For the last century and a half, Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) has enjoyed a reputation for being the critical grey eminence behind the coming to power of the Romantic Movement. It was Schlegel, in his three series of aphoristic fragments (Lyceum, Athenaeum, and Ideas), who actually first defined and employed the word “romantic” in the present sense; and it was he who in a chaotic, fragmentary, and often mysterious but forceful manner first proclaimed the doctrine that was to usher in the modern age in literature. He too was among the first to put his new program into practice in the shape of his unfinished Lucinde, a work variously denounced as pornography and heralded as a forerunner of modern novelistic experimentation, and probably the most famous novel to come out of German Romanticism. Both the Fragments and Lucinde, along with a brilliant tour de force, the “Essay on Incomprehensibility,” are available now for the first time in a complete English translation in this volume, together with a brief scholarly introduction. This translation will enable non-German readers to examine at first hand the work of a man whom Rene Wellck has called “one of the greatest critics of history.” At a time when the function of criticism is coming once again under close skeptical scrutiny, Friedrich Schlegel’s unorthodox, unsystematic but seminal critical mind -- all of literature, philosophy, art, and history were grist to his mill -- should find many sympathetic readers. The book will be of particular interest to theorists of literature and fiction, comparative literature scholars, and historians of the intellectual history of Germany, and it is appropriate for course use in German and comparative literature classes. The photos of Friedrich Schlegel and his wife Dorthea Veit are used by permission of the Freies Deutsches Hochstift, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and the Staatsbibliothek der Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany, respectively.
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