Bildung in Deutschland und Österreich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Bildung in Deutschland und Österreich

The German word ‘Bildung’ is usually translated into English as ‘education’, but this is incorrect – the term Bildung has a far wider and more subtle meaning, although it cannot be satisfactorily translated.
The term ‘Bildung’ dates to 16th century Pietistic theology, according to which, the devout Christian should seek to cultivate (Bildung) his talents and dispositions according to the image of God, which was innate in his soul.
In addition to this theological usage, Paracelsus (1493-1591), Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), and Leibniz (1646-1716) also used the term in natural philosophy to refer to “the development or unfolding of certain potentialities within an organism.”

Paracelsus (born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 11 November or 17 December 1493 – 24 September 1541) was a German Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and occultist.

Jakob Böhme

He founded the discipline of toxicology. He is also known as a revolutionary for insisting upon using observations of nature, rather than looking to ancient texts, in open and radical defiance of medical practice of his day

Jakob Böhme (probably April 24, 1575 – November 17, 1624) was a German mystic and theologian.
He is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition, and his first book, commonly known as ‘Aurora’, caused a great scandal. 

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (July 1, 1646 – November 14, 1716) was a German mathematician and philosopher. He occupies a prominent place in the history of mathematics and the history of philosophy.

In the 18th century, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), used the term in the sense of unfolding one’s potential in an influential essay in 1784, ‘Was ist Aufklärung ?’ (What is Enlightenment ?’, identifying ‘Bildung’ with ‘Enlightenment’ itself.
Pedagogical theorists, like Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746-1818), also focused on how pedagogical reform could promote the development (Ausbildung) and education (Bildung) of the citizenry.
Joachim Heinrich Campe (June 29, 1746 – October 22, 1818) was a German writer, linguist, educator and publisher.
By the end of the 18th century, Bildung was becoming a term with not only spiritual, but also philosophical and political connotations.
Increasingly, Bildung was associated with liberation of the mind from tradition and superstition, but also liberation of the German people from a pre-modern political system of small feudal states that owed allegiance to the Heiliges Römisches Reich.
Heiliges Römisches Reich (The Holy Roman Empire) (Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum, German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, was a complex political union of territories in Central Europe existing from 962 to 1806.[2][3]
The empire grew out of East Francia, a primary division of the Frankish Empire, and explicitly proclaimed itself the continuation of the Western Roman Empire under the doctrine of translatio imperii (“transfer of rule” via a succession of singular rulers vested with supreme power). Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned as emperor by Pope Leo III in 800, restoring the title in the West after more than three centuries. The title was passed in a desultory manner during the decline and fragmentation of the Carolingian dynasty, eventually falling into abeyance. The title was revived in 962 when Otto I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor (Latin: Imperator Romanus Sacer), beginning an unbroken line of emperors running for over eight centuries.
This political usage is apparent in the writings of Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), in which he went beyond the sense of individual formation or development to the development of a people (Volk).
Johann Gottfried von Herder 

Johann Gottfried von Herder (25 August 1744 – 18 December 1803) was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the periods of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, and Weimar Classicism.

In German the word Volk can have several different meanings, such as folk (simple people), people in the ethnic sense, and nation.
German Volk is commonly used as the first, determining part (head) of compound nouns such as Volksentscheid (plebiscite, literally “decision of/by the people”) or Völkerbund (League of Nations).
For Herder, Bildung was the totality of experiences that provide a coherent identity, and sense of common destiny, to a people.
Although Herder is rightfully associated with late-eighteenth-century German nationalist, he conceived the German Volk as including both royalty and peasants, envisioning a classless society.
Accordingly, Herder’s cultural nationalism required that social unity be promoted from the bottom up, in contrast to the top down political nationalism to which many historians have attributed the rise of German militarism that ultimately culminated in the Third Reich.
Because of the quality of his ideas and pervasiveness of his influence, it would be difficult to overemphasize Herder’s importance in Western intellectual history.
It has been said that Goethe (1749-1832) was transformed from a clever but conventional poet into the great artist we remember today by his encounter with Herder in 1770, and his continuing friendship with the philosopher.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Humboldt

Herder developed fundamental ideas about the dependence of thought on language that are taken for granted today, and that inspired work by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) that are widely viewed as the foundation of modern linguistics.

Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt (22 June 1767 – 8 April 1835) was a Prussian philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, and founder of the University of Berlin, which was named after him (and his brother, naturalist Alexander von Humboldt) in 1949. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice of education. In particular, he is widely recognized as having been the architect of the Prussian education system 
Friedrich Schleiermacher 

Herder developed the methodological foundations of ‘hermeneutics’, or the theory of interpretation, that Schleiermacher (1768-1834) later built upon, and that ultimately culminated in nineteenth-century German classical scholarship and modern Biblical scholarship.

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (November 21, 1768 – February 12, 1834) was a German theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity. He also became influential in the evolution of Higher Criticism, and his work forms part of the foundation of the modern field of hermeneutics. 
Wilhelm Dilthey

Herder’s writings also led to the establishment of the modern discipline of anthropology and its methodology.

Additionally, Herder profoundly influenced intellectuals as diverse as Hegel, Nietzsche (1844-1900), and Dilthey (1833-1911).

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet, and composer. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism.

Wilhelm Dilthey (19 November 1833 – 1 October 1911) was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist and hermeneutic philosopher, who held Hegel’s Chair in Philosophy at the University of Berlin. As a polymathic philosopher, working in a modern research university, Dilthey’s research interests revolved around questions of scientific methodology, historical evidence and history’s status as a science.

In a series of works written over a period of almost fifty-years, Herder developed and defended the conception of philosophy that is at the very heart of the German Bildung tradition.
The titles of some of these works are revealing: ‘How Philosophy Can Become More Universal and Useful for the Benefit of the People’ (1765), ‘This Too a Philosophy of History for the Formation of Humanity’ (1774), ‘Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity’ (1784-91), and ‘Letters for the Advancement of Humanity’ (1793-1797).
As these titles suggest, Herder believed philosophy must have a practical result, which can be summarized as human growth, and that philosophical ideas have to be understood within their social and historical context.
Similar to the Renaissance Humanists, Herder believed that the proper study of man is man, and thus sought to displace academic philosophy with philosophical anthropology.
For Herder, philosophy is, quite simply, the theory of Bildung; more precisely, philosophy is the theory of how the individual develops into the sort of organic unity that will constantly work toward the full development of its talents and abilities and that will drive social progress or social Bildung.
For Herder, properly understood, philosophy must transform individuals and, at the very same time, it must have a broad social impact.
The conception of philosophy Herder defended carried forward from Herder to Wilhelm von Humboldt and G.W.F. Hegel, to Friedrich Schleiermacher, to the Left Hegelians and Wilhelm Dilthey: the tradition of hermeneutics and historicism.
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

At about the same time that he encountered Herder, Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) inaugurated the pre-Romantic ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement in literature, which emphasized the unpredictable emotional life of the individual.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (10 November 1759 – 9 May 1805) was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life (1788–1805), Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. They frequently discussed issues concerning aesthetics, and Schiller encouraged Goethe to finish works he left as sketches. This relationship and these discussions led to a period now referred to as Weimar Classicism.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thus in Goethe’s ‘Die Leiden des jungen Werther’ (The Sorrows of Young Werther) (1774), the protagonist is driven to suicide by despair.

In the late 1780s, Goethe and Schiller launched a new literary movement that became known as ‘Weimar Classicism’.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer, artist, and politician. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, and more than 10,000 letters written by him are extant, as are nearly 3,000 drawings.
Weimarer Klassik

Spurred on by Enlightenment themes as well as efforts to recover ancient aesthetic values, Weimar Classicism sought the enlightenment or liberation of man through an organic unification and harmonization of thought and feeling, mind and body.

Both men were also critical of the contemporaneous movement of ‘German Romanticism’.
Although there are distinct similarities between ‘Weimar Classicism’ and ‘German Romanticism’, no doubt owing to the fact that both developed in the same milieu, unlike the Romantics, Goethe sought to harmonize the vivid emotions he had emphasized in his ‘Sturm and Drang’ period with the clarity of Enlightenment reason.

Weimarer Klassik – (Weimar Classicism) is a cultural and literary movement of Europe. Followers attempted to establish a new humanism by synthesizing Romantic, classical and Enlightenment ideas. The movement, from 1772 until 1805, involved Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller and Christoph Martin Wieland, and often concentrated on Goethe and Schiller during the period 1788–1805.
The conception of “harmony” (also “totality” or “wholeness”) – as it was earlier accepted as a fundamental element in Greek culture by German Classicism – which was 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 particular’s 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.

