Which books pulsate with romance

Romanticism (1795–1835)

Romanticism was an epoch of European literature, art and culture. It began towards the end of the 18th century and lasted until around the middle of the 19th century in literature. Romanticism marks a departure from the rationalism of the Enlightenment and from any classical form. Important characteristics of romanticism were flight from the world, the freedom of the individual and his creative activity as well as a preference for the dark and enigmatic.

Characteristics of romance

The literary era of Romanticism emerged as a result of political crises and social upheavals at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. A transition from feudal to bourgeois society took place across Europe. At the same time, a bourgeois self-confidence developed.

The romantics were less concerned with social criticism than with a rejection of reality with their focus on the rules of reason. They were against the exclusive rationalism of the Enlightenment. They valued intuition and premonitions higher than the blossoming natural sciences and placed the beauty and rawness of the wilderness above the pre-industrial aesthetics of the useful.

The romantic poets longed for the unity of spirit and nature, as the philosopher did Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854) in 1797. Also Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) was a thought leader of romance. In general, philosophy had a strong influence on the worldview and poetry of the Romantics.

Important characteristics of romance
  • Turning towards nature and striving for a holistic culture: The Enlightenment had created a new image of man. The enlightened man was due to his understanding and the knowledge of science as the ruler of nature. The Romantics, on the other hand, saw man as part of nature, while the mind needs to be supplemented by the soul. The Romantics were particularly fascinated by nature in its wild and untamed form. It formed the opposite pole to the (supposed) hostility of the cities.
  • Retreat into fantasy and dream worlds: The industrialization that began in the 18th century led to social change. Capitalism became the dominant economic and social order. An exodus from the countryside to the cities began. People were primarily rated for their usefulness. Many romantics reacted by fleeing from reality, they dreamed of going back to pre-capitalist times.
  • Discovery of the unconscious and irrational: The Romantics had a particular predilection for the dark and the cryptic in people. Sleep and dreams are ways to get to the bottom of the secrets of the soul. Dream and fantasy worlds appeared to the romantics equally unfathomable and inexhaustible. In contrast, reality with all its limitations was to be rejected.
  • Rediscovery of the Middle Ages: The Romantics developed a new attitude towards the Middle Ages as the last holistic culture before the Enlightenment. Medieval life, which was shaped by Christian mysticism as well as myths and legends, was transfigured. It was idealized as the best time in human history.
  • Rejection of the established: The romantics saw themselves in opposition to the bourgeoisie. They rejected his morality, political conformity and his pursuit of economic security. The so-called philistines were particularly ridiculed by the romantics.
  • Unquenchable longing as the basic mood: The freedom of the individual played a central role for the romantics. Own perceptions and sensations were of great value. The poetic self was at the center of their world view. The striving of the romantics was the merging of sensory perception and levels of knowledge.

Famous authors and works of romanticism

The great merit of the romantic writers was the overcoming of traditional thought patterns and classical boundaries. The authors defied scientific knowledge and rigid rules and let their imagination run wild. Even today, German Romanticism has an impact on contemporary literature, but also on art. Numerous lyrics of contemporary pop and wave songs tie directly and indirectly to romantic works and motifs.

Important authors and works of the Romantic period
  • Clemens Brentano (1778-1842):
    • "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" (folk songs)
  • Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857):
  • Jacob Grimm (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859):
    • "Children's and Household Tales"
  • Karoline von Günderrode (1780–1806):
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822):
  • Friedrich von Hardenberg alias Novalis (1772–1801):
    • »Hymns to the Night« (poetry)
    • "Heinrich von Ofterdingen" (novel)
  • Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829):
  • Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853):
  • Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777–1843):

Historical background of romanticism

The era was shaped by the French Revolution (1789–1799) and its aftermath. In 1803, the secularization of ecclesiastical principalities and the abolition of small states were decided in Germany. Napoleon's victory over Prussia (1806) led to a fundamental modernization of the state. The Prussian reforms (1807–1814) had far-reaching consequences. In 1806 Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation; the Rhine Confederation was founded.

In 1813 the last phase of the Wars of Liberation began, which in the same year led to the weakening of Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig and in 1815 to the victory over the Emperor of the French in the Battle of Waterloo. The Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 laid the foundation stone for the political reorganization of Europe. In fact, however, the pre-revolutionary order was restored. Meanwhile, industrialization from England had also reached Germany. Traditional forms of life began to disappear forever.

The term of the epoch

The term romance comes from the French. He was in the 17th century from the French. romantique (from franz. novel) accepted. "Romantic" is originally synonymous with "Romance". It initially referred to poetry in the vernacular of a Romance country. This differentiated it from works in classical Latin, which were only accessible to a few educated people. From the lingua romana ("Romance language") the word Roman developed.

The concept of romanticism always places the sensual, the fantastic, the turning away from the classics and antiquity as well as the turn to nature, to sensitivity and the criticism of reason at the center of his work.

The three stages of romance

The period from 1795 to 1835 is regarded as the literary epoch of Romanticism. Literary studies distinguish between three phases, early romanticism, high romanticism and late romanticism. Their spiritual centers were the cities of Jena, Heidelberg, Berlin and Tübingen.

