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date: 19 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The present article discusses German literature and thought during the nineteenth century. Approaching nineteenth-century German culture, one needs to free oneself from several misconceptions that have proved surprisingly durable. One is that Germans were devoted to cloudy, theoretical idealism that stayed remote from concrete reality. It is commonly asserted that German authors favored the Novelle, rather than the novel; that they practiced a special literary mode called ‘poetic realism’; and that in contrast to the realism of Balzac or Dickens, German novelists specialized in an unworldly, introverted form of fiction, focusing on the inner development of the hero, which was termed the Bildungsroman. Two well-known episodes can serve as emblems of this commitment. One concerns Hegel (1770–1831) whereas the second emblem of German engagement with reality is the programmatic statement by Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886). An in-depth analysis of the influence of realism on German literature completes the discussion.

Keywords: German literature, theoretical idealism, realism, poetic realism, Bildungsroman

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