Order and Freedom: Literature and Society in Germany from 1720-1805

Order and Freedom: Literature and Society in Germany from 1720-1805

Order and Freedom: Literature and Society in Germany from 1720-1805

Order and Freedom: Literature and Society in Germany from 1720-1805

Excerpt

The orientation of this book is literary, but with a special emphasis which distinguishes it from traditional literary history and criticism as they have been applied to our period in many excellent studies. These works cannot be accused of having neglected the relation of literature to society altogether, but it was not their main concern. Our aim here is to make a contribution to the identification and exploration of the border- territory between 'pure' literary and sociological study, an area in which, in spite of the very valuable work which has been done (especially by W. H. Bruford), there are still discoveries to be made. This must be our excuse for the fact that the coverage of eighteenth-century German literature in this book is not exhaustive. Room has had to be made for detailed analysis of selected examples, for we are dealing with complex and shadowy material. Moods, rather than hard facts, must be our starting‐ point.

The centre of the enquiry is the mental and emotional state of the group of people which produced the works which we study and this, in our case, means almost exclusively the educated and intellectually aware element of the middle class. Even those German authors who did not originate in this class were assimilated into it. It will be seen that the whole study works towards, and then out of this central area, firstly by attempting to draw from an examination of society, seen consistently as the background to literature and thought in general, an idea of the major impulses which are both social and psychological in nature, and relating them to the particular social group with which we are concerned. This is the task of Part I. The rest of the book examines the interplay of these impulses in the literature itself.

That the impulse towards freedom and its natural counterpart, that towards order, should have been particularly prominent in the age of absolutism, Enlightenment and the French . . .

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