Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
German Literature of the Eighteenth Century

German Literature of the Eighteenth Century: The Enlightenment and Sensibility

Edited by Barbara Becker-Cantarino
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 361
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt7zsv34
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    German Literature of the Eighteenth Century
    Book Description:

    The Enlightenment was based on the use of reason, common sense, and "natural law," and was paralleled by an emphasis on feelings and the emotions in religious, especially Pietist circles. Progressive thinkers in England, France, and later in Germany began to assail the absolutism of the state and the orthodoxy of the Church; in Germany the line led from Leibniz, Thomasius, and Wolff to Lessing and Kant, and eventually to the rise of an educated upper middle class. Literary developments encompassed the emergence of a national theater, literature, and a common literary language. This became possible in part because of advances in literacy and education, especially among bourgeois women, and the reorganization of book production and the book market. This major new reference work provides a fresh look at the major literary figures, works, and cultural developments from around 1700 up to the late Enlightenment. They trace the 18th-century literary revival in German-speaking countries: from occasional and learned literature under the influence of French Neoclassicism to the establishment of a new German drama, religious epic and secular poetry, and the sentimentalist novel of self-fashioning. The volume includes the new, stimulating works of women, a chapter on music and literature, chapters on literary developments in Switzerland and in Austria, and a chapter on reactions to the Enlightenment from the 19th century to the present. The recent revaluing of cultural and social phenomena affecting literary texts informs the presentations in the individual chapters and allows for the inclusion of hitherto neglected but important texts such as essays, travelogues, philosophical texts, and letters. Contributors: Kai Hammermeister, Katherine Goodman, Helga Brandes, Rosmarie Zeller, Kevin Hilliard, Francis Lamport, Sarah Colvin, Anna Richards, Franz M. Eybl, W. Daniel Wilson, Robert Holub. Barbara Becker-Cantarino is Research Professor in German at the Ohio State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-643-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Barbara Becker-Cantarino
  5. Introduction: German Literature in the Era of Enlightenment and Sensibility
    (pp. 1-31)
    Barbara Becker-Cantarino

    Richard Rorty has remarked about the Enlightenment, the cultural and philosophical movement most associated with the eighteenth century: “It is sometimes said that the Enlightenment project has failed. But there were two Enlightenment projects — one political and one philosophical. One was to create heaven on earth: a world without caste, class, or cruelty. The other was to find a new, comprehensive, worldview which would replace God with Nature and Reason. The political project has not failed, although it is proceeding very slowly […]. The second, philosophical project is being pursued …”¹ However we assess the success or failure of...

  6. Enlightenment Thought and Natural Law from Leibniz to Kant and its Influence on German Literature
    (pp. 33-53)
    Kai Hammermeister

    Enlightenment is a recurrent movement within the history of thought that demands justification of all current values, customs, and beliefsvis-à-visthe faculty of reason.¹ As such, it neither advances its own set of philosophical doctrines nor can it be reduced to being the primary characteristic of eighteenth-century thought. Rather, it is a periodic event in the intellectual history of the West and in recent years also of non-Western cultures, in which reason becomes more concerned with its own operations than with specific contents.² In the history of philosophical thought, Enlightenment has a cleansing function that often provides a new...

  7. Gottsched’s Literary Reforms: The Beginning of Modern German Literature
    (pp. 55-77)
    Katherine R. Goodman

    The modern period in German literature began in the first third of the eighteenth century when literary imagination became fundamentally rational. Challenges to rationalism have never abated, but in order to remain valid in the new philosophy of the 1720s and 1730s, religious and classical authorities could no longer be taken on faith, they had to be proven to be correct. German rhetoric was rigorously subjected to the rules of logic. Literary genres, poetic imagery, and figurative speech had to adhere to principles of morality and verisimilitude. A new breed of literary critics would soon analyze literary texts as aesthetic...

  8. The Literary Marketplace and the Journal, Medium of the Enlightenment
    (pp. 79-103)
    Helga Brandes

    Every era creates its own media, and the history of media is as old as that of mankind. After or besides the traditional “human” medium (especially the messenger, the preacher, the teacher, the storyteller), the medium of construction (the castle, park, etc.), and the medium of writing (letter, sheet, wall), the early modern age developed the print medium (book, newspaper, journal, broadsheet, poster, calendar, almanac, and so on).¹ The eighteenth century was the epoch of the journal, and was followed by the mass and electronic media of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (the daily press, telephone, telegraph, record, film, television,...

  9. Religious and Secular Poetry and Epic (1700–1780)
    (pp. 105-129)
    Kevin Hilliard

    The story of the eighteenth century cannot be plotted as a simple, smooth development toward a secular understanding of the world and man’s place in it, let alone as the “rise of modern paganism” (Peter Gay)¹ — a phrase that applies with even less force to Germany than it does to France or England. If secular beliefs were growing in boldness and authority, and secular attitudes gaining ground in the life of society, it is no less true that Christianity continued to exert a strong hold on people’s hearts and habits. It seems an apt expression of the tendencies of...

