Weimar Classicism (German: Weimarer Klassik) is a German literary and cultural movement, whose practitioners established a new humanism, from the synthesis of ideas from Romanticism, Classicism, and the Age of Enlightenment.
The Weimarer Klassik movement, lasted thirty-three years, from 1772 until 1805, and involved intellectuals such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller, and Christoph Martin Wieland; and then was concentrated upon Goethe and Schiller during the period 1788â"1805.
The German Enlightenment, called âneo-classicalâ, burgeoned in the synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism as developed by Christian Thomasius (1655â"1728) and Christian Wolff (1679â"1754). This philosophy, circulated widely in many magazines and journals, profoundly directed the subsequent expansion of German-speaking and European culture.
The inability of this common-sense outlook convincingly to bridge âfeelingâ and âthoughtâ, âbodyâ and âmindâ, led to Immanuel Kant's epochal âcriticalâ philosophy. Another, though not as abstract, approach to this problem was a governing concern with the problems of aesthetics. In his Aesthetica of 1750 (vol. II; 1758) Alexander Baumgarten (1714â"62) defined âaestheticsâ, which he coined earlier in 1735, with its current intention as the âscienceâ of the âlower facultiesâ (i.e., feeling, sensation, imagination, memory, et al.), which earlier figures of the Enlightenment had neglected. (The term, however, gave way to misunderstandings due to Baumgartenâs use of the Latin in accordance with the German renditions, and consequently this has often led many to falsely undervalue his accomplishment.) It was no inquiry into taste â" into positive or negative appeals â" nor sensations as such but rather a way of knowledge. Baumgarten's emphasis on the need for such âsensuousâ knowledge was a major abetment to the âpre-Romanticismâ known as Sturm und Drang (1765), of which Goethe and Schiller were notable participants for a time.
Cultural and historical context
Following Goethe's competition with and separation from Wieland and Herder, the movement Weimar Classicism is often described to have occurred only between Goethe's first stay in Rome (1786) and the death of Schiller (1805), his close friend and collaborator, underrating especially Wieland's influence on German intellectual and poetic life. Therefore, the Weimar Classicism could also be started with the arrival of Wieland (1772) and extended beyond Schiller's death until the death of Wieland (1813) or even of Goethe himself (1832).
In Italy Goethe aimed to rediscover himself as a writer and to become an artist, through formal training in Rome, Europe's 'school of art'. While he failed as an artist, Italy appeared to have made him a better writer.
Schiller's evolution as a writer was following a similar path to Goethe's. He had begun as a writer of wild, violent, emotion-driven plays. In the late 1780s he turned to a more classical style. In 1794 Schiller and Goethe became friends and allies in a project to establish new standards for literature and the arts in Germany.
It was named in light of the four authorsâ immense significance, and, more particularly, of Goethe's and Schiller's, both of whom resided in the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar at this time, hence the toponymic âWeimar Classicismâ. Responding to Johann Joachim Winckelmannâs (1717â"1768) Gedanken Ã¼ber die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke in der Malerie und Bildhauerkunst ("Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture"; 1755) and Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (History of the Art of Antiquity; 1764), Goethe and Schiller developed a literary pursuit and praxis of the imitation of ancient Greek, classical models, a veritable undertaking of socio-cultural reformation through aesthetic conceptions and values, where organic wholeness and harmony (among other classical values, partly spurred on by the Enlightenment) were of central inspiration and importance.
By contrast the contemporaneous and efflorescing literary movement of German Romanticism was in opposition to Weimar and German Classicism, especially to Schiller. It is in this way both may be best understood, even to the degree in which Goethe continuously and stringently criticized it through much of his essays, such as âOn Dilettantismâ, on art and literature. After Schiller's death, the continuity of these objections partly elucidates the nature of Goethe's ideas in art and how they intermingled with his scientific thinking as well, inasmuch as it gives coherence to Goethe's work. Weimar Classicism may be seen as an attempt to reconcileâ"in âbinary synthesisâ â" the vivid feeling emphasized by the Sturm und Drang movement with the clear thought emphasized by the Enlightenment, thus implying Weimar Classicism is intrinsically un-Platonic. On this Goethe remarked:
Centrally, the conception of âharmonyâ (also âtotalityâ or âwholenessâ) â" as it was earlier accepted as a fundamental element in Greek culture by German Classicismâ"profoundly embedded within Weimar Classicism, which developed during a period of social turmoil and upheaval, is neither an aim toward Platonic perfection nor, as promoted by the German Romantics, toward universality, which was systematized later by G. W. F. Hegel. In fact, it is the sole expression of a particularâs singular imperfect integrity.Similarly, Goethe held that the two polarities of classicism and romanticism may be employed in a work of art by means of excellence and discretion, and that the naÃ¯ve and sentimental forms of poetry, which are displayed by classicism and romanticism, respectively, remain within a relation of mutual dependence according to which they are limited.