Moreover, Goethe criticized the Romantic notion that an individual could intuitively tap into their genius in order to apprehend transcendent truth.
Similarly, Goethe followed Herder’s lead by rejecting the transcendent reason of the Enlightenment, claiming, for example, that the laws of a country cannot be based on pure reason because geography and history shape the habits of individuals and their cultures.
For Goethe, both the Enlightenment and Romanticism had erred by their excessive devotion to their respective ideals, thus undermining the sort of inner balance and harmony that he championed.
Unlike his earlier novel, in Wilhelm Meister’s ‘Apprenticeship’ the protagonist undergoes a journey of Bildung, or self-realization.
Thus Goethe initiated the tradition of the ‘Bildungsroman’, the novel of formation.
The only sort of transcendence that Wilhelm seeks in the novel is to rise above the soulless life of a bourgeois businessman by reconciling or shaping his particular interests so that they serve a greater good, which is service to his society.
This novel represents the very essence of German humanism, the ideal of which is the formation of individuals whose conduct is governed by a highly developed inner character rather than imitation of the conduct of others.
The type of character formation sought requires the identification and molding of one’s talents and inclinations through wise education and life experience.
This education teaches Wilhelm that the individual must find his vocation, a calling to which he is well-suited and that contributes to the growth and maturation of the culture in which he lives.
In so doing, the individual harmonizes not only mind and body, but also self and society.
As this tradition develops through Goethe, into what is often called German ‘neo-humanism’, it is assumed that all individuals have different talents and thus need to live in a society in which the unique talents of others compliment their own.
Hence a well-developed society is one that allows wide scope for the unique development of each individual as the very catalyst of social harmony.
Rather than depict the individual as at odds with his society, German neo-humanism champions a harmony of the individual with his society through the development of his uniqueness and an acceptance of his social responsibility as the avenue toward self-development.
Self-realization is unattainable for those who wallow in their own narrow emotions or self-interest.
Satisfaction is not found in a romantic transcendence of social bonds, but in the activities of concrete social life.
Goethe developed these ideas further in the sequel to ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship’.

Thomas Mann

As Thomas Mann explains, ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Travels’ (1821)
“begins with individualistic self-development through miscellaneous experiences and ends in a political utopia.

