of aesthetic reflection. Since in their view this reflection is an absolutely necessary precondition for a life that is neither reified nor alienated, the epistemological equality attributed to sensory-aesthetic and conceptual perception in the Enlightenment was dropped in favor of the valorization of art. However, one has to be constantly reminded that in this instance “art” does not refer to works but to their perfection in criticism, viewed as the poetry of poetry; in the shadow of this critical reflection the logical operation of instrumental reason loses its petrifying character and can be sublated, or overcome, without being eliminated.

Before examining the increasing deterioration of the critical potential of the Romantic concept of criticism after 1808 (in the final section of this chapter) and also before turning to late Romanticism, I would like to attempt a historically critical assessment of the early Romantic concept of criticism, dealing more thoroughly with several negative aspects of that concept. My own presuppositions, which I can naturally only hint at, obviously influence the way I view these problems. The enriched “point of neutrality” (Indifferenzpunkt) or free-floating state, to which the Romantic subject is transported through criticism, is supposed to be a state in which the individual, on the strength of what he or she has achieved through reflection, has freed him- or herself from the inscriptions of social totality. But the Romantics never discussed the possibility of material inscriptions on the minds and bodies of individuals by social praxis—inscriptions that are not completely amenable to cognitive analysis.

In the first instance, their failure is connected with the fact that the Romantics perceived social totality too statically—that they did not see it as a social process whose interactions also both follow and produce a “text,” which is inscribed on individuals. Liberation from this text would have to occur through means other than a form of reflection that is exclusively and inherently linked to reflection on language, if one were actually to achieve the free-floating state the Romantics strove for (which would also have to allow for the construction of social praxis on new lines). Their idealistic presuppositions become visible precisely where the Romantics seem to argue materialistically: “All states are based on money; but money originated accidentally; it could just as easily disappear again, which would deprive states of their foundation. All present states would collapse” (KA, 12:47).

In addition, their difficulty is related to their conception of human consciousness as a homogeneous, undifferentiated, and noncompartmentalized entity, evenly filled with mental images and their linguistic representations. Yet consciousness is apparently intertwined with social praxis in such a way that only clearly delimited segments of the whole are engaged in specific realms of praxis, without our ever suffering too severely from this fragmentation. This segmentation of human consciousness reflects the institutionalized segmentation of various realms of social praxis, which is the result of the differentiation of society into social subsystems in the course of modernization. We fail to recognize the contradictions inscribed in our behavior and in our consciousness precisely because they correspond to the “rational” organization of society and are therefore defused and made to appear normal.

The conception of a homogeneous, undifferentiated consciousness is also a precondition for the anarchic-deconstructive features of the Romantic project, with its production-oriented aesthetic, in the sense that it assumes that the effects of aesthetic reflection on consciousness would be the same for all consciousness. The segmentation of consciousness that corresponds to the institutional differentiation of society can, however, hinder the transference of the effects of aesthetic reflection to nonaesthetic areas of consciousness. In other words, the institutional autonomization of the aesthetic realm in modernity aids in the compensatory functionalization of art, which in turn defuses the potential impact of art's critique of society by aestheticizing it.

For the Romantic concept of criticism the result is the collapse of the constitutive dichotomies of criticism and polemics, good and bad, art and the culture industry. For if one cannot escape the inscriptions of social praxis with a language-based strategy of deconstructing instrumental reason, then reflection on such inscriptions, especially on the products of the culture industry, is inherently necessary for cultural criticism to raise society's “writing” to the level of awareness. Of course, this kind of critical praxis could be institutionalized only as a collective, social praxis, not as the esoteric practice of a literary group. Annihilating the “bad” in order to devote oneself to infinite reflection on the “good” essentially means that the opportunity for a liberation from material inscriptions is lost. As a result of their idealistic presuppositions the Romantics basically return to Fichte's position and share his contempt for the masses. Contrasting the masses' addiction to prevailing ideas with the independence gained by the elite in a free-floating state of critical intelligence, Fichte held that “Just as Penelope's suitors, already caught up in the destruction planned for them, caroused in darkened houses and laughed with alien cheeks [i.e., they belong to the world spirit; see below], so too do they [the masses addicted to the times] laugh with alien cheeks; for in their laughter the eternal wit of the world spirit is laughing at them. In general, we are happy to allow them their pleasures, and we are careful not to remove their blindfolds.”54 In the early Romantic project one can nevertheless detect attempts at institutionalizing the criticism and evaluation of art as social processes that would have been in a position to dislodge the inscription of social totality on subjects. In this sense the Romantics were the idealistic forerunners of the materialist critical praxis later formulated by authors such as Bakhtin, Benjamin, Brecht, and Negt/Kluge.