The Weimar movement was notable for its inclusion of female writers. Die Horen included works by several women, including a serially published novel, Agnes von Lilien, by Schiller's sister-in-law Caroline von Wolzogen. Other women published by Schiller included Sophie Mereau, Friederike Brun, Amalie von Imhoff, Elisa von der Recke, and Louise Brachmann.
Between 1786 and Schiller's death in 1805 he and Goethe worked to recruit a network of writers, philosophers, scholars and artists to their cause. This alliance later became known as âWeimar Classicismâ, and it came to form a part of the foundation of 19th-century Germanyâs understanding of itself as a culture and the political unification of Germany.
Aesthetic and philosophical principles
Similar to the binarity noted above is Schiller's treatment of Formtrieb (âformal driveâ) and Stofftrieb (âmaterial driveâ) when the two of them (which were inspired by Kant's various critiques), via reciprocal coordinationâ"in a âproto-Hegelianâ dialectical fashionâ"give birth to Spieltrieb (âludic driveâ), that is to say, the aesthetic par excellence. Schiller's elementary attitude toward art is given in âWhat Difference Can a Good Theatrical Stage Actually Make?â (1784):
These are essentials used by Goethe and Schiller for which it is necessary to understand the course of their project.
- Gehalt: the inexpressible âfelt-thoughtâ, or âimportâ, which is alive in the artist and the percipient that he or she finds means to express within the aesthetic form, hence Gehalt is implicit with form. A workâs Gehalt is not reducible to its Inhalt.
- Gestalt: the aesthetic form, in which the import of the work is stratified, that emerges from the regulation of forms (these being rhetorical, grammatical, intellectual, and so on) abstracted from the world or created by the artist, with sense relationships prevailing within the employed medium.
- Stoff: Schiller and Goethe reserve this (almost solely) for the forms taken from the world or that are created. In a work of art, Stoff (designated as âInhaltâ, or âcontentâ, when observed in this context) is to be âindifferentâ (âgleichgÃ¼ltigâ), that is, it should not arouse undue interest, deflecting attention from the aesthetic form. Indeed, Stoff (i.e., also the medium through which the artist creates) needs to be in such a complete state of unicity with the Gestalt of the art-symbol that it cannot be abstracted except at the cost of destroying the aesthetic relations established by the artist.
In sum, Gehalt and Stoff must coalesce through the creative, aesthetic potential of the artist as a means to manifest Gestalt whereby all faculties converge within the percipient who may thereby participate in apperceptive aesthetic imagination in lieu of the artist's artistic imagination.
Christoph Martin Wieland was the first writer to arrive in Weimar. In 1772 he was called by the widowed Anna Amalia of Brunswick-WolfenbÃ¼ttel, then regent of the Duchy Sachsen-Weimar, to educate her son. Weimar remained Wieland's home until his death. Here, in 1773, he founded Der teutsche Merkur, which under his editorship (1773â"1789) became the most influential literary review in Germany.
1776, one year after his arrival, Goethe arranged that Herder was called to Weimar, whom he had admired already in his Strasbourg years.
Goethe and Schiller
Although the vociferously unrestricted, even âorganicâ, works that were produced, such as Wilhelm Meister, Faust, and West-Ã¶stlicher Divan, where playful and turbulent ironies abound, may perceivably lend Weimar Classicism the double, ironic title âWeimar Romanticismâ, it must nevertheless be understood that Goethe consistently demanded this distance via irony to be imbued within a work for precipitate aesthetic affect. This, similar to what Schiller wrote of BÃ¼rger's poetry, partly explains the varied nature of the works they both produced in a considerable light and how it is they can sometimes escape the most exacting of categorizations. The vast array of writings themselves, other than being solely literary pursuances or distichs, include scientific, philosophic, and aesthetic disquisitions and periodicals as well.
Schiller was remarkably prolific during this period, writing his plays Wallenstein (1799), Mary Stuart (1800), The Maid of Orleans (1801), The Bride of Messina (1803) and William Tell (1804).
