German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language. This includes literature written in Germany, Austria, the German part of Switzerland, and to a lesser extent works of the German diaspora. German literature of the modern period is mostly in Standard German, but there are some currents of literature influenced to a greater or lesser degree by dialects (e.g. Alemannic).
Medieval German literature is literature written in Germany, stretching from the Carolingian dynasty; various dates have been given for the end of the German literary Middle Ages, the Reformation (1517) being the last possible cut-off point. The Old High German period is reckoned to run until about the mid-11th century; the most famous works are the Hildebrandslied and a heroic epic known as the Heliand. Middle High German starts in the 12th century; the key works include The Ring (ca. 1410) and the poems of Oswald von Wolkenstein and Johannes von Tepl. The Baroque period (1600 to 1720) was one of the most fertile times in German literature. Modern literature in German begins with the authors of the Enlightenment (such as Herder). The Sensibility movement of the 1750s-1770s ended with Goethe's best-selling Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774). The Sturm und Drang and Weimar Classicism movements were led by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Biedermeier refers to the literature, music, the visual arts and interior design in the period between the years 1815 (Vienna Congress), the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and 1848, the year of the European revolutions. Under the Nazi regime, some authors went into exile (Exilliteratur) and others submitted to censorship ("internal emigration", Innere Emigration). The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to German language authors thirteen times (as of 2009), or the third most often after English and French language authors (with 27 and 14 laureates, respectively), with some of the winners including Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and GÃ¼nter Grass.
Periodization is not an exact science but the following list contains movements or time periods typically used in discussing German literature. It seems worth noting that the periods of medieval German literature span two or three centuries, those of early modern German literature span one century, and those of modern German literature each span one or two decades. The closer one nears the present, the more debated the periodizations become.
- Medieval German literature
- Old High German literature (750-1050)
- Middle High German literature (1050â"1300)
- Late medieval German literature/Renaissance (1300â"1500)
- Early Modern German literature (see Early Modern literature)
- Humanism and Protestant Reformation (1500â"1650)
- Baroque (1600â"1720)
- Enlightenment (1680â"1789)
- Modern German literature
- 18th- and 19th-century German literature
- Empfindsamkeit / Sensibility (1750s-1770s)
- Sturm und Drang / Storm and Stress (1760s-1780s)
- German Classicism (1729â"1832)
- Weimar Classicism (1788â"1805) or (1788â"1832), depending on Schiller's (1805) or Goethe's (1832) death
- German Romanticism (1790s-1880s)
- Biedermeier (1815â"1848)
- Young Germany (1830â"1850)
- Poetic Realism (1848â"1890)
- Naturalism (1880â"1900)
- 20th-century German literature
- Fin de siÃ¨cle (c. 1900)
- Expressionism (1910â"1920)
- Dada (1914â"1924)
- New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit)
- National Socialist literature
- Exile literature
- By country
- Federal Republic of Germany
- German Democratic Republic
- By thematic or group
- Post-war literature (1945â"1967)
- Group 47
- Holocaust literature
- By country
- Contemporary German literature (1989-)
- 18th- and 19th-century German literature
Medieval German literature refers to literature written in Germany, stretching from the Carolingian dynasty; various dates have been given for the end of the German literary Middle Ages, the Reformation (1517) being the last possible cut-off point.
Old High German
The Old High German period is reckoned to run until about the mid-11th century, though the boundary to Early Middle High German (second half of the 11th century) is not clear-cut.
The most famous work in OHG is the Hildebrandslied, a short piece of Germanic alliterative heroic verse which besides the Muspilli is the sole survivor of what must have been a vast oral tradition. Another important work, in the northern dialect of Old Saxon, is a life of Christ in the style of a heroic epic known as the Heliand.
Middle High German
Middle High German proper runs from the beginning of the 12th century. In the second half of the 12th century, there was a sudden intensification of activity, leading to a 60-year "golden age" of medieval German literature referred to as the mittelhochdeutsche BlÃ¼tezeit (1170â"1230). This was the period of the blossoming of MHG lyric poetry, particularly Minnesang (the German variety of the originally French tradition of courtly love). One of the most important of these poets was Walther von der Vogelweide. The same sixty years saw the composition of the most important courtly romances. These are written in rhyming couplets, and again draw on French models such as ChrÃ©tien de Troyes, many of them relating Arthurian material, for example, Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. The third literary movement of these years was a new revamping of the heroic tradition, in which the ancient Germanic oral tradition can still be discerned, but tamed and Christianized and adapted for the court. These high medieval heroic epics are written in rhymed strophes, not the alliterative verse of Germanic prehistory (for example, the Nibelungenlied).
