German Literature: From the Middle of the 19th Century to the First World War Part II

Naturalism and modernity

Around 1880 a new direction reached German literature, naturalism. He first followed the example of É. Zolas, later also to H. Ibsen and L. Tolstois. Topics were v. a. the new social problems that arose in the wake of capitalism in the milieu of the oppressed and unfortunate. Preferred figures were the whore with a good heart, single mothers, the child as a victim of social and family grievances; the father-son conflict was often shaped, mental illness and abnormality were documented with clinical accuracy, polemics and an unconditional will to the truth determined the works. In the skepticism towards religious-metaphysical questions, the aesthetics of naturalism closely followed the scientific approach. Naturalistic prose (poetry hardly emerged) is characterized by precise detailed descriptions and a collection of facts, the vocabulary expanded because no topic was taboo. Berlin became, in competition with Munich (“Die Gesellschaft”, M. G. Conrad), to the center. A. Holz(“The Art, Their Nature and Their Laws”, 2 volumes, 1891/92) developed the naturalistic art doctrine in Germany after he had already mentioned it in the short stories “Papa Hamlet” (1889) and the milieu drama “The family Selicke «(1890; both with J. Schlaf).

The dramatic works of BüchnerGrabbes and Hebbel became exemplary for German naturalism; The naturalistic drama reached its full expression with G. Hauptmann. The performance of his play »Before Sunrise« (1889) conquered the stage for the new direction, for comedy he opened it up with »Der Biberpelz« (1893). The »Free Stage«, an association of progressive-minded writers by O. Brahm, played a key role in contemporary theater Was founded in Berlin in 1889; the magazine “Freie Bühne für moderne Leben” was (since 1890, from 1894 under the title “Neue deutsche Rundschau”, from 1904 under the title “Die neue Rundschau”) the most important journalistic organ of the naturalist generation. Hauptmann epigones were E. RosmerG. HirschfeldM. HalbeF. Wedekind’s pieces occupy a special position ; he made use of naturalistic practices, rejected the naturalistic proximity to probability and the seconds style but sharply and demanding intensity, ecstasy and action for the theater. His plays “Spring Awakening” (1891), “The Earth Spirit” (1895) and “The Pandora’s Box” (1904) build a bridge between naturalism and expressionism.

Naturalistic narration remained sporadic, alongside Hauptmann’s novella “Bahnwärter Thiel” (1892) and some “sketches” and “studies” there are novels, mostly “big city novels”, among others by K. Bleibtreu and O. E. Hartleben. Naturalism was also rooted in the village literature of the 19th century, which in turn shaped local poetry in the 20th century after its heyday.

Characteristic of the literary development from the turn of the century to around 1920 was the brief flourishing and dying out of the most varied of art conceptions; associated with this was a flood of program publications, a large number of literary magazines, literary associations and cabaret theaters. S. George founded the organ of his circle, “Blätter für die Kunst” (1892–1919); Other representative magazines were: »Die Insel« (founded in 1899 by O. J. BierbaumA. W. HeymelR. A. Schröder), which was transferred to the publisher of the same name, »Pan« (1895–1900), »Ver Sacrum« (1898–1903), » Youth «(1896–1940).

The common formulas for this period, the beginning of modernity, interpenetrate and coexist: impressionism, symbolism, decadence, fin de siècle, neo-classical, neo-romantic, neo-coco, art nouveau, expressionism. The great writers personalities can, however, only inadequately or not at all be captured with these classifications.

This is particularly true of the outstanding figure of the German intellectual life of the epoch, of F. Nietzsche. The influence of the radical philosophical outsider also extends far into the literary work of the 20th century (visible, inter alia, in T. Mann,R. M. RilkeG. BennE. Jünger). The aphoristic representation with which he formulated his cultural criticism with the utmost precision is also unique (“Also sprach Zarathustra”, 4 volumes, 1883–91).

The literary Art Nouveau moved between the poles of vitalism and resignation, greed for life and extreme spiritualization, loved the eccentric and the exotic. The stimuli were, among others. C. Baudelaire and J. K. Huysmans, the philosophical foundations came from L. KlagesG. SimmelH. Bergson and F. Nietzsche.

German Literature - From the Middle of the 19th Century to the First World War Part 2