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Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Early Romanticism and Its Origins in Germany

The Literary and Historical Museum known as the Romantikerhaus (House of the Romantics) is located in the house that was once owned by the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte in Jena.  

The permanent exhibition of the early Romantic Jena which is housed in the Romantikerhaus shows the cultural and intellectual background for the emergence of a younger generation of poets, literary critics, philosophers and scientists. What it reveals is under what conditions it was possible to develop in Jena 1785-1803 the most advanced intellectual center of Germany. The spiritual and cultural charisma of the city of Jena embodies an essential prerequisite for the work of the early Romantic period . Based on his publishing activities in Jena, the importance of Carl Friedrich Ernst From Mans, his circle of friends and the literary conditions in 1800, as well as the establishment of the " Athenaeum " in the city, is presented as a program guide of the early Romantic period.
The Museum also emphasizes the relationship between German Romanticism and the scientific revolution which followed. The exhibition shows the scientific commitment of the early Romantics and the complexity of Romantic thought about Nature and the natural sciences, and their connection to their social critique and conceptions of future discoveries yet to be made. This element of Futurism is explored in the Museum's galleries.


Jena's Central Market Square, looking up to the gabled houses and the Town Hall's tower, with the Monument tothe Elector John the Steadfast (Johann der Beständige), protector of Martin Luther.

Jena's Town Hall

View of the old city of Jena in the Goethezeit


Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 – 1814) was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German Idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant in Königsberg.  Fichte is often perceived as a figure whose philosophy forms a bridge between the ideas of Kant and those of Hegel.

Below, the photo shows the philosopher at the blackboard. He is considered here as a father of Romanticism because of his philosophy of the Ego. The Absolute Ego determines all that appears to be real, which is the Not-I, and hence there are no fetters to the Will.

“My System is the first System of Freedom. Just as a certain Nation (France) has freed man from external shackles, so my System frees him from the fetters of things in themselves, which is to say, from those external influences with which all previous Systems – including the Kantian – have more or less fettered man. Indeed, the first principle of my System presents man as an independent being. During the very years when France was using external force to win its political freedom I was engaged in an inner struggle with my self and with all deeply rooted prejudices, and this is the struggle which gave birth to my System.” Draft of a Letter to Baggesen, April-May, 1795


„Die Gesellschaft ist nichts, als gemeinschaftliches Leben: eine untheilbare denkende und fuehlende Person. Jeder Mensch ist eine kleine Gesellschaft.“  Novalis

[The Society (Community) is nothing but collective (communal) life: an indivisible, thinking and feeling Person. Every person is a small Society (Community). Novalis]

Goethe on Tieck

“Als er sie vollendet hatte, las Tieck mir im alten Schlosse in Jena seine ‘Genoveva’ vor. Nachdem er geendet, meint ich, wir hätten zehn Uhr; er war aber schon tief in der Nacht, ohne dass ich’s gewahr geworden. Das will aber schon etwas sagen, mir so drei Stunden aus meinem Leben weggelesen zu haben.“ (Goethe, in the 1820’s)

[When he had finished writing it, Tieck read his ‘Genoveva’ to me, in the old castle in Jena. After he finished reading, it was already ten o’clock; but it was already deep in the night before I became aware of it. That means something, to have read away three hours out of my life. (Goethe, in the 1820’s)]

Below, the interior of the Romantikerhaus:  The portrait on the back wall, left of center, is that of Dorothea Schlegel, a most important member of the early Romantic movement.

Dorothea von Schlegel was born in 1764 in Berlin. She was the oldest daughter of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. In 1783, she married the merchant and banker Simon Veit. She met the poet and critic Friedrich Schlegel in the salon of her friend Henriette Herz, after which she left her husband. They were divorced in 1799. Dorothea obtained custody of her son, Philipp, and lived with him at the Ziegelstraße, which became a salon frequented by Tieck, Schelling, the Schlegel brothers, and Novalis. Schlegel's novel "Lucinde" (1799) was seen as an account of their affair, causing a scandal in German literary circles.

Friedrich Schlegel, together with his brother August Wilhelm, the founders of the Romantic Movement in Germany

August Wilhelm Schlegel

Busts of Dorothea, Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel

The Tree of Liberty

The Liberty Tree: like the one Hegel, Schelling and Hölderlin planted at the University of Tübingen, when they heard of the military success of the French Republican armies in the Rhineland.

Impressions of 'King Lear'

Fichte's Suitcase

Fichte left Jena for Berlin in 1799.  He had a difficult relationship with the Court of Weimar, and after weathering a couple of academic storms, he was finally dismissed from Jena in 1799 as a result of a charge of atheism. He was accused of atheism in 1798 after publishing his essay "Über den Grund unsers Glaubens an eine göttliche Weltregierung" (On the Ground of Our Belief in a Divine World-Governance), which he had written in response to Friedrich Karl Forberg's essay "Development of the Concept of Religion," in his Philosophical Journal. For Fichte, God should be conceived primarily in moral terms: "The living and efficaciously acting moral order is itself God. We require no other God, nor can we grasp any other." (On the Ground of Our Belief in a Divine World-Governance). He accepted an offer from the University of Berlin to teach philosophy there.  With his departure the early period of German Romanticism came to an end.  Hegel remained in Jena, then eventually replaced Fichte at the Chair of Philosophy in Berlin.

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