In between stands the idea of education…It teaches us to see the element of education as the organic transition from the world of inwardness to that of the objective; it shows how the one grows humanely and naturally out of the other.”
Hegel was profoundly influenced by German neo-humanism, eschewing transcendent realities and timeless truths, and championing a metaphysics of experience according to which philosophy deals with the world of human experience rather than a noumenal realm that transcends possible human experience.
Hence, Hegel’s logic is not a theory of the categories of reality, but a theory of the categories according to which we experience reality.
But most importantly Hegel was first and foremost concerned with Bildung, the self-development of the individual human spirit as well as the self-development of the human race.
The P’hänomenologie des Geistes’ (Phenomenology of Spirit) can be read as a Bildungsroman, a story about the individual’s, as well as humanity’s, development.
In the Phenomenology, Hegel shows the reader the development of an open and intelligent mind in a complex society that lacks universally accepted values, as the main character encounters a wide variety of experiences.
As is typical of a Bildungsroman, the center of interest is the links between the main character’s successive experiences and his gradual achievement of a fully rounded personality and well-tested philosophy of life.
For Hegel, the self is always engaged in a project and ordinarily proceeds in a state of harmony with its environment, which Hegel calls “natural consciousness.”
In this state, there is no subject/object dualism because the self is at one with its environment. Periodically, the self encounters an obstacle to its project, which Hegel terms a negation.
When this occurs, consciousness is rent asunder, identifying an object over and against the self, that is to say the obstacle that disrupted its project.
After analysis of the negation, the self imagines solutions that will alter itself, by modifying its project, and alter the object in such a way that consciousness can be reunified and the self can resume its project.
When the self succeeds at reunification, the negation becomes a “determinate negation,” meaning a negation that leads to progress or growth.
The self emerges from experiences of this kind not only unified but also enlarged because it has gained valuable experience.
Rather than a metaphysical reality, subject/object dualism is a moment within experience that serves a particular function.
The process I have described here is Hegel’s dialectic, but it also Bildung.
Accordingly, rather than a theory of knowledge, Hegel developed a theory of learning, and philosophy became the philosophy of education.
Although textbook accounts claim that the dialectic is driven by contradiction, this term oversimplifies Hegel’s concept of negation.
Although, for Hegel, negation can lead to a fairly routine learning process, it can also lead to existential crises.
In either case, rather than a contradiction of propositions, negation is a disruption of the process of living, which Hegel often describes as a pathway or road.
To use Hegel’s words, when the self encounters a negation, it loses its truth on this path.
The road can therefore be regarded as the pathway of doubt, or more precisely as the way of despair. For what happens on it is not what is ordinarily understood when the word ‘doubt’ is used: shilly-shallying about this or that presumed truth, followed by a return to that truth again, after the doubt has been appropriately dispelled – so that at the end of the process the matter is taken to be what it was in the first place.
The self presumes to have knowledge until it encounters a negation, which leads it into a state of doubt or despair.
If and when the self successfully resolves the problem that initiated the process, it gains knowledge that is has tested for itself.
Quite literally, the self gains self-determination.
Hegel’s concept of Bildung, which is prominent throughout all of his works, dovetails with his view that knowledge is gained only from experience, and that it also requires us to seek, like the protagonist of a Bildungsroman, the widest variety of experience.
Furthermore, on the Bildung model, learning involves activity.
Hence Hegel rejected Locke’s passive spectator theory of the mind, according to which we should restrain our passions in order to gain objective knowledge.
For Hegel, learning requires a passionate search for truth; it is a matter of conscious self-development that requires arduous individual effort and responsibility.
For Hegel, fulfillment must come in the activities of real life.
Finally, Hegel’s emphasis on self-knowledge, an accurate perception of one’s talents, interests, and abilities, explains his criticisms of the Enlightenment’s fixation on a narrow conception of knowledge as a search for indubitable truth.
The notion of timeless truth worried Hegel for very practical reasons.
He was convinced that the French Revolution had turned to terror because revolutionaries believed they had apprehended transcendent truth that provided them with a preconceived blueprint to which their society must conform.
In short, Hegel argued that the notion of transcendent truth tends toward an inflexible dogmatism that not only foreshortens inquiry, but can also lead to fanatical, and even violent, devotion to an ideology.
As rector of the Nuremburg Gymnasium from 1808 to 1815, Hegel developed a philosophy of education that opposed past German models as well as the Enlightenment model of education, the latter of which he identified as “utilitarian.”
Hegel described education, the dialectic, as a process of alienation and return, in which the mind is continually stretched beyond its ordinary point of view.
Hegel contended that Gymnasium education is accomplished best by alienating the child’s mind from its received point of view through the study of the ancient world and its languages.
Ancient civilizations are sufficiently alien, he argued, to separate the child from his natural state, but sufficiently close to his own language and world for him to return to himself enlarged and transformed. On the practical level, Hegel argued that education in the Gymnasia should prepare students for life rather than merely for jobs.
He also averred that students should be treated with respect, as ends in themselves, and at the Nuremburg Gymnasium, he encouraged discussion in class, but would not tolerate giving students complete freedom in the schools.
The goal of education, for Hegel, was to help students realize the ideal of modernity, which is for the individual to become a self-directed, self-formed person.
In this way, Hegel expanded upon the German Bildung tradition’s emphasis on education that liberates one from blind obedience to superstition, tradition, or any sort of belief in realities that transcend the possibilities of human experience.
Hegel was also consistent with past proponents of Bildung in emphasizing the social nature of the self.
The notion of a self that can transcend its social and historical context was as untenable to Hegel as any other abstract concept without a context.
Although the liberated, or enlightened, individual learns to think critically about his society, he cannot transcend it.
This brings us to a crucial difference in Hegel’s use of the notion of Bildung.
Rather than the unfolding of a form immanent in an individual, or in a people, Hegel presents Bildung as a process of relentless self-estrangement.
Thus in the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel writes that consciousness “suffers…violence at its own hands” because it must confront its own naïve certainty to go beyond itself and experience growth.
Bildung is not an autonomous activity, nor is it divorced from one’s desires and passions.
On the contrary, Bildung requires self-knowledge, discerning one’s own talents by discovering activities that bring satisfaction, and even a sense of fulfillment.
And the greatest sort of fulfillment for Hegel is activity that promotes Bildung for one’s society.
The person of Bildung promotes cultural progress through the same process of alienation and return, which can be characterized as a method of immanent cultural critique.
Hegel intended the dialectic as a method of cultural criticism that identifies the standards of rationality within an existing culture or system of thought and then criticizes practices that do not accord with those standards of rationality.
This method is immanent critique in the sense that it criticizes a culture on its own terms, on the basis of its highest ideals, rather than some apodictic first principle or transcendent, abstract moral standards.
There are three key features of Hegel’s dialectic.
First, Hegel’s dialectic “must be immanent or internal to its subject matter.”
There is no God’s eye view or Archimedean point from which we can investigate a subject matter.
We cannot legitimately ask if a theory accurately describes its subject matter, because to some degree a theory always creates the subject it seeks to explain.
We can examine a theory’s internal coherence, however, and ask whether it accomplishes the goal(s) it sets for itself.
Second, Hegel’s dialectic is “dialogical in character.”
The dialectic does not take place within an internal, private mind, but is always a conversation between past, contemporaneous, and future interlocutors.
For Hegel, all thinking is mediated by the intellectual tradition we have inherited from our predecessors. For this reason, his works generally have the character of a conversation with illustrious predecessors in which he recognizes their contribution to our current point of view.
Rather than refute his opponents, Hegel engaged them in conversation.
Third, Hegel’s dialectic is based on the assumption that all theory has a vitally important historical dimension. He accepted Kant’s contention that the mind actively categorizes sense data, but historicized the categories. For Hegel, our conceptual structure is historically and culturally relative; all logical categories, even those that appear to be the most permanent, are temporally contingent.
Hegel sought to counter the charge of historical relativism by claiming historical epochs fit into a larger narrative.
For Hegel, the person of Bildung can discern a moral unity to history.
He hypothesized that the ‘Weltgeist’, or world-spirit, tirelessly moves in the direction of ever increasing human freedom.
Hegel’s Weltgeist may be understood as an interpretation of the history of the human race, which can be known only by its actions.
Geist, for Hegel, has no pre-existing essence, it is known only by what it has actually done thus far, nor does it have a predetermined end.
Hence, for Hegel, the disciplines of philosophy and history are inextricably linked because, together, they are the source of individual and cultural Bildung.
Finally, Bildung is a central motif of Hegel’s 1821 ‘Philosophy of Right’, in which he illuminated the concept by repeating the advice of a Pythagorean philosopher to a father about the best way to educate his son: “Make him the citizen of a state with good laws.”
Thus the ‘Philosophy of Right’ highlights the political connotations of Bildung.
Bildung requires a well-ordered society in which the individual has the freedom, and even luxury, to develop his unique talents and abilities.
Bildung also requires a society in which there is scope for all kinds of complementary individuals and activities because exposure to different kinds of people and experimentation with different types of lives is crucial to the sort of moral development Hegel had in mind.
Hegel made it apparent throughout the ‘Philosophy of Right’ that Bildung should begin in the family, continue more systematically in school, and be taken to a higher level in the university.
After formal schooling is completed, in civil society the individual should achieve the final stage of Bildung, recognition of the rational basis of his society’s institutions.