Primary works of the period
Christoph Martin Wieland
- Alceste, (stage play, 1773, first on stage: Weimar, May 25, 1773)
- Die Geschichte der Abderiten, (novel on ancient Abdera, Leipzig 1774-1780)
- Hann und Gulpenheh, (rhymed novel, Weimar 1778)
- Schach Lolo, (rhymed novel, Weimar 1778)
- Oberon, (rhymed novel, Weimar 1780)
- Dschinnistan, (tom. I-III, Winterthur 1786-1789)
- Geheime Geschichte des Philosophen Peregrinus Proteus, (novel, Weimar 1788/89; Leipzig 1791)
- AgathodÃ¤mon, (novel, Leipzig 1796-1797)
- Aristipp und einige seiner Zeitgenossen, (novel on Aristippus, tom. I-IV, Leipzig: GÃ¶schen 1800-1802)
Johann Gottfried Herder
- Volkslieder nebst untermischten anderen StÃ¼cken (1778â"1779, Â²1807: Stimmen der VÃ¶lker in Liedern)
- Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (essays, tom. I-IV, 1784â"1791)
- Briefe zur BefÃ¶rderung der HumanitÃ¤t, (colleced essays, 1791â"1797)
- Terpsichore, (LÃ¼beck 1795)
- Christliche Schriften, (5 collections, Riga 1796â"1799)
- Metakritik zur Kritik der reinen Vernunft, (essay, Part I+II, Leipzig 1799)
- Kalligone, (Leipzig 1800)
Johann Wolfgang (von) Goethe
- Egmont (âTrauerspielâ, begonnen 1775, im Druck 1788)
- Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung (nvel, ab 1776, im Druck 1911)
- Stella. Ein Schauspiel fÃ¼r Liebende (stag play, 1776)
- Iphigenie auf Tauris (âIphigenia in Taurisâ, stage play, printed 1787)
- Torquato Tasso (stage play, 1780-, printed 1790)
- RÃ¶mische Elegien (written 1788â"90)
- Venezianische Epigramme (1790)
- Faust. Ein Fragment (1790)
- BeitrÃ¤ge zur Optik (âTheory of Coloursâ, 1791/92)
- Der BÃ¼rgergeneral (stage play, 1793)
- Reineke Fuchs (âReineke Foxâ, hexametric epos, 1794)
- Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten (âConversations of German Refugeesâ, 1795)
- Das MÃ¤rchen, (âThe Green Snake and the Beautiful Lilyâ, fairy tale, 1795)
- Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (âWilhelm Meister's Apprenticeshipâ, novel, 1795/96)
- Faust. Eine TragÃ¶die (âFaustâ I, 1797-, first print 1808)
- Novelle (1797- )
- Hermann und Dorothea (âHermann and Dorotheaâ, hexametric epos, 1798)
- Die natÃ¼rliche Tochter (stage play, 1804)
- Die Wahlverwandtschaften (âElective Affinitiesâ, novel, 1809)
Friedrich (von) Schiller
- Don Karlos, (stage play, 1787)
- Ãber den Grund des VergnÃ¼gens an tragischen GegenstÃ¤nden, (essay, 1792)
- Augustenburger Briefe, (essays, 1793)
- Ãber Anmut und WÃ¼rde, (essay, 1793)
- Kallias-Briefe, (essays, 1793)
- Ãber die Ã¤sthetische Erziehung des Menschen, (âOn the Aesthetic Education of Manâ, essays, 1795)
- Ãber naive und sentimentalische Dichtung, (essay, 1795)
- Der Taucher, (poem, 1797)
- Die Kraniche des Ibykus, (poem, 1797)
- Ritter Toggenburg, (poem, 1797)
- Der Ring des Polykrates, (poem, 7987)
- Der Geisterseher, (âThe Ghost-seerâ, (1789)
- Die BÃ¼rgschaft, (poem, 1798)
- Wallenstein (trilogy of stage plays, 1799)
- Das Lied von der Glocke (poem, 1799)
- Maria Stuart (âMary Stuartâ, stage play, 1800)
- Die Jungfrau von Orleans (âThe Maid of Orleansâ, stage play, 1801)
- Die Braut von Messina (âThe Bride of Messinaâ, stage play, 1803)
- Das Siegesfest (poem, 1803)
- Wilhelm Tell â(William Tellâ, stage play, 1803/04)
- Die Huldigung der KÃ¼nste (poem, 1804)
- Demetrius (stage play, incomplete, 1805)
By Goethe and Schiller both in collaboration
- Die Horen (edited by Schiller, periodical, 1795â"96)
- Musenalmanach (editorship, many contributions, 1796â"97)
- Xenien (poems, 1796)
- Almanach (editorship, mane contributions, 1798â"00)
- PropylÃ¤en (periodical, 1798â"01)
See also: works by Herder, works by Goethe, and works by Schiller.
Weimar Classicism's two most notable exponents, Goethe and Schiller, especially influenced later Germans where their works have been read and studied by fellow playwrights, and also philosophers: Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. Musicians were inspired to compose for the works of these writers: Ludwig van Beethoven, Paul Dukas, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Friedrich Zelter. Through the efforts of Scotsman Thomas Carlyle, who translated some of these works and wrote a biography of Schiller, they became more accessible to the English-speaking peoples in the mid-19th Century.
Some of Goethe's ideas in the Theory of Colours have impacted scientific figures such as Charles Darwin. Goethe's color spectrum is still used.
- âOn the Sublimeâ by Schiller
- âIntroduction to the PropylÃ¤enâ by Goethe
- Weimar Classicism in Literary Encyclopedia
- Klassik Stiftung Weimar (German)
- Goethes Allianz mit Schiller (German)
- Der spÃ¤te Goethe (German)
- Centre for Intercultural Studiesâ"Ernst Cassirer and Weimar Classicism
- English Goethe Society
- Goethe Society of North America