Germany Literature: the Baroque Period


Humanism, anticipated by the stationery contacts of Charles I of Bohemia with Italy at the end of the fourteenth century, and witnessed its beginnings from ‘ Ackermann aus Böhmen of John of Tepl, it was a contemporary, in Germany, the Reformation (early XVI century) and had its major representatives in J. Reuchlin, F. Melantone, U. von Hutten, C. Celtis, J. Fischart, N. Frischlin, T. Murner, J. Wickram etc. The reception of Latin and Romance humanistic culture was however frozen, in the second half of the sixteenth century, by Lutheran rigorism, which had also stemmed the symptomatic war of the peasants (1525). For almost two centuries the reactionary and nationalistic element – opposed to the cosmopolitanism and humanistic tolerance of Luther’s antagonist, Erasmus of Rotterdam (ca. 1466-1536) – prevailed within the Reformation over the revolutionary potential already contained in free examination. Luther’s translation of the Bible between 1522 and 1534 and its immense diffusion, due to the invention of printing, provided Germany with a modern linguistic unity based on High German. Luther’s replacement of the Latin liturgy with community chant also promoted the development of religious liederism (parallel to that of religious and secular liederism in Catholic Germany). Meanwhile, the same reaction to the decadence of morality and faith that is at the origin of Luther’s doctrine inspired a crop of satirical writers, including S. Brant (1458-1521), as well as the strengthened national consciousness increased popular literature, which created timeless figures such as Till Eulenspiegel and Faust. Academic circles, on the other hand, actively cultivated poetry in Latin, a place of aristocratic escape from reality. The Baroque age in Germany was marked by the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which decimated the country’s population and economic resources.


According to Allcitycodes, the irradiation of the Reformation imparted a confessional character to the German literary baroque, however mitigated by the influx of Italian music (music and opera are interdependent, even more than in the Romantic age) through Austria, Bohemia and Saxony, and by the secular-classicist revival expressed by the “reform” of M. Opitz (1597-1639). Linguistic societies, poet circles (in Königsberg, Nuremberg, Weimar, Heidelberg, Hamburg) and mystical circles flourished as places of escape from historical tragedy, and the pastoral novel, lyric, heroic poem (mostly of French, English, Spanish inspiration) with a significant incidence of marinism in the second half of the century (C. von Hofmannswaldau, Casper von Lohenstein), while P. Fleming and A. Gryphius could appear late interpreters of the Renaissance, while JC Günther (1695-1723) is modernly isolated. The theater was strengthened both by Protestants (Gryphius, Lohenstein), who felt the influence of Elizabethan theater, and by Catholics and in particular by the Jesuits (N. Avancini, J. Bidermann), lovers of the Senechian imitation drama in Latin. But more valid than the still valid lyrical results of Fleming, F. von Langenfeld Spee, A. Silesiusand the almost pre-romantic aesthetic intuitions of G. Ph. Harsdörffer is still today the novel by HJ von Grimmelshausen, Simplicissimus (1669). The reaction to the Baroque moved from France, from ‘ Art poétique of N. Boileau, and had its authoritative spokesman C. Weise (1642-1708). The first half of the eighteenth century was dominated by French culture and classicism, without this dominance meaning for the Germans the absorption of the non-denominational philosophical rationalism of the French. Centers of cultural radiation were the Berlin of Frederick II, where the language of the educated class was French, and Saxony, with the cities of Dresden, Halle and Leipzig, where JC Gottsched (1700-66), a follower of Leibniz’s and Wolff’s rationalism, imposed aesthetic theories based on nature and reason and excluding the irrational and the fantastic from poetry. In Leipzig, the sentimental comedies of CF Gellert (1715-69) and JWL Gleim (1719-1803) were represented, giving rise to a fresh anacreontic lyric, similar to that of the Hamburger F. von Hagedorn (1708-54), but the Rococo found its most sensitive and rich expression in CM Wieland (1733-1813), who was also its epigone. The Enlightenment link with nature was expressed in all its variants by three secondary but in their own way innovative poets, the still baroque BH Brockes (1680-1747), the scientist A. von Haller (1708-77) and the idyllic S. Gessner (1730-88). Pietism, which arose at the end of the seventeenth century, had its great cantor in FG Klopstock (1724-1803), considered by some to be the apex and follower of the Baroque age. In reality, Klopstock marked a turning point in German taste: the end of poetics, especially the classicist one (an end already hoped for by the Swiss critics JJ Bodmer and JJ Breitinger), and the search for models close and suited to the German spirit: the English J. Milton and W. Shakespeare. This orientation was codified, with much more talent than the Swiss, by GE Lessing (1729-81), who can be considered the first modern German author. However, the deist and tolerant Lessinghian rationalism was not extraneous to the cult of sentiment and the life of the heart proper to the Empfindsamkeit. The contribution of the English novels by S. Richardson and L. Sterne and the nocturnal poetry of E. Young is substantial within this current. It was now on the threshold of Sturm und Drang: Göttinger Hain, a kind of sentimental anti-Voltirian Arcadia, anticipated some reasons.

Germany Literature - the Baroque Period

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