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Romantic Vision, Ethical Context

Romantic Vision, Ethical Context: Novalis and Artistic Autonomy

Géza von Molnár
Foreword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse
Volume: 39
Copyright Date: 1987
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Romantic Vision, Ethical Context
    Book Description:

    Exploring the full range of Novalis's (the pen name of the German poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg) work, von Molnar shows how he dealt, in theory and practice, with a central issue in Romanticism-the emerging concept of the autonomous self and its relation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8241-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Foreword: Do We Need a Revival of Transcendental Philosophy?
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
    Jochen Schulte-Sasse

    The series in which Géza von Molnár’s relatively specialized study of the early German romantic thinker and poet Novalis is appearing has, in the past, garnered the unintended image that it deals primarily with general and theoretical concerns. Yet, besides seeking to bridge the gap between theory and history so often perceived as adverse to one another, it has always been part of our intellectual project to promote specialized studies that are narrow and traditional in the best sense, but which also contribute to a larger project and relate directly or indirectly to broader aspects of ongoing debates. To mention...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  6. Introductory Remarks
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)

    Since Friedrich von Hardenberg’s untimely death in 1801, the name “Novalis,” the name under which he had entered the arena of public authorship, has been the password that would initiate outpourings of emotional commentary as vehement as it was diverse. Hordes of young admirers soon began nocking to his grave, according to the wrath-inflated report by the elder Goethe, and his friends did much to imply his canonization as the first saint of the new church that was then emerging from the romantic admixture of aesthetics, metaphysics, and nationalist nostalgia; but only much later did he take hold in the...

  7. I. Beginnings:: 1772–94

    • Chapter 1 Early Years
      (pp. 3-10)

      Georg Friedrich Philipp von Hardenberg was the second of eleven children born to Heinrich Ulrich Erasmus and Auguste Bernhardine, his second wife; when she died in 1818, only her son Georg Anton was to survive her by seven years. Short-lived as individual members of the family may have been, its documented history dates back to the twelfth century and the ruins of the ancestral home at Nörten, near Göttingen, add further testimony to its longevity. The background, however, is more impressive than the average circumstances at Oberwiederstedt into which Friedrich entered on 2 May 1772. Very little, other than the...

    • Chapter 2 Apprenticeship to Schiller
      (pp. 11-20)

      The same confrontation between life and art, without the benefit of ironic distance, fashions the history of his years at the universities of Jena (1790–91), Leipzig (1791–93), and Wittenberg (1793–94), where he finally brought his studies in jurisprudence to a successful conclusion. Repeatedly, he resolves to restrain the inclination that draws him on in the pursuit of the “fine arts” (schöne Wissenschaften) and concentrate his efforts on those studies to which filial and civic duty would commit him in preparation for the realities of gainful employment. In the person of Schiller, that very struggle between duty and...

  8. II. Sophie von Kühn and Philosophical Studies

    • Chapter 3 The Encounter and Novalis′s Twofold Love: Love of Sophie and Philosophy
      (pp. 23-28)

      The factual aspects of Novalis’s encounter with Sophie von Kühn offer few reasons why it should have evolved over the almost two and a half years of its endurance into the most celebrated love affair of the epoch. True, Sophie apparently possessed a captivating personality that could charm all those who met her, more in a childlike way, however, than as a full partner in an adult relationship. Aside from this, she possessed little that could account for Hardenberg’s instant realization, when he met the twelve-year-old girl on 17 November 1794 at her home in Grüningen, that his future had...

    • Chapter 4 The ″Basic Schema″ as It Evolves from the ″Fichte-Studies″
      (pp. 29-56)

      Fichte begins his demonstration of the Ego’s absolute powers with the sentence of identity, A = A; he chooses it as an example of commonly acknowledged truth that is not subject to change and, therefore, independent of the variables arising from the circumstances of its concrete, empirical application. Derived from this tautology is the implication that the identity of any objective reality is necessarily dependent on the primary identity of subject and object or, in Fichte’s words, “Das Ich setzt ursprünglich schlechthin sein eigenes Seyn” (“Originally the Ego freely posits its own being”) (SW, I, 98).

      What Fichte wishes to...

    • Chapter 5 Death and the ″Decision to Live″
      (pp. 57-75)

      Novalis had not been wrong when, shortly after the chance encounter with Sophie in November of 1794, he informed Erasmus, the eldest and favorite of his younger brothers, that a quarter of an hour had decided him (IV, 361, l. 1).⁹ There is no doubt that the effect of this meeting must have seemed disturbing to his correspondent, who found little in their shared past that could have served to explain or justify such a drastic turn of events experienced with such decisive finality. On the contrary, along with that selfsame Erasmus and a younger brother Carl, Novalis had proven...

    • Chapter 6 The ″Basic Schema″ Completed or ″höhere Wissenschaftslehre″
      (pp. 76-94)

      With these words, Erasmus lends forceful expression to serious doubts concerning the decisive conclusions his brother had reached in consequence of the encounter at Grüningen. It is his second letter, dated 6 December 1794, obviously written in response to an elaborate account in which “Fritz” had sought to justify his state of mind as more than an emotive affect of questionable duration and value. Since Erasmus quotes from this letter to refute the tenability of the argument it contains, he actually points out the very core of the problematic context within which Sophie assumes reality and significance for her lover....

