Worte wie Waffen---Reprasentationen von Kreig in der deutschen Romantik

Date of Completion

January 2010


Literature, Comparative|Literature, Germanic|History, European|History, Military




"War in general […] appears to have a poetic impact," writes Friedrich von Hardenberg, known by his pseudonym Novalis, in Heinrich von Ofterdingen (Heinrich of Ofterdingen, published in 1802), the representative novel of early Romanticism. Since most literary works of German Romantics are published in the politically tumultuous decades of 1790 through 1840, many of the texts reflect a fascination with warfare, military and political crises, and conflict as well as an interest in the development of modern thought about war. Yet, while the turning point and largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Leipzig (1813), was fought in Germany and while groundbreaking military theories, such as General Carl von Clausewitz's last work On War (published posthumously 1832–1836), fall into the period of German Romanticism, very little research has been done on war as a topic in German literature of this period. ^ In my dissertation I focus on the interchanges between fictional and non-fictional representations of war as debated in literary, military, and political texts of the educated German aristocracy and bourgeoisie around 1800, as well as on ideals and ideas of warfare as expressed in Romantic fiction. I have selected works by German Romantic writers Friedrich von Hardenberg/Novalis, Heinrich von Kleist, Ernst Moritz Arndt, and Max von Schenkendorf as well as essays and other documents written by political and military leaders such as Carl von Clausewitz, Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst, and August Wilhelm Anton Graf Neidhardt von Gneisenau. ^ Methodologically, my analysis is based on the central approaches of New Historicism and the histoire des mentalités, both arguing that the best framework for interpreting literature is to reinsert it into its historical discursive context. My findings on exploring historical literary representations of warfare and the impact of war on cultural perception and production around 1800 contribute to current reflections on the intersections of war, literature, and politics. ^