Chapter

The German <i>Sturm und Drang</i>, historical drama, and early romantic fiction

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695041.003.0004
The German Sturm und Drang, historical drama, and early romantic fiction

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During the 1770s and 1780s, historical drama in Germany, much influenced by Shakespeare and Calderón, seemed to capture the prime place in the fictional portrayal of the past. Literary innovators in Germany directed their fire against the continuing influence of French Neo-Classicism, particularly in drama. The Sturm und Drang and early German Romanticism evoked medieval and popular themes and, despite obvious roots in the Enlightenment, pointed towards a revival of Christianity. Yet the debt to the original Greek Classics was never lost. Schiller’s ‘Wallenstein’ (1799) was a key work and opened the way for a reinterpretation of the traumatic Thirty Years’ War in Central Europe and Wallenstein’s role in it, whether in drama, history, or the novel. In 1869 the historian Ranke took up these themes. Kleist’s historical novella ‘Michael Kohlhaas’, of 1810 (four years before Scott’s ‘Waverley’), brought Martin Luther decisively into the story among the fictional characters. Although Goethe and Novalis also wrote novels, historical drama, poetry, and philosophy dominated the German scene. Even so, the influence of Romanticism became decisive in Western and Central Europe, and greatly influenced the historical novel.

Keywords: Enlightenment; Neo-Classicism; Romanticism; medievalism; Christianity; Reformation

Chapter.  11821 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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