After 1807-8 the critical potential of Romantic criticism was increasingly repressed, but this development was already implicit in the ambivalence contained within the early Romantic concept of criticism. I have already pointed out that in Germany the eighteenth century was a period marked by an increasing social disciplining of the populace in general. (In other countries, most notably Spain, the process had begun much earlier.)55 Under the pedagogic influence of various social institutions, including the state, the whole of a person's life was regarded as a period of productive labor. The rationalistic demands of modernization were making the rhythms of everyday life more mechanical. Regarding leisure time as the necessary, regenerative side of the labor process was part of the new relationship to time; historically speaking, the emerging necessity of maintaining a productive balance between work and leisure was a precondition for the functional differentiation of the aesthetic realm. According to Achim von Arnim in his essay Von Volksliedern, the estate made up of industrial manufacturers “wanted active hands, wanted factories, wanted people to wear their products. For them festivities were exclamation points and dashes [within everyday life] that were far too long; a comma, they said, would certainly be enough. Furthermore, his [the manufacturer's] needs should become a law enforced on every estate (everyone should be medicated into society)”: that is, welded into a social body of citizens who are subject only to the authority of a unified state (see above). The way the statement continues shows why the literary motif of the good-for-nothing was so beloved in late Romanticism: “Since the producing estate [Nährstand] needs a firm and solid house, everyone who wandered about without any particular business in mind was banished as a good-for-nothing, completely disregarding the fact that the state and the world need these wandering troopers and lost knights the most … to carry out their best, and most difficult undertakings.”56 At the end of the quotation, however, one aspect of late Romanticism, which would be even more obvious following a detailed analysis of the whole essay, becomes apparent: the socially critical discourse of early Romantic poetry loses its strategic and concrete reference to the present in late Romanticism; the better times this literature often portrays are now identified with a concrete, historical time: namely, the late Middle Ages.

The Romantics' reaction to the increasing social disciplining of society's subjects (as Arnim said, “In the city physical training is giving way to repressive mental exertions, so that children can be forced into men's jobs”)57 was to a large degree exactly that: a re-action, not intellectual comprehension. This was already particularly true of those aspects of early Romanticism that can only be explained psychohistorically or psychoanalytically. Manfred Frank has recently demonstrated in detail the Romantics' astonishing valorization of Dionysus, the god of intoxication, ecstasy, and fertility.58 The same valorization can be observed with other motifs that call up an image of a free-floating state or of dissolution (Entgrenzung): the Venus motif, the Orpheus motif, woman as a symbol of non-male (that is, non-agonistic, non-rational) principles, erotic ecstasy, the desire to experience time as “timeless,” traces of the mother-child symbiosis in the memories of adult heroes, and so on. Many of the human desires portrayed in Romantic narratives can only be explained psychoanalytically as desires for experiences similar to our experience with reality in the phase of primary, pre-oedipal narcissism: that is, in the state of a mother and child's libidinal unity. In psychohistorical terms the increasing disciplining of the population in the course of modernization led to a reinforcement of the patriarchal reality principle. The Romantics' socially critical intentions were at the base of their opposition to this principle, but the nature of their deconstructive strategies led all too easily to the valorization of opposing experiences and antitheses. What was missing was the realization that the poetic representation of such oppositional experiences not only did not hinder the functional differentiation of the aesthetic realm into a compensatory institution; it actually hastened the process.