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Karl Morgenstern

In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman (a novel of formation/education/culture – or coming-of-age story) is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming of age), and in which character change is thus extremely important.
The term was coined in 1819 by philologist Karl Morgenstern in his university lectures, and later famously reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimized it in 1870 and popularized it in 1905.
The genre is further characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features.
The term coming-of-age novel is sometimes used interchangeably with Bildungsroman, but its use is usually wider and less technical.

Wolfram von Eschenbach

The folklore tale of the dunce who goes out into the world seeking adventure and learns wisdom the hard way was raised to literary heights in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s medieval epic ‘Parzival’ – (later adapted by Richard Wagner in his magnificent music-drama ‘Parsifal’), and in Hans Grimmelshausen’s picaresque tale ‘Simplicissimus’ (1669).

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Adalbert Stifter
Christoph Martin Wieland

The first novelistic development of this theme was Christoph Martin Wieland’s ‘Geschichte des Agathon’ (1766–67; History of Agathon).

Christoph Martin Wieland (September 5, 1733 – January 20, 1813) was a German poet and writer. Without creating a school in the strict sense of the term, Wieland had a strong influence on the German literature of his time. 

It was followed by J.W. von Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre’ (see above) (1795–96; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship), which remains the classic example of the genre.
Other examples are Adalbert Stifter’s ‘Nachsommer’ (1857; Indian Summer) and Gottfried Keller’s ‘Der grüne Heinrich’ (1854–55; Green Henry).

Adalbert Stifter (23 October 1805 – 28 January 1868) was an Austrian writer, poet, painter, and pedagogue. He was especially notable for the vivid natural landscapes depicted in his writing, and has long been popular in the German-speaking world, while almost entirely unknown to non-German readers.

The bildungsroman traditionally ends on a positive note, though its action may be tempered by resignation and nostalgia.
If the grandiose dreams of the hero’s youth are over, so are many foolish mistakes and painful disappointments, and, especially in 19th-century novels, a life of usefulness lies ahead.
In the 20th century and beyond, however, the bildungsroman more often ends in resignation or death.

