Germany Literature from 1750 to the Present Day Part 1
Germany diminished interest in deductive reasoning, and instinctive turning of reflection to the immediacy of life; direct observation of reality; development of the critical spirit in contact with experience, independently of any ideology, were the first elements of this deepening for which the Aufklärung, ceasing to be an epilogue of the past, generated new orientations, beyond what had initially been the its limit. While Popularphilosophie (M. Mendelssohn, 1729-1786; F. Nicolai, 1733-1811; etc.) continued to support the now tranquil rationalistic current, limiting itself to spreading “the lights of the century” in ever wider areas of society by means of of popular magazines and collections (Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften, from 1757, by Nicolai; Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, directed from 1770 by CG Heyne, etc.); and while, on the other hand, in Austria the Enlightenment reached its driest hue with an accent of skepticism (A. Blumauer, 1755-1798; etc.), which deprives it of that human warmth in which there is still the leaven of life of Germanic Aufklärung even where it is mediocre (T. Abbt, 1738-1766; GC Lichtenberg, 1742-1799; JG Zimmermann, 1728-1795; A. Cramer, 1752-1795; etc.), the awareness of the problematic nature of all the solutions that rationalism had given were instead imposed on the major spirits of the time. And from the humanitarian ideologies of Antimachiavel (1739), Frederick the Great, passed to an agile realism that allowed him to create the foundations of Prussian power; and even in the midst of internal contradictions between the aspiration to a rational order of existence and his temperament of great individuality intolerant of every external obstacle, he gave a singular impulse to the spirit of his people, forming their conscience, exalting their strength, strengthening them ambitions; so that even Goethe – although much mistreated by him in the essay De la littérature allemande – will acknowledge that he was the first to give literature, as well as to all German life, a “truer and higher content”. At the same time Lessing, by subjecting the interpretations of Aristotelian poetics to a radical revision, moved no longer from pre-established principles, but from his own immediate experience of poetry; practically overcoming the aged eighteenth-century aesthetic that still ensnared him in theory, he formulated statements in which a new aesthetic was already implicit; it crumbled and dispersed the French classicist influence and the academic formalism into which this had developed; the dominant tendency to descriptive poetry was disrupted; established as the substance of poetry the principle that poetry is action, and thus brought poetry itself into contact with life (Miss Sara Sampson, 1755; Laocoon, 1766; Minna von Barnhelm, 1767). Aiming at Shakespeare (Hamburgische Dramaturgie, 1767-68), he instinctively shifted the center of the aesthetic investigation from the examination of the work to the soul of the poet, and, understanding poetry as creation, he perceived form as congenital to poetry, inseparable from matter dealt with: thus freeing the poet from the preoccupation with form; it destroyed every bond of external rule; impetuous and limpid, agile and vehement, he was at the same time creating for the first time in Germany a prose capable of adhering to life; a living, whole man, advancing beyond the irreligiousness of the century and Protestant theological casuistry, bringing the Aufklärung to that culmination of spirituality in which it exceeded its limit (Nathan, 1779), because in poetry as in religion, in everyday existence as in the idea of society, the source of life was seen in the soul of individual, which is anxiety for truth, search for truth, and precisely in being perennial anxiety and perennial search has its greatness.
According to CANCERMATTERS, reason thus ceased to annihilate in itself the elementary instincts of life; and sentiment, entered with Klopstock into German poetry with such vehemence as to even claim to stop the moon, found with growing individualism and under the influence of Rousseau a complete freedom of development. The mystical rebirth that must have had such a wide diffusion in the last three decades of the century (JK Lavater, 1741-1801; JH Jung Stilling, 1740-1817; etc.) received a powerful impulse, so much so that for a certain period he remained in his circle got Goethe himself. And if among the poets of Göttinger Hain (1772-1774) some remain still taken in the forms of classicism (JH Voss, Iliade, 1793), out of which they dare not venture, and by the reawakening of sentiment they are led to a renewal of the idyll (Voss, Luise, 1795), while others manage to rediscover the lyrical sources of poetry, spreading themselves in melodious forms of a simple tone (L. Hölty, 1748-1776) and naive (M. Claudius, 1740-1815), with an attitude that, especially under the idyllic aspect will last until the end of the century (CA Tiedge, 1752-1841; F. Matthisson, 1761-1831; JG Salis-Seewis, 1762-1834); still others exalt themselves in the sentiment of their own history and lineage, in the footsteps of Klopstock, in the Bardite poetry; finally others rush into the vehemence of instincts and their words find accents of passion and, while on the one hand poetry is exalted in revolutionary aspirations (Friedrich, 1750-1819, Christian Stolberg, 1748-1821), d ‘ other part bursts free and visionary in the forms of popular poetry (GA Bürger, Lenore (1774) is both the definitive decline of classical formalism and the song of passion that overcomes even death.