Eleoma Joshua. Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg and the German Romantics. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005. 206 pp. EUR 39.70 (paper), ISBN 978-3-03910-257-0; $44.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8204-7186-0.
Reviewed by Robert S. Bledsoe (Department of English and Foreign Languages, Augusta State University)
Published on H-German (January, 2007)
Stolberg's Journey to the Romantics
To the adage that the winners write history, one might want to add a corollary that, at least in literary history, the winners are written about more often than the losers. Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg is one of the losers. He is perhaps best remembered for a few poems penned while a member of the Göttinger Hainbund and the personal affront he took at some of the zingers sent his way in the Xenien (1796) by Friedrich Schiller and J.W.G. Goethe. Joshua wants to reestablish an awareness of Stolberg as a consequential figure in the German literary landscape at the end of the eighteenth century by focusing on his significance for early German Romantics. Recent studies by Gert Theile and Dirk Hempel have paved the way for this reevaluation, and Joshua considers her work as a continuation of these studies, as well as an extension and clarification of the works on Stolberg and Romanticism by Leo Scheffezsck and Pierre Brachin.
Joshua has divided the book into five chapters. The first chapter gives an overview of Stolberg's life and writings, as well as a survey of significant research on Stolberg and Romanticism. This material is followed by chapters on Stolberg's theory of poetry, his poetry, his account of his journey through Italy and his conversion to Catholicism. The first chapter reminds us that Stolberg was not only an enthusiastic member of the Göttinger Hainbund, but also published essays on his aesthetic ideas, dramas, a novel and an account of his travels through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Sicily. Stolberg also translated a number of works from the Greek, most notably some of Aeschylus's tragedies, which expanded the number of texts available in translation to the German public. Later in his career Stolberg produced a notable history of Christianity, Geschichte der Religion Jesu Christi (1806-18).
Joshua's discussion of Stolberg's theory of poetry focuses on four essays published from 1777 and 1782: "Über die Fülle des Herzens" (1777), "Vom Dichten und Darstellen" (1780), "Über die Ruhe nach dem Genuß und über den Zustand des Dichters in dieser Ruhe" (1780) and "Über die Begeisterung" (1782). Joshua concludes that Stolberg strove to link a pietistic notion of enthusiasm with the Platonic tradition and developed a poetics that placed "the emotions, the heart, and the soul at the centre of poetic creativity" (p. 41), while still offering "an outwardly focused and productive expression of poetic feeling" (p. 50). Joshua offers a nice review of Stolberg's poetics, and points to clear connections between Stolberg's thinking and Romantic poetic theory. However, she is not able to establish that the early Romantics engaged in a significant manner with these essays.
The third chapter is much more successful in establishing connections between Stolberg and early Romantics. Here Joshua is able to show that Novalis and Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder considered Stolberg a canonical author and viewed his poetry as a model for their own work (p. 67). Joshua wisely does not claim that Stolberg was instrumental in their development; yet she is able to document that both engaged intensely with Stolberg's poetry. Joshua offers analyses of three poems by Stolberg, "Der Harz" (1772), "Lied eines deutschen Knaben" (1774) and "Der Abend" (1775), and related poems by Novalis. The analysis shows convincingly that in these early poetic attempts, Novalis adapts themes, images and lyrical forms from Stolberg (p. 79). Yet Joshua also makes the reader aware that already in this early poetry Novalis is moving in his own direction; he is not so much imitating Stolberg as reworking him. The evidence for Stolberg's influence on Wackenroder is less extensive, but Joshua's conclusions seem reasonable.
After establishing these connections between Stolberg, Novalis and Wackenroder, Joshua turns to a discussion of Stolberg's Reise in Deutschland, der Schweiz, Italien und Sizilien (1794). In this account of a trip undertaken in 1791 and 1792, Stolberg strove to produce an educational tool for people who had not seen the sites, rather than a sentimental portrait of their effects on the traveler. For Joshua, the most significant contribution of this travelogue is Stolberg's discovery of melancholy in the ancient classical sculptures, which led to his rejection of Greek art as both the epitome of beauty and a viable model for his Christian contemporaries. Joshua's argument that Stolberg's stance was a positive alternative to Goethe and Schiller's classicism is intriguing. Furthermore, she points to interesting parallels between Stolberg's views and those advocated by the early Romantics on classical art and the painting of Raphael. Nevertheless, I am not convinced, when Joshua, who usually makes cautious and judicious judgments, claims that Stolberg was "both a seismograph and a catalyst of a new aesthetic and religious ideal" (p. 126). A better contextualization of Stolberg's contribution to the general debate on classical sculpture and aesthetics might have helped clarify Stolberg's role.
On the other hand, Joshua does a good job of contextualizing Stolberg's conversion to Catholicism and especially the response to it. Stolberg's conversion in 1800 was a topic of general contemporary discussion. While the conversion alienated Stolberg from many Protestant contemporaries, especially those who identified with the Enlightenment, it brought him into contact with many Catholics and numerous Romantics. Joshua is able to show that, while Stolberg's motivations for converting were different than those of the Romantics, his conversion may well have paved the way for their own acts of conversion. Despite increased personal contact with the Romantics, Stolberg did not find common ground with them on aesthetic questions, but he did on political issues. Stolberg's turn to Catholicism and conservative politics was motivated in part by the atheism and secularization of the time, which Stolberg viewed as a threat to the fabric of society. Joshua finds significant similarities in Stolberg, Friedrich Schlegel and Adam Müller's political thought: "Their common ground was the organic concept of nature and society, the paternal state, the reinstatement, up to a point, of the old social hierarchy of the Middle Ages, and the theory that the social and moral disintegration in Europe was directly related to the French Revolution" (p. 157).
For Joshua, Stolberg is not a proto-Romantic, but rather a figure who influenced numerous Romantics in significant ways. Wackenroder and Novalis reworked Stolberg's enthusiastic embrace of nature and the creative poetic impulse, while his rejection of classical sculpture and his veneration of Raphael and other artists of the Renaissance offered an alternative to the classical aesthetics of Goethe and Schiller. Finally, his conversion to Catholicism and his conservative political turn in the early nineteenth century brought him into contact with important Romantics and lead to the possibility of more personal influence through personal contact. Joshua does a good job tracing intertextual connections and intellectual parallels. She does not overstate her case for the importance of Stolberg in this period; instead, she gives us a more nuanced portrait of the relations between Stolberg and the early Romantics than has been available to us previously.
. Gert Theile, Aufschwung und Refugium: Studien zu Dichtung und geistiger Welt Friedrich Leopold Stolbergs (Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag, 1994); Dirk Hempel, Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg (1750-1819): Staatsmann und politischer Schriftsteller (Cologne: Böhlau, 1997); Leo Scheffczyk, Friedrich Leopold zu Stolbergs 'Geschichte der Religion Jesu Christi': Die Abwendung der katholischen Kirchengeschichtsschreibung von der Aufklärung und ihre Neuorientierung im Zeitalter der Romantik (Munich: Zink, 1952); Pierre Brachin, "Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg und die deutsche Romantik," Literaturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch_ NF 1 (1960): 117-131.
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Robert S. Bledsoe. Review of Joshua, Eleoma, Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg and the German Romantics.
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