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

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, 1729-1781

This German critic and playwright was one of the most important figures in Germany during the Age of Enlightenment. Born on January 22, 1729 in Kamenz, he studied theology, philosophy and medicine at Leipzg and Wittenberg Universities. During his stay in Leipzig he began acquiring a taste for the theatre and wrote his first play, The Young Scholar (1748).

From 1748 to1755 he lived in Berlin, working as a theatrical and literary critic, besides writing several plays himself, such as The Freethinker (1749) and The Jews (1749). Between 1755 and 1758 he lived in Leipzig, later moving back to Berlin. There he founded the newspaper, Letters on Modern Literature, in 1759, together with philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and critic Christoph Friedrich Nicolai.

Lessing wrote a series of articles portraying Shakespeare as a role model for German playwrights, who until that time had been strongly influenced by the French classics.

From 1760 to 1765 Lessing was secretary to the Governor of Breslau (currently Wroclaw, Poland). After 2 years in Berlin, in 1767 he helped found the national theater in Hamburg, and from 1770 through to his death in February, 1781, he was a librarian working in the ducal library of Brunswick in Wolfenbüttel.

Lessing's dramatic and critical work established new parameters in German literature and influenced the work of German writers that followed. His work Miss Sara Sampson, in 1755, is famous for being the first tragedy of middle class life in German theatre. One of his most famous works, Emilia Galotti, is another bourgeoisie tragedy, based on a Roman legend.

As a critic, Lessing became well-known due to his essays on theatre, literature, art, archaeology and theology. Hamburg Dramaturgy, written between 1767 and 1768, is one of the first modern treatise on the play writing occupation. His best literary critics are found in Letters; in the essay Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (1766), where he analyses poetry, sculpture and painting, defining the boundaries of each discipline. His essays on archaeology and theology were also very important and combined with the rest of his work, form an impressive collection, evidence of his incredible versatility and wisdom.