The Middle High German period is conventionally taken to end in 1350, while the Early New High German is taken to begin with the German Renaissance, after the invention of movable type in the mid-15th century. Therefore, the literature of the late 14th and the early 15th century falls, as it were, in the cracks between Middle and New High German, and can be classified as either. Works of this transitional period include The Ring (c. 1410), the poems of Oswald von Wolkenstein and Johannes von Tepl, the German versions of Pontus and Sidonia, and arguably the works of Hans Folz and Sebastian Brant (Ship of Fools, 1494), among others. The Volksbuch (chapbook) tradition which would flourish in the 16th century also finds its origin in the second half of the 15th century.
Early Modern period
German Renaissance and Reformation
- Sebastian Brant (1457â"1521)
- Thomas Murner (1475â"1537)
- Philipp Melanchthon (1497â"1560)
- Sebastian Franck (1500â"1543)
The Baroque period (1600 to 1720) was one of the most fertile times in German literature. Many writers reflected the horrible experiences of the Thirty Years' War, in poetry and prose. Grimmelshausen's adventures of the young and naÃ¯ve Simplicissimus, in the eponymous book Simplicius Simplicissimus, became the most famous novel of the Baroque period. Martin Opitz established rules for the "purity" of language, style, verse and rhyme. Andreas Gryphius and Daniel Caspar von Lohenstein wrote German language tragedies, or Trauerspiele, often on Classical themes and frequently quite violent. Erotic, religious and occasional poetry appeared in both German and Latin.
Empfindsamkeit / Sensibility (1750s-1770s) Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724â"1803), Christian FÃ¼rchtegott Gellert (1715â"1769), Sophie de La Roche (1730â"1807). The period culminates and ends in Goethe's best-selling Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774).
Sturm und Drang
Sturm und Drang (the conventional translation is "Storm and Stress"; a more literal translation, however, might be storm and urge, storm and longing, or storm and impulse) is the name of a movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s through the early 1780s in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in response to the confines of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. The philosopher Johann Georg Hamann is considered to be the ideologue of Sturm und Drang, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a notable proponent of the movement, though he and Friedrich Schiller ended their period of association with it, initiating what would become Weimar Classicism.
Weimar Classicism (German âWeimarer Klassikâ and âWeimarer Klassizismusâ) is a cultural and literary movement of Europe, and its central ideas were originally propounded by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller during the period 1788â"1832.
German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. German Romanticism developed relatively late compared to its English counterpart, coinciding in its early years with the movement known as German Classicism or Weimar Classicism, which it opposed. In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety is notable for valuing humor and wit as well as beauty. The early German romantics tried to create a new synthesis of art, philosophy, and science, looking to the Middle Ages as a simpler, more integrated period. As time went on, however, they became increasingly aware of the tenuousness of the unity they were seeking. Later German Romanticism emphasized the tension between the everyday world and the seemingly irrational and supernatural projections of creative genius. Heinrich Heine in particular criticized the tendency of the early romantics to look to the medieval past for a model of unity in art and society.
- G.W.F. Hegel
- E.T.A. Hoffmann
- Friedrich HÃ¶lderlin
- Heinrich von Kleist
- Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg)
- Friedrich Schlegel
- August Wilhelm Schlegel
- Friedrich Schleiermacher
- Ludwig Tieck
- Ludwig Uhland
- Joseph von Eichendorff
Biedermeier and VormÃ¤rz
Biedermeier refers to work in the fields of literature, music, the visual arts and interior design in the period between the years 1815 (Vienna Congress), the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and 1848, the year of the European revolutions and contrasts with the Romantic era which preceded it. Typical Biedermeier poets are Annette von Droste-HÃ¼lshoff, Adelbert von Chamisso, Eduard MÃ¶rike, and Wilhelm MÃ¼ller, the last three named having well-known musical settings by Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf and Franz Schubert respectively.
