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

The Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang and Classical Periods

Gottsched's influence was challenged by young writers, who faced one of the most important eras in German literature, (second half of the 18th Century and early 19th Century). During the Pre-classical period Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's dramas formed the pillars of modern German drama and introduced the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment in Germany.

Philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder was the dominant figure in the literary movement called Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), whose members abandoned traditional concern with form and structure in favour of using national or folk elements instead. Evidence of such Sturm und Drang elements can be found in the early dramas by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Götz von Berlichingen and The Sorrows of Young Werther) and Friedrich von Schiller (The Robbers and Intrigue and Love).

In the Classical Period, Goethe and Schiller evolved toward emotional restraint, discretion in thought and clarity in expression, influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant and his disciple Johann Fichte. At this point, Goethe was writing Faust and Schiller was expressing his absolute ethical ideals in his drama plays such Maria Stuart and William Tell. This is also the time when Friedrich Hölderlin's career begins to take off, exploring the conflict between absolute ideals and the problems of existence in his epistolary novel, Hyperion. Other writers of the Classical Period include Heinrich von Kleist and Jean Paul Richter.