German romanticism by Oskar Walzel
New York : Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1965. Hardcover. 314 pages ; 22 cm. $6.50 dust jacket. No markings to pages. Binding is firm.
The yearning to escape from dull daily life—which is romanticism— led the German Romanticists not only to ponder the far-off and the long-ago, but led them also to forge out of ancient customs and art forms a new and virile Germanism.
With this keynote, Oskar Walzel begins his exploration of the men and the moods, the origins and aftermaths of German Romanticism.
In the first half of his already classic work, Professor Walzel explains the loose bonds that held the German Romanticists together. There was the philosophic heritage of Plato, Plotinus, Neoplatonism, melded with that German pietism which grew out of the Thirty Years' War. There was also the strong call to reason, since "striving after the eternal and infinite was a postulate of reason." The Romanticists, therefore, probed emotion with reason, thought about their feelings, analyzed their instincts. Their scrutiny of the unconscious led them to a contemplation of art, and a comprehension of religion.
Once the broad, unifying features of German Romanticism have been outlined, the book goes on to individual Romanticists—among them Friedrich Schlegel and Schleier-macher—discusses what shaped their thoughts, what they accomplished, and whom they in turn influenced. By this fascinating, wide-ranging method, Professor Walzel explores the programs of Romantic ethics and religion, the espousal of Catholicism, and the preoccupation with the East, which grew into that enchantment with the Middle Ages so fully exemplified by Ludwig Tieck and his friend Wackenroder. Finally, the author turns to the political and social effects of the Romantic return to the German heritage—which expressed itself in a new Germanism.
The second part offers a critical examination of the literature: the lyrics inspired by folk songs; German history as it appears in Romantic poetry; satire; the problem drama and the novel.
"For serious students of German literature . . . few treatments of the Romantic movement will be more valuable," wrote the Christian Science Monitor. And surely few are as lucidly written, and as excellently supplied with notes.
Oskar Walzel (1864-1944) was a native of Vienna. Professor of Literature at the Universities of Berne and Dresden, he was editor of the Handbuch der Literaturwissen-schaft and author of several standard works on German literature.
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