- Realism and Romanticism in German Literature / Realismus und Romantik in der deutschsprachigen Literatur ed. by Dirk Göttsche and Nicholas Saul
The comprehensive introduction and the fifteen essays in this volume chart a complicated interrelationship between what is commonly referred to as Romanticism and Realism, two literary period designations that are often defined against one another throughout the cultural history of and the critical literature on the nineteenth century. The result is a remarkable study of what the editors describe as the legacy of Romanticism in Realist prose fiction, a heretofore understudied phenomenon, making the volume a welcome addition to the scholarship on these periods. A comparatist approach marks the volume as a whole, which offers illuminating, well-researched, and detailed case studies of minor and major authors such as Tieck, Auerbach, Freytag, Storm, Stifter, Raabe, Fontane, and Jensen, among others. In challenging an easy opposition of Romanticism and Realism, the editors and contributors build on existing scholarship on both Romanticism and Realism (including the work of Marianne Wünsch, Claus-Michael Ort, Hugo Aust, Michael Titzmann, and Gerhard Plumpe, among others), which has challenged the notions of either as coherent and self-contained epochs, instead focusing on situating both within larger cultural processes of the nineteenth century and modernity as a whole. [End Page 504]
The volume is divided into five sections with essays in German and in English, which trace the morphing relationship between Romantic imagery or literary theory and a period that spans ca. 1840–1900. Its contributions investigate various stages of Realist prose, such as the eras of pre-Vormärz and post-Vormärz aesthetics, as well as dominant themes influential for literary production throughout the nineteenth century, such as the importance of science and scientific discourse in distinct and related ways for both Romanticism and Realism alike. Section I traces the late-Enlightenment emergence of Realist aesthetics that influence the writings of Hauff and Tieck especially, which serve as a point of departure in what the editors refer to as the “remapping [of] Realism” (18). Essays by Rainer Hillenbrand, Jesko Reiling, Gert Vonhoff, Benedict Schofield, and Magdolna Orosz offer different accounts of the dialectic relationship between Romanticism and Realism. Whereas Hillenbrand reads Tieck’s last novella as an account of the author’s increased awareness of Romanticism’s own self-understanding as an era of the past in light of new developments politically and aesthetically, Reiling considers Auerbach’s critical and creative writings in a continuum that includes an early period of attachment to and a later period of complete detachment from Romantic motifs and narrative devices. Vonhoff’s chapter complements Reiling in that it offers a genealogy of the Dorfgeschichte—a predominant Realist genre—by studying major and minor authors in considering the influence of Romantic ideals in the evolution of Realist style. Schofield and Orosz look at the Romantic legacy in Freytag’s and Storm’s works, respectively, and thus offer accounts of major Realist players in their indebtedness to Romanticism and continual returns to its aesthetic repertoire.
Section II is devoted to the study of science and scientific ideals for Romanticism and Realism in the context of “the history of modern science in the cultural history of modernity” (22). Martina King considers Stifter’s interest in the development of medical knowledge and demonstrates Romantic medicine’s significant role in the aesthetic shift from subjective to objective frames of reference. Christiane Arndt regards the frame narration in Raabe’s and Storm’s novellas as a means to capture, contain, and remember Romantic imagery in its embedded narrative, considering infection and illness as key factors for their projects. Section III explicitly engages with Realist references to Romanticism. Christian Bergman considers Fontane’s epistemological cynicism, favoring uncanny and supernatural material, which Philip Ajouri’s chapter complements with its discussion of Romantic ghosts in the works of Keller. Nicholas Saul’s essay returns to Raabe and illustrates Romanticism’s key role in challenging the claims of Realist epistemology through spiritualism, while Martina S...