Limited as I am to the context of Romantic criticism, I cannot examine these poetic motifs in greater detail. The psychohistorical aspects of the Romantic project are of concern to us here only to the degree that they permeated the theoretical and critical discourse of the Romantics. In this sense the “golden age” as a code word for the melancholy memory of lost harmony is not just a historico-philosophical category; its meaning also has an ontogenetic and individual-psychological dimension. Even the image of a conceptually diffuse, free-floating state achieved in the infinite reflective continuum of art (criticism) is undeniably associated with the psychic desire for dissolution. In fact, most of the metaphors contained in Romantic discourse are extremely revealing in psychoanalytic terms. Friedrich Schlegel's Gespräch über die Poesie, for example, begins as follows: “Poetry reconciles all the souls who love it and binds them together with unbreakable cords. Even though they strive for the most disparate goals in their own lives, absolutely despise what others hold to be the holiest, misunderstand and fail to inquire about each other, and thus remain eternally alien, in this one particular sphere a powerful, magical force nevertheless unites them and keeps them at peace. Every muse seeks and finds another, and all the streams of poetry flow together into the great universal ocean” (KA, 2:284). This paragraph strikes a careful balance between words that vary the motif of strife and alienation and those that formulate a desire for dissolution in the medium of poetry (“streams … flow”). The metaphor of the ocean, which in Symbolism and Aestheticism became a common cipher for the desire for dissolution in people tired of civilization, already pointed in the same direction in Romanticism.

The early Romantics' desire for harmony, which was initially an aspect of an anarchic, deconstructive, culture-revolutionary strategy directed against the present, hardened noticeably in late Romanticism into a restorative utopia. In a certain sense the late Romantics were trapped by the image of a better past, which arrested their critique of the present—although that image still was supposed to function as a critical mirror for the present. But when that past became too concrete and historical, it lost both its active, strategic connection to the present and its historico-philosophical reference to the future.

The concept of the folk (Volk) and of folk poetry (Volksdichtung) played an important role in this development. The concept of the folk expressed a political, antimodernist desire for national harmony, because the idea was intended to overcome “the boundaries of class with the help of a utopian preview of an intact community [Gemeinschaft] composed of a synthetic union of citizens, who would communicate with one another and understand each other, not just superficially through the medium of the state but in an unmediated fashion through the system of common language [Umgangsprache].”59 What is remarkable is that as soon as the desire for harmony lost its psychic and political ambivalence (one could also say as soon as Romanticism lost the narcissistic individualism condemned by Carl Schmitt), it turned into a regressive utopia. In the discourse of Romanticism “the people” or “folk” is primarily a historical category; the concept refers to a time that predated the “fragmentation” brought on by modernization: “In an era when there was one universal set of beliefs, one national character, and one specific goal,” as Wilhelm Grimm wrote in a review of Arnim's Armut, Reichtum, Schuld and Busse der Gräfin Delores, “every extraordinary force had an opportunity to express itself. … But in these times of infinite division an extraordinary force can hardly express itself otherwise than in eccentricity.”60 Left to its own devices, and threatened by modernization, the modern “folk” suffers from “poetic exhaustion and disharmony.”61 In this context collecting folksongs (Volkslieder) was a cultural-political act of conservation: “Virtually forgotten among the people, we stumble painfully to find their roots. Once a lofty mountain peak is completely deforested, rain washes the soil away; no trees grow again. Our goal is that Germany's resources will not be squandered in this way in the course of economic development [Verwirtschaftet].”62

