Romanticism in Germany

Romanticism in Germany
Romanticism was a European cultural revolt against authority, tradition, and Classical order (the Enlightenment); this movement permeated Western Civilization over a period that approximately dated from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. In general, Romanticism is that attitude or state of mind that focuses on the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the creative, and the emotional. These characteristics of Romanticism most often took form in subject matters such as history, national endeavor, and the sublime beauties of nature. According to historians, the mind-set of the Romantics was completely contradictory to the straightforwardness, impartiality, and serenity of 18th century Classicism. By the 19th century, Romanticism and Classicism had clearly been established and recognized as a major split in art. Masses of Europeans found the concepts of Romanticism appealing and the engagement of these concepts resulted in the reshaping of nineteenth century Germany. The Romantic Movement played a significant role in intellectual life, influencing the country?s nationalistic fervor. Nationalism was born with the French Revolution. Nationalism refers to the belief that the state and the nation should coincide as a single entity. It is best described in the equation ?people = nation = state.? In 1789 the people of France, defined themselves as the nation, took control of the state and the nation state was created. The sense of nationhood was intensified by the internal attempts to overthrow the revolution and by the experience of the war. Victories abroad instilled a feeling of national pride and of national duty. At first the fraternal wish was to free other subject peoples. Then later to civilize Europe by the export of French ideas and by the further control of foreign territory, which was an aim particularly, associated with the Napoleonic Era (1799-1815). Napoleon claimed that the sole purpose of regulating alien territory was to free Germans and Italians, but whilst he reconstructed the frontiers of the European states, he did very little to encourage nationalism directly. Nationalism developed as a reaction to French rule in the geographical areas of Germany. A general feeling of humiliation blanketed the populace of Germany after the invasion and people began to rise up against the empire of Napoleon I. The spirit of nationalism took a stronghold in Germany.
Writers began to expound common culture, heritage and language that defined Germans. Works from Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), one of the earlier well respected German philosophers and writers of the time played a significant role in the development of the patriotic insurrection. He concentrated on the human powers of reason and intuition. Kant?s interest in natural rather than ?artificial? intellect inspired the critic Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) to suggest that artistic intuition had little to do with education or intellectual refinement. Like the language itself, Herder said, poetry rises form the collective consciousness of a people. Herder collected and edited German folk songs and encouraged others to examine the ?popular? arts of the past as the English were doing at the same time.

Herder also collaborated with Wolfgang von Goethe and others in a pamphlet, Von deutscher Art und Kunst, which became the handbook of a movement termed Sturm und Drang (storm and stress). The movement?s emphasis on the personal crises of an individual was inspired in part by Rousseau and by the new cult of ?sentiment? in England. Its major result was the early work of Goethe himself. The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) set Germany and all of Europe to writing novels about suicide. German authors became cultural leaders of Europe, writing literature that that was fundamental in its stress on subjectivity and man?s discomfort in society. If German literature had ended at this point it would already have contributed a new note to the Romantic movement. But Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, and Friedrich Holderlin extended beyond the Sturm und Drang philosophy to a new lyric and drama that established the golden age of German literature.

Goethe towered over his associates. His Faust (in two parts, 1808 and 1832) is the greatest of all German works; a giant dramatic poem that seemed the epitome of its age. The novel of character growth, Wilhelm Meister?s Apprenticeship (1795-1796), broadened Goethe?s influence on fiction. He also made a contribution to science and the study of morphology of living organisms.

Goethe?s gift greatest gift remained always with the lyric. He could achieve a scene, an insight, or a passion with both perfect form and incomparable emotional intimacy. The anthology of love lyrics Westöstlicher Diwan (1819) contains some of the most beautiful lyrics in any language. Using persuasive dialect he captures the essence of Romanticism and inspires his fellow Germans to be proud of their achievements and adhere to one another.

Friedrich von Schiller places second to his friend in the German memorial. He was a consummate dramatist, often focusing his works on political injustice, as in the passionately liberal Die Räuber (1781). Among his later plays are Wallenstein (a trilogy, 1798-1799), Mary Stuart (1800), and William Tell (1804).

Schiller also wrote an extensive history of the Thirty Years War and a considerable amount of lyric poetry. His ?Ode to Joy? is set in the last movement of Beethoven?s Choral Symphony. Other German Romantic writers of the period were Ludwig Tieck, Novalis, Holderlin, and W.H. Wackenroder. These writers demonstrated the power of individual perception. German Romantics were fascinated with literature and emphasized the importance of history specific to the country of one?s origin, which led people to believe they had a common past. The union of history and literature evokes a sense of common cultural heritage, which in turn fosters nationalism.

Not only did writers deviate from the median of Classical order, but a number of artists also investigated the possibilities beyond the strict scholastic principles of Neoclassical art in Germany. In the midst of these artists, the German Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), a man immersed in religion, utilized images of a solitary tree or a cross reaching to the heavens to imply the marvel of nature and soul, the weltschmerz of his time. He generally focused on painting eerie scenes such as Man and Woman Gazing at the Moon. Another prominent artist of the period was the landscape painter Philipp Otto Runge. He attempted to use symbolism in his paintings in order to convey an abstract message, which was the souls of individuals are part of the universal soul of nature. Romantic artists emphasized an illustrious past, the exoticism of nature, emotional and spiritual topics, and the representation of unachievable standards. Romantics now had the freedom to express themselves adding a liberal tone to the nationalistic movement in Germany.

Romanticism in music was characterized by an emphasis on emotion and individualistic form. It achieved its maximum growth in the opus of German composers. Even though some elements of Romanticism were present in the music of Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert it reached its pinnacle in the compositions of Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Wagner. Romantic composers of the middle period of romanticism are Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and Grieg. Those classified in the last phase of the Romantic era include Elgar, Puccini, Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Sibelius.

Chopin?s Revolutionary Etude, Beethoven?s Third Symphony, and Schumann?s Rhenish Symphony changed classical forms radically and paved the way for a new age. The masterpieces created by these composers struck a new chord with the people. With every orchestral note there was an aura of emotion and the boundaries of Romanticism were broadened. Sonatas for violins and pianos, chamber music, symphonies, operas, Masses, and songs, set new heights of technical excellence. Not only were they masters musically but this was combined with a high degree of showmanship, sometimes becoming as famous and well regarded in their day as kings and statesman. Poetry, legends, and folk tales often influenced music. Literature formed the basis for various sonatas and symphonies. Some musicians gained such high status that they became the equivalent of a nationalistic spokesman. Music plays a significant role in the development of German culture.
A German nation had already been identified in cultural terms, now a political shape was given to that cultural nation. The nationalistic movement was achieved through revolution. Middle class citizens were gaining higher social status, giving the people a political voice, which means certain rights were guaranteed to the individual.

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