Young Germany (Junges Deutschland) was a loose group of VormÃ¤rz writers which existed from about 1830 to 1850. It was essentially a youth movement (similar to those that had swept France and Ireland and originated in Italy). Its main proponents were Karl Gutzkow, Heinrich Laube, Theodor Mundt and Ludolf Wienbarg; Heinrich Heine, Ludwig BÃ¶rne and Georg BÃ¼chner were also considered part of the movement. The wider circle included Willibald Alexis, Adolf Glassbrenner and Gustav KÃ¼hne.
Realism and Naturalism
Poetic Realism (1848â"1890): Theodor Fontane, Gustav Freitag, Gottfried Keller, Wilhelm Raabe, Adalbert Stifter, Theodor Storm
Naturalism (1880â"1900): Gerhart Hauptmann
1900 to 1933
- Fin de siÃ¨cle (c. 1900)
- Weimar literature (1919-1933)
- Expressionism (1910â"1920)
- Dada (1914â"1924)
- New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit)
- National Socialist literature: see Blut und Boden, Nazi propaganda
Under the Nazi regime, some authors went into exile (Exilliteratur) and others submitted to censorship ("inner emigration", Innere Emigration)
- Inner Emigration: Gottfried Benn, Werner Bergengruen, Hans BlÃ¼her, Hans Heinrich Ehrler, Hans Fallada, Werner Finck, Gertrud Fussenegger, Ricarda Huch, Ernst JÃ¼nger, Erich KÃ¤stner, Volker Lachmann, Oskar Loerke, Erika Mitterer, Walter von Molo, Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, Richard Riemerschmid, Reinhold Schneider, Frank Thiess, Carl von Ossietzky, Ernst Wiechert
- in exile: Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Broch, Alfred DÃ¶blin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bruno Frank, A. M. Frey, Anna Gmeyner, Oskar Maria Graf, Heinrich Eduard Jacob, Hermann Kesten, Annette Kolb, Siegfried Kracauer, Emil Ludwig, Heinrich Mann, Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann, Balder Olden, Rudolf Olden, Robert Neumann, Erich Maria Remarque, Ludwig Renn, Alice RÃ¼hle-Gerstel, Otto RÃ¼hle, Alice Schwarz-Gardos, Anna Seghers, B. Traven, Bodo Uhse, Franz Werfel, Arnold Zweig, Stefan Zweig.
1945 to 1989
- Post-war literature of West Germany (1945â"1967): Heinrich BÃ¶ll, GÃ¼nter Grass, Group 47; Holocaust literature (Paul Celan, Edgar Hilsenrath)
- GDR Literature in East Germany: Johannes R. Becher, Wolf Biermann, Bertolt Brecht, Sarah Kirsch, GÃ¼nter Kunert, Reiner Kunze, Heiner MÃ¼ller, Anna Seghers, Christa Wolf
- Postwar literature of Switzerland and Austria: Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Friedrich DÃ¼rrenmatt, Max Frisch, Elfriede Jelinek
- Postmodern literature: Oswald Wiener, Christian Kracht, Hans WollschlÃ¤ger, Christoph Ransmayr, Marlene Streeruwitz, Rainald Goetz
German being a relatively small language in comparison to English, much of contemporary poetry in the German language is published in literary magazines. DAS GEDICHT, for instance, has featured German poetry from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxemburg for the last twenty years. Since 2013, it also has an English-language version.
- Science-Fiction, Fantasy: Andreas Eschbach, Frank SchÃ¤tzing, Wolfgang Hohlbein, Bernhard Hennen, Walter Moers
- Pop Literature: Dietmar Dath, Christian Kracht, Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, Rainald Goetz.
- Migrant literature: Feridun Zaimoglu, Wladimir Kaminer, Rafik Schami
- Poetry: JÃ¼rgen Becker, Marcel Beyer, Theo Breuer, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Aldona Gustas, Ernst Jandl, Thomas Kling, Uwe Kolbe, Friederike MayrÃ¶cker, Durs GrÃ¼nbein, Kurt Marti, Karl Krolow
- Aphorists: Hans Kruppa
- Thriller: Ingrid Noll
- Novel: Wilhelm Genazino, GÃ¼nter Grass, Herta MÃ¼ller, Siegfried Lenz, Charlotte Link, Anna Kaleri, Norbert Scheuer, Kathrin Schmidt, Burkhard Spinnen, Robert Menasse, Martin Walser, Andreas Mand, Zsuzsa BÃ¡nk
- Literaturport (in German): audio clips of contemporary literature, many read out by the authors themselves
- German-American literature: Paul-Henri Campbell
Nobel Prize laureates
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to German language authors thirteen times (as of 2009), or the third most often after English and French language authors (with 27 and 14 laureates, respectively).