Since real popular poetry (Volksdichtung) is an expression of a people's spiritual unity, it could thrive only in premodern times. As Joseph Görres wrote in his Einleitung zu den Volksbüchern (Introduction to people's literature): “If we look for the universal character that all these writings have in common, we have to convince ourselves that these creations are rooted in the masses and find their own, independent existence there, and that an internal sympathy must exist between them and the nation itself. There has to be a moment of elective affinity within them, and the same moment has to exist within the people. In a process of give and take everything is then united in love and is harmonized in a general spirit of joy and intimacy.”63 Behind the publication of folksongs and folk literature in the age of modernity was the hope of re-creating the collective harmony they expressed; Achim von Arnim put it as follows: “If the German peoples were linked by one common spirit, they would not need this collection; oral transmission would make it superfluous.” Collections like the famous Des Knaben Wunderhorn were therefore intended not to provide scholarly documentation of a tradition but rather to create this “common spirit.” The point becomes particularly clear in the debate about whether the poems were genuine, which was unleashed by J. H. Voss with his attacks in the newspaper Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände. Voss claimed that the editors of Des Knaben Wunderhorn “were guilty of fraud, forgery, smuggling, and malicious fakery.” In the course of the dispute, which lasted for more than a year, Jakob Grimm wrote to Brentano in 1809 that he should not “publish an index of what was true and false [i.e., authentic and inauthentic] in Wunderhorn as a part of a history of popular poetry,” because calling attention to what was not authentic would detract from the collection's main purpose: namely, “making all the poems universally valid”64 for the purpose of recreating a “common spirit.”

Folk poetry that was thought to express “the ancient, pure feeling for life”65 was scarcely open to criticism. Since it was an organic product of the people, and positive in and of itself, it could not be improved upon. Görres therefore separated a more valuable, natural poetry from less valuable art: “We believe quite frankly in the existence of a real natural poetry, which comes to those who practice it like a dream, which is neither learned nor earned, nor acquired in a school, but which is like a first love, which even the most ignorant person comprehends completely in an instant; whoever practices it effortlessly does best when he studies it the least, and does ever worse to the degree that he attempts to understand it. We have a high regard for art, which it deserves, but there is more demand for nature. And that is only right, because, although we are surrounded by art, nature has made itself rare.” Görres continues in a manner that illustrates the typically binary structure of the Romantic arguments critical of civilization. Modern art, he says, which is based on the quantifying exploitation of effects, is no longer able to resist its own times: “These mint supervisors have assayed and standardized the whole language, determined the value and validity of every word, and tested every combination. … How many gears are necessary for a machine, how many teeth each gear has, how many axles are in the gearbox, how the casings in which the axles go are built, and where the openings are supposed to be. All this has been calculated exactly, and talented workers only assemble works according to rules that divide heartbeats into thirds.”66

Görres's critique of modern literature is reminiscent of eighteenth-century criticism of popular literature; both evaluate art against the background of a fundamental dichotomy. But for Görres, the dichotomy is no longer one within the present, no longer a synchronic dichotomy between “high” and “low” art, but a historical, antimodern dichotomy between the good art of the past and modern art. This allows him simultaneously to historicize and to biologize the notion of the good—that is, natural—poetry for the purpose of a critique of civilization. However, what is biologically good loses every active, critical meaning for cultural politics; it either exists or doesn't exist. To the degree that it exists, it achieves by itself the synthesis that the Enlightenment entrusted to critical public discourse and that early Romanticism sought in the individual's own deconstruction and reconstruction of subjectivity and in an I-thou encounter made possible through the reflective medium of poetry.

Criticism loses its function where public speech and an emphatic notion of life or vitality in art are thought to oppose one another. As Achim von Arnim wrote in his essay Von Volksliedern: “Everyone had something to say about his life [during the period of ‘universal complaint and suffering’ called the Enlightenment], but no one was alive. Since no one lived according to the impulses of his nature but according to its constraints, counterfeit money and short measure were as common in thought as in the marketplace. No estate believed that its necessary origin made it as thoroughly good as the fruits of the earth, but that its worth was determined by exchange formulas having to do with the purpose of its business.”67

