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 Gottfried von Herder, 1744-1803

The German philosopher and literary critic, Johann Gottfried von Herder had a hand in the appearance of the Romantic period in Germany through his own writing. As leader of the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) movement, he inspired many writers, among them, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the main figure of the German romantic period.

Von Herder was born on August 25, 1744 in Mohrungen, and studied at the Königsberg University with philosopher Immanuel Kant. Fragments on Recent German Literature (1766-1767) include some of his early critical works in which he praised the path of emancipation that German literature was taking from foreign influences. His following essays - including one written in collaboration with Goethe, Of German Style and Art (1773) - sought a return to popular literature, to the poetry of Shakespeare and Homer and to the development of an idea conceived by Herder of the Volksgeist (national character), which is expressed in the language and literature of a country.

With the help of Goethe, Herder acquired a position with the government in Weimar, where he wrote his master piece and greatest contribution to philosophy: Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity, written between 1784 and 1791, four volumes in which he tries to demonstrate that both nature and human history obey the same laws.

Toward the end of his life, Herder parted ways with Goethe and the German classical movement, taking on a different, more didactic poetic style, as is evident in his Letters for the Advancement of Humanity, written between 1793 and 1797, in which he expresses his disagreement with the Kant philosophy. Von Herder died in Weimar on December 18, 1803.