- 1902 Theodor Mommsen
- 1908 Rudolf Christoph Eucken
- 1910 Paul Heyse
- 1912 Gerhart Hauptmann
- 1919 Carl Spitteler
- 1929 Thomas Mann
- 1946 Hermann Hesse
- 1966 Nelly Sachs
- 1972 Heinrich BÃ¶ll
- 1981 Elias Canetti
- 1999 GÃ¼nter Grass
- 2004 Elfriede Jelinek
- 2009 Herta MÃ¼ller
- German-speaking Europe
- Standard German
- Swiss literature
- Austrian literature
- Alemannic literature
- Stiftung Lesen
- History of German
- List of German-language authors
- List of German-language playwrights
- List of German-language poets
- List of German-language philosophers
- History of literature
- Projekt Gutenberg-DE
- Sophie (digital lib)
- Luso-Germanic Literature
- Cambridge History of German Literature. Watanabe-OâKelly, Helen, ed. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
- Konzett, Matthias Piccolruaz. Encyclopedia of German Literature. Routledge, 2000.
- The Oxford Companion to German Literature, ed. by Mary Garland and Henry Garland, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 1997
- Bernd Lutz, Benedikt JeÃing (eds.): Metzler Lexikon Autoren: Deutschsprachige Dichter und Schriftsteller vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Stuttgart und Weimar: 4., aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage 2010
- Theo Breuer, Aus dem Hinterland. Lyrik nach 2000, Sistig/EifelÂ : Edition YE, 2005, ISBN 3-87512-186-4
- Theo Breuer, Kiesel & Kastanie (ed.): Von neuen Gedichten und Geschichten, Sistig/EifelÂ : Edition YE, 2008, ISBN 3-87512-347-6
- JÃ¼rgen Brocan, Jan Kuhlbrodt (eds.), Umkreisungen. 25 AuskÃ¼nfte zum Gedicht, Lepzig: Poetenladen Literaturverlag, 2010
- Manfred Enzensperger (ed.), Die HÃ¶lderlin-Ameisen: Vom Finden und Erfinden der Poesie, Cologne: Dumont, 2005
- Peter von Matt, Die verdÃ¤chtige Pracht. Ãber Dichter und Gedichte, Munich [etc.]Â : Hanser, 1998
- Joachim Sartorius (ed.), Mimima Poetica. FÃ¼r eine Poetik des zeitgenÃ¶ssischen Gedichts, CologneÂ : Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1999
- German poetry from 1750 to 1900, ed. by Robert M. Browning. Foreword by Michael Hamburger, New YorkÂ : Continuum, 1984, 281 pp. (German Library), ISBN 0-8264-0283-6
- Twentieth-Century German Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Michael Hofmann, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008 (Paperback Edition), 544 pp., ISBN 0-374-53093-9
- Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed.), TEXT+KRITIK: Lyrik des 20. Jahrhunderts (1999).
- Verena Auffermann, Hubert Winkels (ed.), Beste Deutsche ErzÃ¤hler (2000-)
- Hans Bender (ed.), In diesem Lande leben wir. Deutsche Gedichte der Gegenwart (1978)
- Hans Bender, Was sind das fÃ¼r Zeiten. Deutschsprachige Gedichte der achtziger Jahre (1988)
- Christoph Buchwald, Uljana Wolf (ed.), Jahrbuch der Lyrik 2009 (2009)
- Karl Otto Conrady (ed.), Der GroÃe Conrady. Das Buch deutscher Gedichte. Von den AnfÃ¤ngen bis zur Gegenwart (2008).
- Hugo von Hofmannsthal (ed.), Deutsche ErzÃ¤hler I (1912, 1979)
- Martie Luise Kaschnitz (ed.), Deutsche ErzÃ¤hler II (1971, 1979)
- Boris Kerenski & Sergiu Stefanescu, Kaltland Beat. Neue deutsche Szene (1999)
- Axel Kutsch (ed.), Versnetze. Deutschsprachige Lyrik der Gegenwart (2009)
- Andreas Neumeister, Marcel Hartges (ed.), Poetry! Slam! Texte der Pop-Fraktion (1996)
- Sophie - A digital library of works by German-speaking women