  9. III. Heinrich von Ofterdingen

    • Chapter 7 Poetic Statement and ″höhere Wissenschaftslehre″
      (pp. 97-99)

      Almost two years separate the codification of a “höhere Wissenschaftslehre” from Novalis’s work onHeinrich von Ofterdingen, the most ambitious and last of his literary projects. Much of that time was spent on scientific studies, but as always they, along with manifold other interests, occasioned extensive philosophical speculations that fill various notebooks and collections composed in the idiom of fragmentary notations peculiar to him. Also, his own evolution as a poet becomes more pronounced during that interim. Some of his religious poetry (Geistliche Lieder) falls into this period and, above all, his first attempted novel,The Disciples at Sais (Die...

    • Chapter 8 Dreams and Fairy Tales
      (pp. 100-120)

      Heinrich von Ofterdingenwas to acquaint its readers with the full extent of the developmental path that must be traversed by a young man destined to be a poet. As it happened, Novalis did not advance much beyond completing the initial nine chapters that comprise the first of the novel’s two parts, which bear the respective titles of “Expectation” (“Die Erwartung”) and “Fulfillment” (“Die Erfüllung”). Unambiguous as those captions may seem by themselves, their relationship to the text is more difficult to determine. One might even be tempted to reverse their order. At least, it is quite possible to view...

    • Chapter 9 The Journey
      (pp. 121-147)

      Dreams, Heinrich tells his father, might well be a “significant rending apart of the mysterious curtain that extends with myriad folds into our interior” (“ein bedeutsamer Riß in den geheimnisvollen Vorhang . . . der mit tausend Fallen in unser Inneres hereinfällt”) (I, 198, l. 35–199, l. 1). He means to imply that the opaque otherness behind which the world we know remains hidden may not be as impenetrable as we are accustomed to believe. At least, that is Heinrich’s suspicion kindled by the vivid impression with which the dream releases him into waking reality. Verification of this suspicion...

    • Chapter 10 Journey′s End
      (pp. 148-160)

      With Heinrich’s arrival in Augsburg, he enters a world that seems strange compared to the one he had left behind, and yet he belongs there as much as to the other. His reactions to the new environment correspond to those the merchants described in their effort to define the effect of poetry. Novalis had them employ the paradoxical formulation of “words in a foreign language that are familiar, nonetheless” (I, 210, ll. 10-11); here he uses analogous terminology when he refers to the impressive houses of the city as leaving his protagonist with simultaneous feelings of “estrangement and pleasure” (“die...

  10. IV. The “Basic Schema” in Historical Perspective

    • Chapter 11 Georges Poulet′s Metamorphoses of the Circle: A Critical Reading
      (pp. 163-168)

      Throughout the recorded history of our culture, thinkers and poets have relied on the basic structural pattern of the circle in order to convey their respective views of being. Dietrich Mahnke’s treatise traces that history from Greek antiquity to Novalis in whose work he recognized evidence of the same pattern.¹ The historical survey is not only the most valuable but also the most ambitious part of the book since the chapter on Novalis is very short and leaves the complexity of his schema unexamined. Meyer H. Abrams refers to the concept of the circle very extensively in his classicNatural...

    • Chapter 12 A Short Survey of Western Mysticism′s Principal Tenets
      (pp. 169-175)

      First, to dispel any misleading notions that might be entertained whenever I refer to mysticism, it is necessary to remember that the term definitely does not imply the nebulous, ambiguous irrationalism quite rightfully distrusted by those accustomed to the rigors of reason.⁸ Evelyn Underhill, probably the best-known English authority on mysticism, offers this definition: “Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union to a greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.”⁹ Essentially, she states nothing more complicated than the fact that the polar opposition...

    • Chapter 13 Mysticism in a Secular Context and Goethe′s Metamorphoses of the Circle: An Illustration with Reference to Faust
      (pp. 176-185)

      In the Germany of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Germany of Kantian philosophy, of “Storm and Stress,” romanticism, and the “Age of Goethe,”25the mystic’s temperament was strongly represented. Once again, in the pronouncements of Weimar classicism, notably those made by Schiller, we encounter beauty on an equal footing with ethics as humanity’s guide to freedom;26once again, from the great thinkers of German Idealism, we hear of concepts (VernunftbegriffeorIdeen) ungraspable by human understanding that, paradoxically enough, determine or regulate the realm of experience;27and Meister Eckhart’s favorite thesis of man’s inherent divinity finds an...

    • Chapter 14 Goethe and Novalis
      (pp. 186-190)

      It would have been far simpler to mention Georges Poulet briefly in a note and let readers who wished to pursue the history of the structural pattern that serves as Novalis’s “basic schema” do so on their own. However, it was my intention to furnish more than a mere indication that there is historical continuity for the imagery Novalis employs. Poulet succeeds very well in tracing that continuity and in proving its history of metamorphoses to be a useful index of cultural change, yet there is an important variant he fails to appreciate in its full implication. The neglected variant...

  11. V. Concluding Remarks

    • Chapter 15 Novalis in Contemporary Context
      (pp. 193-202)

      After nearly two centuries, during which the methodology of the exact sciences has gained unquestioned prominence in the guidance of human affairs, romantic theorists like Novalis, who proclaim instead the preeminence of poetry, seem oddly out of tune with reality as it confronts us today. His insistence that natural as well as social sciences, if rightly understood, must be regarded and conducted as poetic endeavors could, at best, be considered a pious wish in an era dominated by the ever growing estrangement of the “two cultures.”

      Attempts at closing that gap have apparently only succeeded in widening it. Contrary to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-228)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-236)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-246)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)