A common variation of the bildungsroman is the Künstlerroman, a novel dealing with the formative years of an artist.
Such other variations as the Erziehungsroman (“novel of upbringing”) and the Entwicklungsroman (“novel of [character] development”) differ only slightly from the bildungsroman, and these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Thomas Mann

Although the Bildungsroman arose in Germany, it has had extensive influence in Europe.
One of the most influential late examples of this literary form is ‘Der Zauberberg’ by Thomas Mann.
Mann started writing what was to become ‘Der Zauberberg’  in 1912.
It began as a much shorter narrative which revisited in a comic manner aspects of ‘Tod in Venedig’ (Death in Venice), a novella that he was then preparing for publication.

‘Der Zauberberg’ 

The newer work reflected his experiences and impressions during a period when his wife, who was suffering from a lung complaint, was confined to Dr. Friedrich Jessen’s Waldsanatorium in Davos, Switzerland for several months.
In May and June 1912 Mann visited her and became acquainted with the team of doctors who were treating her in this cosmopolitan institution.

Thomas Mann

According to Mann, in the afterword that was later included in the English translation, this stay became the foundation of the opening chapter (‘Ankunft’ – Arrival) of the completed novel.
The Weltkrieg, and its aftermath, led the author to undertake a major re-examination of European bourgeois society, including the sources of the willful, perverse destructiveness displayed by much of civilised humanity.

‘Der Zauberberg’ – Thomas Mann

He was also drawn to speculate about more general questions surrounding personal attitudes to life, health, illness, sexuality and mortality.
Given this, Mann felt compelled to radically revise and expand the pre-war text before completing it in 1924.
‘Der Zauberberg’ was eventually published in two volumes by S. Fischer Verlag in Berlin.
‘Der Zauberberg’ is a classic example of the European Bildungsroman – a “novel of education” or “novel of formation”.

Sigmund Freud

Thomas Mann’s description of the subjective experience of serious illness, and the gradual process of medical institutionalization are of interest in themselves, as are his allusions to the irrational forces within the human psyche at a time when Freudian psychoanalysis was becoming prominent.
These themes relate to the development of the main character over the time span covered by the novel, a point that the author himself underlined.
In 1953 Mann stated that “what [Hans – the main character] came to understand is that one must go through the deep experience of sickness and death to arrive at a higher sanity and health . . . .”
At the core of this complex work is an encyclopaedic survey of the ideas and debates associated with modernity.
Mann acknowledged his debt to the skeptical insights of Friedrich Nietzsche concerning modern humanity and embodied this in the novel in the arguments between the characters.

The other Berghof
The Berghof

Throughout the book the author employs the discussion with and between Settembrini, Naphta and the medical staff to introduce the impressionable Hans Castorp to a wide spectrum of competing ideologies about responses to the Age of Enlightenment, however, whereas the classical Bildungsroman would conclude by having “formed” Castorp into a mature member of society, with his own world view and greater self-knowledge, ‘Der Zauberberg’ ends as it has to for “life’s delicate child” as a simultaneously anonymous and communal conscript, one of millions, under fire on some battlefield of World War I (Weltkrieg).
Significantly, the sanatorium situated in the mountains is referred to as the ‘Berghof’.
While this had little significance when Mann wrote the novel, subsequently the appellation developed interesting associations.

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In conclusion, according to the German Bildung tradition, philosophy and education are virtually synonymous terms that designate an ongoing process of both personal and cultural maturation.
This maturation is evidenced in a harmonization of the individual’s mind and heart and in a unification of society.
Harmonization of the self is achieved through a wide variety of experiences and challenges to the individual’s accepted beliefs; in Hegel’s writings, these challenges entail agonizing alienation from one’s “natural consciousness” that leads to a reunification and development of the self.
Learning requires a passionate search for continual growth, tempered by reason that is developed through intense study of one’s intellectual tradition.
Fulfillment comes through practical activity that promotes the development of one’s talents and abilities as well as development of one’s society.

