Academic journal article German Quarterly

Vormarz und Klassik

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Vormarz und Klassik

Article excerpt

Ehrlich, Lothar, Hartmut Steinecke, and Michael Vogt, eds. Vormarz and Klassik. Vormarz-Studien 1. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 1999. 300 pp. DM 48.00.

The first in a new series dedicated to a reevaluation of the volatile Vormarz period, this volume contains seventeen essays resulting from papers delivered at a 1996 symposium sponsored by the Forum Vormarz Forschung and the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik. The editors identify four conference sections, "Ende der Kunstperiode," "Tradition and Innovation," "Erfahrung als Literatur," and "Trias in Bewegung," although the essays are not grouped as such in the book.

Long dominated by the ideological controversy surrounding the terms Biedermeier and Vormarz, initiated in large part by the monumental 1971 study of Friedrich Sengle, Biedermeierzeit, research into this era appears to have entered a new stage. The present volume illustrates a trend to view the highly diverse literary production in the period less rigidly, to acknowledge the fluidity of traditional boundaries, be they of periodization, genre, or aesthetic value. In a perceptive lead article, Helmut Bock argues that the terms Vormarz and Biedermeier are complementary rather than mutually exclusive, "Denn sie erfassen ein Ungleiches, das gleichzeitig existierte" (21). Far from being a time of "Stillstand," the Restoration is marked by the dynamic change characteristic of an "Ubergangsgesellschaft." Through historical examination of five key aspects of political and social change in Germany in these decades, Bock convincingly establishes the year 1830, rather than 1815, as the critical turning point that led to "die Geburtswehen der Gegenwart" (30).

In their introduction, the editors point out that the contributors collectively view Heinrich Heine as the "Kronzeuge des zu untersuchenden Epochenwandels" (7). Six articles deal specifically with Heine and his struggle with the "Kunstperiode" (Joseph A. Kruse, Peter Stein, Jirgen Fohrmann, Ralf Schnell, Hartmut Steinecke, and Peter Uwe Hohendahl). Most enlightening, and a welcome sign that contemporary Heine scholarship may be entering a new, productive phase, is the article by Stein, who finally explodes the long-held notion that Heine rejected the "Kunstperiode" in proposing a new type of politically engaged literature. Rather, Heine retains a key element of the older aesthetics, namely a purely literary discourse. In calling his approach to writing "politischromantisch," Heine acknowledges both his debt to and criticism of the "Kunstperiode" (62). Two further articles in the volume underscore the fundamental importance for Heine of aesthetic values. In discussing the well-tilled ground of "Heine and der Junghegelianismus," Schnell argues that critics focussing on the content of passages in Heine dealing with Young Hegelianism become mired in seeming contradictions. …

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