German Literature

German Literature
  • German authors
  • Literature in the Middle Ages
  • 16th, 17th and 18th century literature
  • Enlightenment literature
  • Romantic literature
  • Naturalist and Expressionist literature
  • 20th century literature
  • German war and post-war literature
  • Contemporary literature

Literature in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries

The Protestant Reformation had a very strong influence on the development of German literature in the form of Martin Luther's translation of the Bible. During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Minnesang was replaced by the Meistergesang (master song), poetry written by guilds of artisans known as Meistersinger, master singers, whose guilds branched out throughout the cities and whose Lieder (songs) had more didactic than poetic accents.

At this stage the Volkslieder or folk songs also emerged. The picaresque novel emerged with the Schwank, a new literary genre; one of the most famous characters of this genre is Till Eulenspiegel.

In the 17th Century, the critic Martin Opitz began incorporating French influences into German literature, a tendency that caught on with poets such as Angelus Silesius (Johann Scheffler), who achieved an increased individuality of expression.

The first great German novel, Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus, which portrays the effects of the Thirty Years War, was written by Hans von Grimmelshausen in this century. The following century, it was the critic Johann Gottsched who followed Opitz's lead, trying to establish the rules derived from the logic and precision of French literature.