Academic journal article German Quarterly

Forum: Romanticism

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Forum: Romanticism

Article excerpt

The Enduring Legacy of German Romanticism

resorting to the useful superstition of dates, we could say that the heroic age of absolute literature begins in 1798 with a review, Athenäum, mostly put together anonymously by a few young men in their early twenties-"proud seraphs," Wieland called them- among whom the names friedrich schlegel and Novalis catch the eye, and ends in 1898 with the death of Mallarmé in Valvius.

roberto Calasso, literature and the Gods (2001)

i came upon this observation of Calasso, a prominent contemporary italian critic and publisher, long after i had published Representation and Its Discontents: The Critical legacy of German Romanticism (1992). i wished that i had included in the introduction to my book a statement similar to Calasso's contention that all the decisive features of absolute literature had manifested themselves in the centurylong critical trend initiated by the early romantics, the Frühromantiker, thus making what came afterwards, modernism or the avant-garde, appear worn-out and jaded. i also had not had the opportunity to read isaiah Berlin's essay, "the romantic revolution" (in: The sense of Reality: studies in Ideas and their history [1997], 168-93), which considers German romanticism as the third, last, and the greatest and most revolutionary "turning point," in the history of Western political thought, transforming modern ethics and politics in a far more significant way than ever realized before.

i owe my own enduring interest in the rich critical legacy of German romanticism to the mentorship of the late ernst Behler, my Doktorvater, who gave us the definitive critical edition of friedrich schlegel's works, which includes the Athenäum with anonymous contributions by the schlegel brothers, friedrich and august Wilhelm, Novalis, friedrich schleirmacher, and f.W.J. schelling. My study of the friedrich schlegel Kritische Ausgabe, alongside the work of the french poststructuralists, who were the rage during my graduate school years, showed me that it is imperative to stress the importance of historical positions in understanding the requirements of adequacy in literary and cultural theories. epistemic paradigm shifts are identified only belatedly in the future perfect (or the future anterior). the current theorization of translation as the precondition of world literature is possibly that future anterior of Goethe's declaration that the era of world literature had arrived. to arrive at the future perfect, we need to understand the imperfect or the past tense. a blurb on the back of a small reclam anthology, Theorie der Romantik (2000), reads: ,,Die epoche der romantik gilt in der deutschen literatur als besonders theorielastig." Besides theorizing about romanticism itself, the romantics stressed the concept of self-reflexivity in all areas of criticism, including poetics, philosophy in the broadest sense of the term, religion, visual arts, music, and finally: history, politics, and the natural sciences. i believe that the nuclei of critical theories that can address emerging literary and cultural paradigms can still be found in the Kritische Ausgabe and Novalis's schriften. let me add a personal "footnote" here. My last book, Tales of Crossed Destinies: The Modern Turkish novel in a Comparative Context (2008), was published in the Mla series World literatures Reimagined, a series aimed at redrawing new parameters for world literature/s and introducing lesser known literary cultures to the english speaking world. in conceptualizing a critical framework for the representative novels, i drew extensively on the early romantic theories of the novel. i expected reviewers to question my inability or unwillingness to fashion an "indigenous" criticism to analyze a non-Western literary tradition and resort instead to "Western theory." Quite the opposite happened. readers and reviewers both here and in europe and turkey were unanimous in their agreement that the romantic theory of the novel added an unexpectedly deep level of understanding to the fortunes of the modern turkish novel. …

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