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Veneration and Revolt

Hermann Hesse and Swabian Pietism

Barry Stephenson

Publication Year: 2009

One of the most widely read German authors in the world, Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. After his death, his novels enjoyed a revival of popularity, becoming a staple of popular religion and spirituality in Europe and North America.

Veneration and Revolt: Hermann Hesse and Swabian Pietism is the first comprehensive study of the impact of German Pietism (the religion of Hesse’s family and native Swabia) on Hesse’s life and literature. Hesse’s literature bears witness to a lifelong conversation with his religious heritage despite that in adolescence he rejected his family’s expectation that he become a theologian, cleric, and missionary.

Hesse’s Pietist upbringing and broader Swabian heritage contributed to his moral and political views, his pacifism and internationalism, the confessional and autobiographical style of his literature, his romantic mysticism, his suspicion of bourgeois culture, his ecumenical outlook, and, in an era scarred by two world wars, his hopes for the future. Veneration and Revolt offers a unique perspective on the life and works of one of the twentieth century’s most influential writers.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Editions SR


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

"Hermann Hesse and Swabian Pietism." The phrase has provoked more than a few blanks looks from those who have ventured to ask what I am so busily working on, head buried in a book, or hunched over my laptop. "Hesse and Buddhism," "Hesse and Jung," "Hesse and the Sixties," "Hesse and National Socialism," ...

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pp. ix

My thanks go out to Douglas Shantz, Chair of Christian Thought, University of Calgary. Without his support, this study would never have gotten off the ground. To Ron Grimes and Peter Erb I owe a tremendous debt. They encouraged and inspired me to try my hand at academic life. ...

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Introduction: Hermann Hesse: The Missionary's Son

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pp. xi-xv

When I began reading Hermann Hesse's stories, poems, recollections, and letters, having read several of his novels years earlier, I was surprised to discover how frequently they deal with the history, people, and places of Hesse's native Swabia and Hesse's Pietist heritage. Like most North American readers ...


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1 Pietism: A First Glance

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pp. 3-10

Hermann Hesse was born into a Pietist family in the southwest German region of Swabia, in what is now the state of Baden- Württemberg. His hometown of Calw is nestled in the idyllic Neckar valley, on the banks of the Nagold River. Hesse's parents and grandparents were devout Pietists, members of an influential ...

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2 The Swabian Mandarins

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pp. 11-22

In 1806, when Duke Friedrich II, striking a deal with Napoleon, proclaimed the new kingdom of Württemberg, Swabia possessed a rich intellectual tradition rooted in biblical study, hermetic philosophy and mysticism, and the classicism of Renaissance humanism. A number of cloister schools funnelled intellectually ...

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3 The Maulbronn Affair

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pp. 23-38

In the summer of 1891, a young Hermann Hesse passed the state Landexamen, gaining himself entry into Maulbronn, one of four elite Protestant church schools in Württemberg. Out of seventy-nine students, Hesse finished twenty-eighth and was precocious and talented enough to render the essay portion of the exam ...

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4 Romantics and Pietists

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pp. 39-50

As a child Hesse spent many hours in his grandfather's library, where alongside the shelves of "boring and dusty" theological works he discovered volume after volume of eighteenth-century German literature, works that stimulated his imagination and poetic inclinations.2 Following his failure at Maulbronn ...


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5 Hesse's "Religion of Art"

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pp. 53-62

In the wake of the Maulbronn affair, and in an effort to both distance himself from and mediate his relationship with his family, Hesse turned to German Romanticism and aestheticism. The budding writer's first works were crafted in the spirit of Romantic poets, and "Hesse's exchange of the religious doctrines ...

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6 Peter Camenzind: Rejection of Aestheticism

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pp. 63-70

In a letter written in 1931 Hesse informs a reader that Demian and Siddhartha have little to do with "the attempt 'to write novels in a beautiful language [schöne Sprache], as you believe; but rather lay the groundwork that can for a time help young people with life. You should take their words, just as you ...

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7 Beneath the Wheel: The Anti-School Novel

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pp. 71-90

In the spring of 1903 Hesse spent three weeks travelling in Italy, his second trip there, returning home to Basel to put the finishing touches on his breakthrough work, Peter Camenzind. Hesse had been working in Basel as a book dealer since 1899, but with the success of Camenzind he was able to commit himself ...

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8 Demian: Chiliastic Vision

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pp. 91-114

Hesse's first two novels reflected his early conception of cultural decline, a prominent theme of European thought at the turn of the twentieth century, as evidenced by the popularity of Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. The Pietism Hesse grew up in had, Hesse felt, become "rigid," "meager and transitory," ...

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9 War, Church, and State

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pp. 115-126

Any comprehensive study of Hesse's life, literature, and thought must include Hesse's responses to the First and Second World Wars. The wars that raged across Europe in the first half of the twentieth century were the defining events of a generation. Examining the actions and reactions of an individual ...


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10 Siddhartha: Swabian Mysticism

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pp. 129-144

Siddhartha is Hesse's best-known work. The title has led two generations of readers to associate Hesse with Buddhism, but the novel represented Hesse's "turning back" to Christianity. In Part III, I deal with the novels of Hesse's middle period, Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Narcissus and Goldmund. These are works ...

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11 "Breaking the Will"

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pp. 145-160

A leitmotif of Hesse's corpus is his affirmation of the virtue of selfwill (Eigensinn). "Self-will is Hesse's chief article of faith, his ethical touchstone for value and integrity in all areas of human life ... [and] the core of whatever teachings he wished to impart in his writings."2 Siddhartha, like most ...

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12 Steppenwolf: "The Hell of Myself"

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pp. 161-172

During the period between the death of his father in 1916 and the completion of Steppenwolf in 1927, Hesse lived in a state of near permanent spiritual anxiety and psychological torment. He was constantly on the brink of suicide, and he specifically pointed to "breaking the will" as that principle or ...

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13 Narcissus and Goldmund: Reconciliation

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pp. 173-178

In his literature, Hesse would both criticize and assimilate various elements of the Pietist conception of breaking the "natural man." As self-will was not a personality trait extolled in his cultural and religious milieu, Hesse turned elsewhere to ground this ideal. Eigensinn is "a truth [Hesse] found ...


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14 The Journey to the East: Narrating a Life/History

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pp. 181-192

In Journey to the East, Hesse takes up the question of narration: How is it possible to recollect and narrate the events of one's life, given the fallibility of memory and the shifting sands of perspective and meaning? Journey to the East, is not overtly about Pietism, but the questions Hesse poses about ...

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15 Joseph Knecht and The Glass Bead Game: Spiritual Heritage

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pp. 193-216

Hesse's final two works of fiction are intimately connected, as Hesse indicated in a letter of 1936: "If it [The Glass Bead Game] turns out as planned, then it will be my last major work and will give complete expression to the final phase of my inner existence which began with The Journey to the East."2 ...

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pp. 217-222

This image of self-formation through conversation aptly suits Hesse's relationship to Pietism. The conversation took place at an intensely personal, but also a cultural, level. Through his parents, and especially through his grandfather Hermann Gundert, Hesse felt connected to the intellectual and spiritual ...


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pp. 223-266


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pp. 267-276


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pp. 277-282

E-ISBN-13: 9781554581757
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554581498
Print-ISBN-10: 1554581494

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Editions SR