One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Monday, August 4, 2014

Novalis (1772 - 1801)

Novalis (German: [noˈvaːlɪs]) was the pseudonym of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (May 2, 1772 – March 25, 1801), a poet, author, and philosopher of early German Romanticism.


Novalis, who had great knowledge in science, law, philosophy, politics and political economy, started writing quite early. He left an astonishing abundance of notes on these fields of knowledge and his early work shows that he was very educated and well read. His later works are closely connected to his studies and his profession. Novalis collected everything that he had learned, reflected upon it and drew connections in the sense of an encyclopaedic overview on art, religion and science. These notes from the years 1798 and 1799 are called Das allgemeine Brouillon, and are now available in English under the title Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia. Together with Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis developed the fragment as a literary form of art. The core of Hardenberg’s literary works is the quest for the connection of science and poetry, and the result was supposed to be a "progressive universal poesy” (fragment no. 116 of the Athenaum journal). Novalis was convinced that philosophy and the higher-ranking poetry have to be continually related to each other.

The fact that the romantic fragment is an appropriate form for a depiction of "progressive universal poesy”, can be seen especially from the success of this new genre in its later reception.

Novalis' whole works are based upon an idea of education: "We are on a mission: we are called upon to educate the earth." It has to be made clear that everything is in a continual process. It is the same with humanity, which forever strives towards and tries to recreate a new Golden Age – a paradisical Age of harmony between man and nature that was assumed to have existed in earlier times. This Age was recounted by Plato, Plotinus, and Franz Hemsterhuis – the latter being an extremely important figure for the German Romantics.

This idea of a romantic universal poesy can be seen clearly in the romantic triad. This theoretical structure always shows its recipient that the described moment is exactly the moment (kairos) in which the future is decided. These frequently mentioned critical points correspond with the artist’s feeling for the present, which Novalis shares with many other contemporaries of his time. Thus a triadic structure can be found in most of his works. This means that there are three corresponding structural elements which are written differently concerning the content and the form.

Hardenberg’s intensive study of the works of Jakob Böhme, from 1800, had a clear influence on his own writing.

A mystical world view, a high standard of education, and the frequently perceptible pietistic influences are combined in Novalis' attempt to reach a new concept of Christianity, faith, and God. He forever endeavours to align these with his own view of transcendental philosophy, which acquired the mysterious name "Magical idealism". Magical idealism draws heavily from the critical or transcendental idealism of Kant and Fichte, and incorporates the artistic element central to Early German Romanticism. The subject must strive to conform the external, natural world to its own will and genius; hence the term "magical".[1] David Krell calls magical idealism "thaumaturgic idealism."[2] This view can even be discerned in more religious works such as the Spiritual Songs (published 1802), which soon became incorporated into Lutheran hymn-books.

Novalis influenced, among others, the novelist and theologian George MacDonald, who translated his Hymns to the Night in 1897. More recently, Novalis, as well as the Early Romantic (Frühromantik) movement as a whole, has been recognized as constituting a separate philosophical school, as opposed to simply a literary movement. Recognition of the distinctness of Fruhromantik philosophy is owed in large part, in the English speaking world at least, to the writer Frederick Beiser.

[From Wikipedia:]

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