Origins of German Romanticism
Are art and philosophy irreconcilable? Since Plato, western thinkers have tended to uphold philosophy as the domain of reason and objective inquiry, and art as belonging to the sphere of the non-rational—as the instigator, even, of counter-rational emotions and passions, subjective flights of fancy and imagination. For the members of the so-called Frühromantik, or early German romantic movement, the truth was exactly the opposite: Art is not opposed to reason but is in fact its highest and purest expression.
This course is the exploration of the concerns and contours of the early German romantic movement–the loosely affiliated cadre of philosophers, poets, literary critics, and theologians who sought to unify and synthesize the domains of art, philosophy, and science. As we read the works of Schiller, Holderlin, Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, and Schleiermacher, we’ll seek to understand the main claims and attitudes of the early romantics in terms of their engagement with and appropriation of the major philosophical trends of the time, first and foremost among them Kantianism and the post-Kantian idealist systems of Fichte and Schelling. In doing so, we will see how romanticism serves as an alternative Kantian legacy next to and opposed to Hegel’s absolute idealism, which, like Plato before him, understood philosophy as an overcoming of art and artistic expression. Lastly, we’ll consider the cultural and political significance of the early romantics in light of the Janus-faced nature of its general reception. Should we see romanticism, as some have, as a dangerous, if seductive, irrationalism with proto-fascist tendencies; or should we laud the movement as a liberating antidote and humanistic response to the oppressive and dehumanizing tendencies of Enlightenment rationalization and scientism?
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
April 06 — April 27, 2021