German literature

German authors
  • Angelus Silesius
  • Heinrich Böll
  • Bertolt Brecht
  • Karl Georg Büchner
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Günter Grass
  • Brothers Grimm
  • Hans von Grimmelshausen
  • Peter Handke
  • Gerhart Hauptmann
  • Heinrich Heine
  • Heinrich der Glïchezäre
  • Johann Gottfried von Herder
  • Hermann Hesse
  • Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
  • Friedrich Hölderlin
  • Uwe Johnson
  • Siegfried Lenz
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
  • Thomas Mann
  • Robert Musil
  • Novalis
  • Jean Paul Richter
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling
  • Friedrich von Schiller
  • Arthur Schnitzler
  • Georg Trakl
  • Frank Wedekind
  • Christa Wolf

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749 - 1832

This German poet, playwright and author was born on August 28, 1749 in midst of a middle class family; he had a comfortable childhood and was greatly influenced by his mother, who encouraged his literary aspirations. While he was studying law at Leipzig University he showed his keenness form literature and painting, as well as beginning to study occultism, astrology and alchemy, encouraged by a friend of his mother's, Katharina von Klettenberg.

Among the authors and philosophers that most influenced Goethe during his lifetime are Johann Gottfried von Herder and Friedrich von Schiller. Together with the former, he wrote Of German Style and Art (1773), which along with his tragedy Götz von Berlichingen (1773) became the cornerstone of the Sturm und Drang movement that searched for a way back to intuitive knowledge and the pagan and magical religiousness of ancient German traditions, as opposed to the precepts of the French classical period. This movement was to be the forerunner of German romantic literature.

The following year the romantic tragedy The Sorrows of Young Werther, was published, a fateful story of unrequited love and suicide which was enormously successful with audiences and which turned into standard play of the Romantic Period. During 1775 Goethe moved to Weimar, one of the most important intellectual and cultural centers in Germany at the time, invited over by the heir to the Duchy of Saxony-Weimar, Charles Augustus. He remained there until his death in 1832.

Except for a few poems, and outlines of poems that would later become form part of his most famous work (the play Iphigenia in Tauris, Faust), during the first ten years in Weimar he wrote very little, being fully occupied with his positions in public administration, as well as studying mineralogy, osteology and geology.

Between 1786 and 1788 he lived in Italy where he was confronted with and influenced by the greatness of the Classical world. From that moment on his work began to adopt and develop universal and timeless themes, which led to ideas and forms that ended up by shaping what would later be called the Classical Period in German literature.

In 1794 Goethe met Friedrich von Schiller, with whom he was friends until the latter passed away in 1805, the year that also marks the beginning of an especially prolific stage for Goethe, and which would last until his own death. Some of the most prominent writings from this last stage of his life include Elective Affinities (1809) and Wilhelm Meister's Years of Apprenticeship (1821); his autobiography and the second part of his dramatic poem, Faust, were published in 1832, after his death.