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Publication details

(1984). Poetry and History in Novalis and in the Tradition of the German Enlightenment. London: Modern Humanities Research Association.
  • Publication type: Authored book
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0854571213

Author(s) from Durham


Novalis's theory of poetic historiography is seen here for the first time in its Enlightenment context. Novalis did not, as traditionally supposed, merely negate the ideals of Enlightenment historiography: rationality, objectivity, evidence. In typical Romantic fashion he sought also to assimilate theses virtues dialectically into his own world-view.
His narrative techniques in Die Christenheit oder Europa, Hymnen an die Nacht, and Heinrich von Ofterdingen are analysed from this perspective. Commentators who see Novalis as Enlightenment's opponent emphasise the ambiguous communicative function of these works. But here they are seen as attempts to render the historical process transparent, and so to offer evidence of history's meaning in a way derived from Enlightenment practice. The book concludes with a reflection on the differing attitudes to Enlightenment in early and later Romanticism.