Deutsch Gedichte – Great German Poetry



Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803) was a German poet.
His best known work is his epic poem Der Messias (“The Messiah”).
His service to German literature was to open it up to exploration outside of French models.
In his odes Klopstock had scope for his peculiar talent.
Among the best are ‘Der Zürchersee’; ‘Die tote Klarissa’; ‘An Cidli’; ‘Die beiden Musen’; ‘Der Rheinwein’; ‘Die frühen Gräber’, ‘Mein Vaterland’.
His religious odes mostly take the form of hymns, of which the most beautiful is ‘Die Frühlingsfeier’.
His dramas, in some of which, notably ‘Hermanns Schlacht’ (1769) and ‘Hermann und die Fürsten’ (1784), he celebrated the deeds of the ancient German hero Arminius, and in others, ‘Der Tod Adams’ (1757) and ‘Salomo’ (1764), took his materials from the Old Testament; are essentially lyrical in character.
He immortalized his 1750’s visit at the Swiss Au peninsula in his ‘Ode an den Zürichsee’.

‘Die Auferstehung’

Auferstehn, ja, auferstehn wirst du,
Mein Staub, nach kurzer Ruh’.
Unsterblichs Leben
Wird, der dich schuf, dir geben.

    Wieder aufzublühn, werd ich gesät.
Der Herr der Ernte geht
Und sammelt Garben
Uns ein, uns ein, die starben.

Friedrich Klopstock (1724–1803)

‘Der Herr der Ernte’


Friedrich Hölderlin

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism.
Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.
‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’

Ihr wandelt droben im Licht
Auf weichem Boden selige Genieen!
Glӓnzende Gӧtterlüfte
Rühren Euch leicht,
Wie die Finger der Künstlerin
Heilige Saiten.
Schicksallos, wie der Schlafende
Sӓugling, atmen die Himmlischen;
Keusch bewahrt,
In bescheidener Knospe
Blühet ewig
Ihnen der Geist,
Und die seligen Augen
Blicken in stiller
Ewiger Klarheit
Doch uns ist gegeben
Auf keener Stӓtte zu ruh’n;
Es schwinden, es fallen
Die leidenden Menschen
Blindlings von einer
Stunde zur andern,
Wie Wasser von Klippe
Zu Klippe geworfen
Jahrlang in’s Ungewisse hinab.
Friedrich Hӧlderlin – (1770 – 1843)

‘The Immortal Gods’

One of the most significant citizens of  was Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
Anna Elizabeth von Droste-Hülshoff, known Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (January 10, 1797 – May 25, 1848), was a 19th century German author, and one of the most important German poets.
She was born at the family castle called Burg Hülshoff (now a part of Havixbeck) inside the Prince-Bishopric of Münster into an aristocratic, Catholic family of Westphalia.
She was educated by private tutors and began to write as a child.
Her earliest poems are derivative and conventional but in 1820 her work began to show marked originality when she embarked on a cycle of religious poems, ‘Das geistliche Jahr’ (The Spiritual Year).
In the history of German poetry she is an isolated and independent figure.
She shares with the Romantic writers an awareness of the power of man’s imagination and a keen sense of his exposed and precarious position in a world of danger and mystery, but her poetry has none of the vagueness of emotional mood and the sweetness of sound that characterize theirs.
Nor did she intend that it should.
Indifferent to contemporary taste, she pursued her own ideals in her own way.
‘Ich mag und will jetzt nicht berühmt werden,’ she once wrote, ‘aber nach hundert Jahre möcht ich gelesen werden.’ (I do not want to be famous, but after one hundred years I would like to be read.)
And indeed she was ahead of her time.
Her keen sensory perception and her precise recording of phenomena make her appear as a herald of the new realistic literature of the latter part of the century.
With her unusual combination of imaginative vision with close accurate observation and depiction of reality, she thus stands at the point of transition between Romanticism and Realism and does not belong wholly to either.

‘Im Grase’

Süße Ruh’, süßer Taumel im Gras,
Von des Krautes Arome umhaucht,
Tiefe Flut, tief tief trunkne Flut,
Wenn die Wolk’ am Azure verraucht,
Wenn aufs müde, schwimmende Haupt
Süßes Lachen gaukelt herab,
Liebe Stimme säuselt und träuft
Wie die Lindenblüt’ auf ein Grab.

Wenn im Busen die Toten dann,
Jede Leiche sich streckt und regt,
Leise, leise den Odem zieht,
Die geschloßne Wimper bewegt,
Tote Lieb’, tote Lust, tote Zeit,
All die Schätze, im Schutt verwühlt,
Sich berühren mit schüchternem Klang
Gleich den Glöckchen, vom Winde umspielt.

Stunden, flüchtger ihr als der Kuß
Eines Strahls auf den trauernden See,
Als des ziehenden Vogels Lied,
Das mir nieder perlt aus der Höh,
Als des schillernden Käfers Blitz,
Wenn den Sonnenpfad er durcheilt,
Als der heiße Druck einer Hand,
Die zum letzten Male verweilt.