Early Romanticism (Jena Romanticism)

The early romanticism, too Jena romance called, lasted from 1798 to 1804. Its intellectual center was the small university town of Jena near Weimar. Here philosophers, writers, poets and scientists came together and created the worldview of romanticism. The literary trend of early romanticism emerged against the background of current events. The most famous poet of this time is Friedrich von Hardenberg alias Novalis (1772–1801).

Considered the most important theorists August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845) and Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829). In literary magazines they published not only their own texts, but also translations of world literature. August Wilhelm has, among other things, the merit of having translated Shakespeare's works into German together with his then wife Caroline. His brother Friedrich developed the concept of a “progressive universal poetry”: different areas of knowledge were linked in terms of content; mixed forms of different literary genres emerged formally. Progressiv meant that poetry is subject to constant change, is permanently in the making.

The term universal poetry was coined by Friedrich Schlegel. In terms of content, different areas of knowledge are linked, literature with philosophy or art with science. The poetic imagination should interrelate the invisible world and reality, poetry and social life. Formally, mixed forms of all literary genres emerged. Poetry, drama and prose in their most varied appearances have been brought together in one work. Friedrich Schlegel developed his theory together with the early romantic poet Novalis and his brother August Wilhelm Schlegel. The ideas were published in the Athenaeum magazine.

High Romanticism (Heidelberg Romanticism)

Heidelberg was the center of high romanticism between 1804 and 1815, with Berlin and Munich as secondary centers. Many poets put the political turmoil of that time Heidelberg romance the appreciation of national traditions and the striving for spiritual unity. This attitude is reflected in their interest in all kinds of folk poetry. Old material such as sagas, fairy tales, fables and folk songs were collected, some revised and republished.

Publications such as the song collection “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” by Achim von Arnim (1781–1831) and Clemens Brentano (1778–1842) or the “Grimms Märchen” reached a large audience. The Heidelberg Romantics (also: Younger Romantics) include Arnim and Brentano, the brothers and folk tale collectors Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), Joseph Görres (1776–1848) and the famous poet Joseph von Eichendorff .

Late Romanticism (Berlin Romanticism)

The literary epoch of Romanticism came to an end with the Berlin Romanticism, which is also called Late Romanticism and lasted from 1816 to 1835. Munich, Vienna and Tübingen are considered secondary centers of the late romantic era. In the salons of today's capital, Rahel Varnhagen, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Bettina von Arnim and Ludwig Tieck many other literary greats of this time for discussions and debates.

In literature there is an increasing tendency towards mysticism and the uncanny. The model is the horror novel from England (Gothic novel). A well-known work in horror literature is E. T. A. Hoffmann's story "The Sandman".

From 1815 the late romanticism passed into the Biedermeier period.

The romantic lyric

Many lyrical works of the Romantic era are classics of German literature today. The best-known poets include Ludwig Uhland, Joseph von Eichendorff, Eduard Mörike and Adelbert von Chamisso, who were more folksy. A folk song-like simplicity shaped her works, which were well received by a wide audience. The "Spiritual Songs" and the "Hymns to the Night" by Novalis are still read today as important lyrical works of German Romanticism. Novalis' texts are characterized by a high level of linguistic art.

The drama in romance

The strict laws of the text genre drama were difficult to reconcile with the ideas of the romantics. Brentano, Ludwig Tieck and Joseph von Eichendorff nevertheless dealt with the drama. They wrote extensive reading dramas, which, however, were rarely performed. The romantics, however, took a liking to Shakespeare; they valued his method of staging historical material as comedies. "Puss in Boots" by Ludwig Tieck is one of the few noteworthy comedies of German romanticism. In the dramas, but also in the prose of romanticism, the motif of irony can be found again and again. This was represented as an independent literary theoretical position by Friedrich Schlegel.

Romantic prose

Folk poetry was becoming increasingly popular at the end of the 18th century. Well-known romantics took up folk songs, sagas and fairy tales, retold them and rewrote the old texts. For example, the collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and the collection of songs by the Knaben Wunderhorn by Arnim and Brentano were created during this period.

The romantic novel found its literary model in the masterpieces of Goethe. However, the romantics liked to mix the genres and put poems, songs and stories into one text. During the Romantic period, the audience developed an increased interest in trivial literature - the horror novel was born. In Romanticism, short epic forms were often more popular than long novels. Fairy tales, short stories and stories were very well received by the readers.

Classic and Romantic

For a long time, romantic and classical periods were distinguished from one another as literary epochs. More recently, literary scholars have taken a different view. Thereafter, the classical period is viewed as a current of romanticism. Both epochs deal with the same topics, namely

  • Alienation of man from nature,
  • Loss of wholeness,
  • Relationship between poetry and the reality of life.

Both Classical and Romanticism see art and poetry as an opportunity to regain the lost wholeness. However, they differ in their answers to the problem.


  • sees in art the balance to an inadequate reality,
  • strives for perfect beauty and harmony,
  • looks for regularities, for a valid and closed form,
  • rejects ambiguity and the fantastic.


  • wants to use art to raise awareness of the loss of wholeness,
  • considers the problems unsolvable, rejects pseudo-solutions and takes refuge in a world beyond reality,
  • longs for excessive feeling and passion,
  • believes in the infinity of the creative imagination of the individual,
  • breaks all formal and content boundaries.
Page published on 02/17/2015. Last updated on September 3rd, 2020.