What is progressive poetry

Friedrich Schlegel founded the magazine in 1797 together with his brother August Wilhelm Schlegel Athenaeum. Although it only appears for three years, it is of great importance. she is the Organ of the early romanticists (Schleiermacher, Novalis, Caroline Schlegel). Especially in the fragments that are still in the first volume of the Athenaeum Without naming the author as a joint work by Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel as well as Novalis ‘and Schleiermacher, basic ideas are formulated on a poetics of Romanticism. The 116th Athenaeum fragment, in which Friedrich Schlegel formulates the program of romantic poetry, is of particular importance for the development of poetological ideas. This so-called Universal progressive poetry calls for the mixing of all genres. In the romantic novel, this dictum is reflected in a constant change of forms: narrative passages are replaced by dramatic, dialogical sequences; Poems, songs or letters break the narrative flow. But the story itself is not "all of a piece" either. There are always smaller sub-texts (fairy tales, digressions, memories, etc.) that interrupt the main narrative. This is how the novel is made Countess Dolores' poverty, wealth, guilt and penance [1810] by Achim von Arnim from almost 100 independent narrative elements. This is a counter-blow to all schematizing poetics which force the poet into a tight set of rules.

Schlegel's poetics, however, not only stand for the mixing of genres, but also for the principle that poetry not only - in the narrow sense - all should integrate poetic elements, but also philosophy, rhetoric and criticism:

"Romantic poetry is a progressive universal poetry. Its purpose is not merely to reunite all the separate genres of poetry and to bring poetry into contact with philosophy and rhetoric. It also wants and should poetry and prose, genius and criticism, art poetry and natural poetry now mix, now merge, poetry lively and sociable and make life and society poetic, poetize wit and fill and saturate the forms of art with solid educational material of every kind and animate them with the vibrations of humor. what is only poetic, from the greatest, again, several systems contained in art, to the sigh, the kiss, which the poet breathes out in artless song. "

As universal poetry appropriates as many areas of life as possible, life itself becomes poetry; a life whose totality, as an image of the age, can only be found in poetry. Only in it can man see everything.

"It can become so lost in what is represented that one would like to believe that it characterizes poetic individuals of every kind, be their one and all; and yet there is still no form that is made to fully express the spirit of the author: like this that some artists who only wanted to write a novel have portrayed themselves by accident. Only they can, like the epic, become a mirror of the whole surrounding world, an image of the age ... Romantic poetry is among the arts What the joke of philosophy is, and society, intercourse, friendship and love in life. Other types of poetry are ready and can now be completely dissected. The romantic type of poetry is still in the making; yes that is its real essence, that it is only eternal can never be completed, it cannot be exhausted by any theory, and only one divinatory Criticism might dare to try to characterize its ideal. It alone is infinite as it alone is free and recognizes as its first law that the poet's arbitrariness does not suffer any law over itself. The romantic type of poetry is the only one that is more than type and, as it were, the art of poetry itself: for in a certain sense all poetry is or should be romantic. "(Pp. 38f.) The poet's absolute freedom does not only mean freedom from tradition poetological conventions - romanticism has always been known for overriding them - but freedom from all poetics, including romantic ones.

The historical significance of this new poetics lies in the radical departure from any rule poetics. The poet becomes a genius who creates freedom. Only he himself is responsible for the shape of his work. This goes hand in hand with the upgrading of the novel as a literary form, because in its flexible shell there is not only that Mixing of the genera possible. Schlegel also began to turn away from the ideal notion that social totality can and must be depicted in the epic (Aristotle, Hegel) or in the novel progressive universal poetry to prepare without wanting to. Although he still believes that the incompleteness of the romantic novel is expressing infinity and thus referring to the totality of the appearances of people and society, this fragmentary character of the novel already prepares modern and postmodern forms of literary creation, which not only through their stylistic freedom but are often also characterized by the radical limitation of their perspective. We only experience reality there as an excerpt, limited to the view of a disoriented subject, for whom the world has long since been reduced to disordered impressions. Here the fragmentary no longer refers to the world, but only to the individual.

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  • Friedrich Schlegel: Critical writings, ed. v. Wolfdietrich Rasch, 2nd edition, Munich 1964.