  10. Literary Developments in Switzerland from Bodmer, Breitinger, and Haller to Gessner, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi
    (pp. 131-153)
    Rosmarie Zeller

    This essay on eighteenth-century Switzerland analyzes a period in which Switzerland played a more prominent role in the history of European literature and culture than it had in earlier or later centuries. Within the context of the Enlightenment, which ascribed great importance to happiness attained through virtue and self-determination, the myth of Switzerland as a virtuous land of freedom arose, epitomized most famously in Friedrich Schiller’sWilhelm Tell. Moreover, Zurich as a Protestant city figured prominently in the formation of the literature of Enlightenment. From 1725 to 1750, Zurich became one of the leading centers of German-language literature, alongside Halle...

  11. Lessing, Bourgeois Drama, and the National Theater
    (pp. 155-183)
    Francis Lamport

    From the 1740s on, Johann Christoph Gottsched’s (1700–1766) personal star began to wane.¹ He came under increasing critical attack, both for the narrow rationalism of his views and for his allegedly dictatorial pretensions as sole arbiter of German literary taste; and his partnership with the actress and theater troupe leader Friederike Neuber came to an end when her troupe departed for St. Petersburg in 1740. But Gottsched’s achievement and his significance in the history of German drama should not be underrated. Even Lessing, in his blistering attack on Gottsched in the famous seventeenthLiteraturbrief(Literary Letter) of 1759,² sums...

  12. Musical Culture and Thought
    (pp. 185-221)
    Sarah Colvin

    Haben die Deutschen einen Nationalcharakter in ihrer Music, und worinn besteht er?” (Do the Germans have a national character in their music, and if they do, what is it?). This is the question posed in 1783 by Carl Friedrich Cramer in hisMagazin der Musik;¹ it was almost certainly alive in the minds of many of his contemporaries. In the early years of the eighteenth century musical culture in the German-speaking areas had already begun defining itself in contradistinction to still powerful influences from abroad, particularly from Italy (although these influences, as we shall see, remained important throughout the century)....

  13. The Era of Sensibility and the Novel of Self-Fashioning
    (pp. 223-243)
    Anna Richards

    Empfindsamkeit” (sensibility), a cultural trend underpinned by Shaftesbury’s theory of an innate moral sense and influenced by the confessional literature of Pietism, encouraged the frequent expression and analysis of emotion as a means of exercising and demonstrating virtue.² In the novel of sensibility, authors focused more on the private and inner lives of characters than on external adventures or wider social developments, and emphasized those values, such as friendship, domestic harmony, and sympathy, that were particularly prized by the emerging middle classes. In the challenge it posed to the “immoral” ways of the courtly aristocracy, the sentimental novel at first...

  14. Enlightenment in Austria: Cultural Identity and a National Literature
    (pp. 245-263)
    Franz M. Eybl

    While regional literatures vied for prominence in the larger cultural setting of German-speaking territories, two trends shaped the development of German-language literature in the eighteenth century. One the one hand there was a trend toward linguistic standardization. On this level the exchange of books, opinions, and literary criticism formed a common ground for German-language literature. It meant that literary texts from Schleswig-Holstein could also be discussed by Swiss readers, and someone (like the enlightened reformer and writer Joseph von Sonnenfels [1733/34–1817]) polemicizing in Vienna could be severely criticized at Wolfenbüttel (by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing). The second trend manifested itself...

  15. Eighteenth-Century Germany in its Historical Context
    (pp. 265-283)
    W. Daniel Wilson

    The end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 was almost as disastrous for Germany as the war itself, which had devastated huge parts of the country.¹ The Treaty of Westphalia cemented the division of German-speaking lands into hundreds of sovereign states, ranging from large ones like Saxony and Bavaria to smaller and even miniscule ones that consisted of little more than a sovereign lord, his castle, and a few villages. The sovereigns of these territories were sometimes kings, but more often dukes, counts, and bishops or archbishops. The territories were loosely bound together in the Holy Roman Empire, which,...

  16. The Legacy of the Enlightenment: Critique from Hamann and Herder to the Frankfurt School
    (pp. 285-308)
    Robert C. Holub

    Critique of the Enlightenment is almost as old as the Enlightenment itself. Since Enlightenment thinkers promulgated a worldview that undermined traditional values and doctrines, it was inevitable that they would provoke rejoinders and objections from those who felt threatened. Many of the most heralded figures in the Enlightenment engaged in debates with representatives of theancien régimewhose ideas and ideals in politics, religion, aesthetics, and philosophy were suddenly called into question. Indeed, the history of the Enlightenment can be written as a series of conflicts between a new approach to nature and human endeavors, on the one hand, and...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-328)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 329-330)
  19. Index
    (pp. 331-349)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 350-350)