“Organic individualism” was originally a concept that was opposed to the dissolving, alienating power of analytic thinking and the abstracting force of exchange. However, the notion was originally not insulated from the social process, as happened later when it was made mythical, but interpreted in such a way as to remain directly connected to reflection as a mode of cultural resistance. The metaphorical transference of the concept to the realm of art allowed for the idea of “organic” reflection, which could be cultivated in order to overcome the negative aspects of a centripetal mode of rational thinking. Transferring the concept of the organic to the notion of a people and to national history eliminated the ties that that concept had with reflection and speech or writing, making any sort of institutionalized reflective discourse impossible. And to the degree that literature's historico-philosophical dimension harks back to the static image of a regressive utopia, literary criticism's function dwindles. As a result, the late Romantics tended to dispute the value of criticism. Arnim, for example, polemicizes against the “inventors of this hellish art of reviewing and the critical babble of washerwomen.”68 In 1810 Wilhelm Grimm wrote to Brentano that he found “no immoderately severe criticism justified,” because “modern art can never be absolutely perfect. … Only national poetry [Nationaldichtung] is perfect, because, like the laws handed down from Mount Sinai, it is written by God himself; there are no fragments as there are in human works.”69 Unfortunately, one can only wait humbly for national poetry and the conditions in which it becomes possible. Nothing is better able to illustrate criticism's loss of purpose in late Romanticism than Wilhelm Grimm's comparison of modern art with national poetry. The critique of civilization, still present in Arnim's critiques, for example, is fixed in images of a regressive utopia and thus paralyzes critical and artistic praxis: “However often these scarecrows twist about with their own unauthoritative opinions, wherever the hose of their artistic spray is directed, art seldom turns, in the face of the miseries of our times, to pure activity; art [as produced today] is almost never necessary, but for most an evil habit [compensatory institutionalization of the aesthetic realm!]. … The artists of the world are therefore as superfluous as they are mutually miserable.”70

The late Romantics thus tended to discard a critical discourse that in early Romanticism was still characterized by the dialectic of negating and conserving tradition; the resultant dialectical tension between negation and conservation fostered an atmosphere of probing communication that was intended to transform society through—and in the course of—reflecting upon it. The insight that had been common since the time of Kant and Lessing, that we can “only defend and expand upon moral and political achievements” when the norms and values we use to orient ourselves “can be linked to self-evident remnants of tradition,”71 was increasingly replaced in late Romanticism by an appropriation of the concept of tradition that excluded this dialectic.


  1. F. Schlegel, Literarische Notizen, [1797-1801/Literary Notebooks, ed. Hans Eichner (Berlin: Ullstein, 1980).] ln 714.

  2. Dieter Arendt, Der poetische Nihilismus in der Romantik. Studien zum Verhältnis von Dichtung und Wirklichkeit (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1972), 1:12.

  3. In [Oscar] Fambach, Jahrhundert, [Ein Jahrhundert deutscher Literatur-Kritik, 1750-1850 (Berlin: Aufbau, 1963)] 193.

  4. [Gisela] Dischner, Bettina von Arnim, [Eine weibliche Sozial-biographie aus dem 19. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Wagen bach, 1977).] 133.

  5. In [Hans] Mayer, ed. Meisterwerke, [deutscher Literaturkritik: Aufklärung, Klassik, Romantik (Berlin: Rütten and Loening, 1956.)] 1:612f.

  6. Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:615-16, 624, 621, 612.

  7. Ibid., 547.

  8. Ibid., 619.

  9. Hans-Joachim Mähl, Die Idee des goldenen Zeitalters im Werk des Novalis: Studien zur Wesenbestimmung der frühromantischen Utopie und zu ihren ideengeschichtlichen Voraussetzungen (Heidelberg: Winter, 1965), 357.

  10. See the interpretation of the historical avant-garde in Peter Bürger, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).

  11. Dischner, Bettina von Arnim, 133.

  12. Eichendorff, Werke und Schriften, [ed. G. Baumann with S. Grosse (Stuttgart: Cotta, n.d.).] 2:506.

  13. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre, 1794 (Hamburg: Meiner, 1979).

  14. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), 601-2 (A751-52, B779-80). I have changed the translation slightly: to translate eines gesetzlichen Zustandes as “of a legal order” narrows the meaning of gesetzlich considerably.

  15. See in this connection Jochen Hörisch, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft der Poesie. Der Universalitätsanspruch von Dichtung in der frühromantischen Poetologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1976), 80.

