Romantic aesthetics and politics
Although it seems hopelessly abstract and vague, the term ‘German Romanticism’ has been given a definite historical meaning by generations of scholars. It denotes a loosely organized and vaguely self-conscious intellectual movement that began in Germany toward the close of the eighteenth century. It is even possible to identify specific times and places as the beginning of German Romanticism. The crucial period would be from 1797 to 1802, and the pivotal places would be Jena and Berlin. During this time, a group of writers met in the home of A. W. Schlegel in Jena, and in the literary salons of Henriette Herz and Rahel Levin in Berlin. There they held frank and free discussions about philosophy, poetry, politics and religion. The leading members of this circle were Ludwig Tieck (1773–1853), Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder (1773–1801), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1845), the brothers August Wilhelm (1767–1845) and Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829), Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher (1767–1834), and Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772–1801), who was known by his pen name Novalis. The members of this group called themselves ‘the new school’, ‘the new sect’ and, later and more famously, ‘the romantic school’. Though their meetings were charmed, they were also short lived. Their circle suffered some severe blows with the deaths of Novalis and Wackenroder in 1801; and it disbanded when the Schlegel brothers left Jena in 1802.
German Romanticism did not, of course, disappear with the demise of this early circle. Its legacy lived on, and it eventually became one of the most influential movements in modern intellectual history.