The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey

By H. M. Waidson | Go to book overview

IV
THE IDYLLIC IDEAL

ONE strand of writing that has persisted in German literature since the eighteenth century is that which may be called the idyllic. If the Sturm und Drang under the leadership of the youthful Goethe developed a cult of vitalism and the superman that anticipated Nietzsche a century later, the poets of the Göttinger Hain preferred domestic realism and an outlook of humble resignation, usually in a bucolic setting. This praise of the simple virtues and an acceptance of day-to-day living in the countryside as the healthy obverse to the sophistication of city life received encouragement from Rousseau's doctrine of the return to nature. Goethe was profoundly aware of the dichotomy within himself of restless striving and quiet acceptance, represented often in his work by the symbols of the wanderer and the cottage, or the eagle and the dove. Jean Paul's novels contain pictures of whimsical characters from small-town or village life whose provincial limitations are intended to appear both as absurd and yet also as natural and good. Heine and the Young Germans of the period of the July Revolution of 1830 distrusted this tendency to self- limitation in a regional setting as a refusal to accept political and social responsibility, and it is true that writers such as Stifter, Mörike or Storm had little sympathy with political commitment as the Young German movement conceived it. Mid-nineteenth- century realism is predominantly of a regional quality, with an acceptance of family life in a peasant or middle-class environment as a condition in which a life of harmonious, almost ideal relationships within an unproblematic community may be achieved. This outlook was regarded by the urban Naturalists and Neo-Romantics as no longer valid in an age when civiliza-

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The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • I - The Blurred Edges of Realism 1
  • II - Documentation 16
  • III - Past Time 33
  • IV - The Idyllic Ideal 42
  • V - Irony and Conviction 51
  • VI - 'the Golden Future Time' 62
  • VII - The Observers 72
  • VIII - Surrealism 78
  • IX - The Length of Time 90
  • X - Novel and Short Story 104
  • XI - Summing Up 115
  • Select Bibliography 120
  • List of Authors and Works 123
  • Index 129
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