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Lecture 7: Classicist German Literature - Aesthetic Theory

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1 Lecture 7: Classicist German Literature - Aesthetic Theory
Classicism in European contexts German Classicism as a culmination of tendencies since 1750 Schiller’s analytical terminology Classicist Weimar Schiller’s Classicist dramas (a brief comparison with the drama of the Enlightenment and of the Storm and Stress)

2 Classicism in European Contexts: German Classicism as a late development
Classicist Art: period of exemplary nature - setting a norm revival of ancient classicist arts and philosophy (reception) Weimar Classicism: from Goethe’s journey to Italy (1786) towards Schiller’s death (1805) Germany’s answer to the French Revolution

3 German Classicism as a culmination of the tendencies since 1750
Main Topics - as an alternative to the French Revolution individual education  development of the personality humanitarianism striving for harmony cosmopolitanism

4 Schiller’s analytical terminology
Terror, Uproar, Violence violent clashes within the streets of Paris Christian Churches abolished, their property withdrawn in war with feudal Europe burning and tearing down of the Bastille and the palaces famine and mass rallies of the poor Reason, Order, Dictatorship proclamation of a democratic constitution Reason as new religion: Kult des Höchsten Wesens building the people’s army a radically modern architec-ture: ideal of the straight line power sharing institutions run by the bourgeois classes Schiller’s analytical terminology sensuous drive / Stofftrieb form drive / Formtrieb The contradictions of the French Revolution are to be taken as the signature of modernity: where Stofftrieb and Formtrieb clash, people need to develop as a third evolutionary means the Spieltrieb to recreate the unity of both on a higher level of culture

5 Schiller’s analytical terminology (as a result of his Kant-studies)
sensuous drive / Stofftrieb: physical existence form drive / Formtrieb: rational existence play drive / Spieltrieb people need to develop the Spieltrieb to recreate the unity of sensuous and form drive on a higher level of culture against the partial truth of actuality the overriding truth of art has to be established the aesthetic experience amounts to the resolution (by the reader, theatre-goer) of the tension between the sensual and the moral nature of man: ‘Ich hoffe, Sie zu überzeugen, [...] daß man, um jenes Prob-lem[i.e. the problem of power versus reason] in der Erfahrung zu lösen, durch das ästhetische den Weg nehmen muß, weil es die Schönheit ist, durch welche man zur Freiheit wandert.’ [It is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.] (Ueber die Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, 2. Brief, NA 20, p. 312)

6 Why Education to Freedom through Experiencing Beauty?
Beauty ‘is that mode in which the mind has so thoroughly ‘transformed’ matter that material reality has lost its accidental character and has become the vehicle of an intellectual or spiritual intention. In this state of ‘beauty’, the sensual is not so much destroyed, as rather completely unfolded, its structure is revealed, its range explored. This exercise of “freedom”, the functioning of the mind within a high moral purpose towards a total absorption of matter, permits Schiller to say that beauty is the achievement of freedom, or “freedom in appearance” (Freiheit in der Erscheinung).’ (Victor Lange, The Classical Age of German Literature , p. 124.) Schiller in Ueber die Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen,18. Brief: ‘Durch die Schönheit wird der sinnliche Mensch zur Form und zum Denken geleitet; durch die Schönheit wird der geistige Mensch zur Materie zurückgeführt, und der Sinnenwelt wiedergegeben. Aus diesem scheint zu folgen, daß es zwischen Materie und Form, zwischen Leiden und Thätigkeit einen mittleren Zustand geben müsse, und daß uns die Schönheit in diesen mittleren Zustand versetze.’ (NA 20, p )

7 Why Experiencing Beauty through Playing?
Schiller in Ueber die Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, 15. Brief: ‘Man wird niemals irren, wenn man das Schönheitsideal eines Menschen auf dem nehmlichen Wege sucht, auf dem er seinen Spieltrieb befriedigt. [...] Nun spricht aber die Vernunft: das Schöne soll nicht bloßes Leben [life] und nicht bloße Gestalt [form], sondern lebende Gestalt [living form], das ist, Schönheit seyn; indem sie [beauty] ja dem Menschen das doppelte Gesetz der absoluten Formalität und der absoluten Realität diktiert. [...] Denn, um es endlich auf einmal herauszusagen, der Mensch spielt nur, wo er in voller Bedeutung des Worts Mensch ist, und er ist nur da ganz Mensch, wo er spielt.’ (NA 20, p ) ‘Play’ is regarded as the ‘aethetic’ state of mind in which man can experience his highest capacity, his wholeness: in contemplating ‘living form’, which is ‘beauty’, man recognizes his humanity. Who has the power to create in ‘play’ a virtual universe, a world of semblance (Schein) experiences ‘freedom’ and is through this education able to bring harmony into society.

8 Drama of the Enlightenment and Storm and Stress
avoiding the Haupt- und Staatsakionen, dealing more with the private realms avoiding the alexandrine verses, prose drama established (Lessing’s Nathan, der Weise, as an exception in blank verse: the ideal of communication) ‘plot’ based on talk (Lessing) and action (Storm and Stress) Tragedy of the Classic Period going back to historical sujets, dealing again with politics: however, what looks similar, is different going back to verse-drama: this time the blank verse as an aesthetic ideal (to some extent how it can be dealt with in terms of interference, threat) ‘plot’ so much more based on reflection and thinking analytical qualities stressed (the play only unrolls what already is set before, does so in a tragic analysis)

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