  16. Ludwig Tieck, “Briefe über W. Shakespeare,” Poetisches Journal 1 (1800): 24-25.

  17. Kant, Critique of Judgment, [trans. J. H. Bernard (New York: Harner Press, 1951).] 157 (A190, B193).

  18. Cf. my essay “Imagination and Modernity; or, The Taming of the Human Mind,” Cultural Critique, no. 5 (Winter 1987): 23-48.

  19. Kant, Critique of Judgment, 157-58.

  20. Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:627.

  21. Ibid., 607.

  22. Heinz-Dieter Weber, Über eine Theorie der Literaturkritik: Die falsche und die berechtigte Aktualität der Frühromantik (Munich: Fink, 1971), 55.

  23. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1976), 3.

  24. See my Kritik an der Trivialliteratur, [(Munich: Fink, 1971)] 33-34.

  25. In this connection, see Jochen Schulte-Sasse, “Literarischer Markt und ästhetische Denkform: Analysen und Thesen zur Geschichte ihres Zusammenhangs,” Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 2 (1972): 11-33.

  26. Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst, 5.

  27. Ibid., 3.

  28. Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:581.

  29. [Walter] Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, [ed. Rolf Tiedermann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1974] vol. 1, pt. 1, 67.

  30. Ibid., 26, 29.

  31. Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:555, 561.

  32. Ingrid Strohschneider-Kohrs, Die romantische Ironie in Theorie und Gestaltung (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1960), 233-34.

  33. Quoted in Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1, pt. 1, 93.

  34. Ibid., 51.

  35. Carl Schmitt, Politische Romantik (Berlin, 1919), 104.

  36. Ibid., 226.

  37. Lothar Pikulik, Romantik als Ungenügen an der Normalität: Am Beispiel Tiecks, Hoffmanns, Eichendorffs (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979), 88.

  38. A. W. Schlegel, Literatur und Kunst, [ed. J. Minor (Stuttgart: Heiremann, 1884).] 17:93.

  39. Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst, 273.

  40. Fambach, Jahrhundert, 197-98.

  41. In this connection, see also Weber, Theorie der Literaturkritik, 44-45.

  42. See Hörisch, Fröhliche Wissenschaft, 135.

  43. In Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:630.

  44. Leibniz: Selections, ed. Philip P. Weiner (New York: Scribner, 1951), 544.

  45. In Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:760.

  46. Schlegel, [Seine prosaischen] Jugendschriften, [ed. J. Minor (Vienna, 1882)] 95.

  47. In Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:566, 576.

  48. Ibid., 629, 569.

  49. Ibid., 592-93.

  50. A. W. Schlegel, Literatur und Kunst, 19:9.

  51. In Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:550.

  52. Ibid., 557.

  53. Ibid., 550.

  54. Fichte, Sämmtliche Werke, [ed. J. H. Fichte (Berlin: Veit, 1846).] 7:77.

  55. See the research carried out by José Antonio Maravall, esp. La Cultura del Barroco (Barcelona: Ariel, 1975), trans. Terry Cochran as Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).

  56. In Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:697-98.

  57. Ibid., 709.

  58. See Manfred Frank's outstanding book Der kommende Gott: Vorlesungen über die neue Mythologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1982).

  59. Ibid., 234.

  60. In Fambach, Jahrhundert, 587.

  61. Josepf Freiherr von Eichendorff, Werke (Munich: Winkler, 1976), 3:153.

  62. Achim von Arnim, in Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:717.

  63. Ibid., 691.

  64. Fambach, Jahrhundert, 13, 33, 42.

  65. Achim von Arnim, in Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:717.

  66. Joseph Görres, review of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, 1809-10, in Fambach, Jahrhundert, 454f.

  67. Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:704.

  68. Ibid., 723n.

  69. In Fambach, Jahrhundert, 604.

  70. Achim von Arnim, in Mayer, Meisterwerke, 1:701f.

  71. Willi Oelmüller, Die unbefriedigte Aufklärung: Beiträge zu einer Theorie der Moderne von Lessing, Kant und Hegel, mit einer neuen Einleitung (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979), xxxi.

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Criticism: Literary Reviews


Criticism: Wordsworth And Coleridge