Dennoch, Himmel, immer mir nur
Dieses Eine mir: für das Lied
Jedes freien Vogels im Blau
Eine Seele, die mit ihm zieht,
Nur für jeden kärglichen Strahl
Meinen farbig schillernden Saum,
Jeder warmen Hand meinen Druck,
Und für jedes Glück meinen Traum.

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff

‘Im Grase’
Hülshoff  Wasserschloß
First mentioned in a document of 1349 the Hülshoff  Wasserschloß has been in the possession of the Droste zu Huelshoff family since 1417.
Some rebuilding measures in 1540-1545 made it a beautiful renaissance castle.
Hülshoff castle is the birthplace of the poetess Annette von Droste Huelshoff.
It has developed from the former Oberhof “to Hülshof” by the then owners, the Lords of Schonebeck, and a mansion was added.
As the site currently presents itself, it is a beautiful Renaissance building which was modified of Henry I von Droste-Hulshoff.
The surrounding park offers an attractive destination in the summer.
It is situated in Havixbeck, near Münster
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer, artist, and politician.
His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels.
In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, and over 10,000 letters written by him are extant, as are nearly 3,000 drawings.

‘Faust Part II’

 Alles Vergängliche
 Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
 Das Unzulängliche,
 Hier wird’s Ereignis;
 Das Unbeschreibliche,
 Hier ist’s getan;
 Das Ewig-Weibliche
 Zieht uns hinan.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  (1749 –1832)

 ‘Das Ewig-Weibliche’


Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (10 November 1759 – 9 May 1805) was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright.
During the last seventeen years of his life (1788–1805), Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
They frequently discussed issues concerning aesthetics, and Schiller encouraged Goethe to finish works he left as sketches.
This relationship and these discussions led to a period now referred to as Weimar Classicism.
“Ode an die Freude” is an ode written in 1785 enthusiastically celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind.
The poem was originally ‘Ode an die Freiheit’ and the word ‘Freude’ instead of ‘Freiheit’ came as a substitute for the more overtly political theme.

Weimar Classicism
“Ode an die Freude”

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küße gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Seid umschlungen,
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759 – 1805)


Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist and conductor primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they are sometimes called).
Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the music and libretto for all of his stage works – the libretti forming long, complex poems.
Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
Wagner’s protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue; … the Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Sei heil – entsündigt und entsühnt!
Denn ich verwalte nun dein Amt.
Gesegnet sei dein Leiden,
das Mitleids höchste Kraft
und reinsten Wissens Macht
dem zagen Toren gab.
Den heil’gen Speer –
ich bring’ ihn euch zurück! –
Oh! Welchen Wunders höchstes Glück!
Der deine Wunde durfte schliessen,
ihm seh’ ich heil’ges Blut entfliessen
in Sehnsucht nach dem verwandten Quelle,
der dort fliesst in des Grales Welle. –
Nicht soll der mehr verschlossen sein:
Enthüllet den Gral! – Öffnet den Schrein!
Höchsten Heiles Wunder!
Erlösung dem Erlöser!

Erlösung dem Erlöser!

Isolde’s Liebestod

Mild und leise

wie er lächelt,
wie das Auge
hold er öffnet —
seht ihr’s Freunde?
Seht ihr’s nicht?
Immer lichter
wie er leuchtet,
hoch sich hebt?

Seht ihr’s nicht?
Wie das Herz ihm
mutig schwillt,
voll und hehr
im Busen ihm quillt?
Wie den Lippen,
wonnig mild,
süßer Atem
sanft entweht —
Freunde! Seht!
Fühlt und seht ihr’s nicht?
Hör ich nur
diese Weise,
die so wunder-
voll und leise,
Wonne klagend,
alles sagend,
mild versöhnend
aus ihm tönend,
in mich dringet,
auf sich schwinget,
hold erhallend
um mich klinget?
Heller schallend,
mich umwallend,
sind es Wellen
sanfter Lüfte?
Sind es Wogen
wonniger Düfte?
Wie sie schwellen,
mich umrauschen,
soll ich atmen,
soll ich lauschen?
Soll ich schlürfen,
Süß in Düften
mich verhauchen?
In dem wogenden Schwall,
in dem tönenden Schall,
in des Welt-Atems
wehendem All —
versinken —
unbewußt —
höchste Lust!

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

Tristan und Isolde

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, poet, composer, cultural critic, and classical philologist.
He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism.
Prabably Nietzsche’s best known work is ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ (1883 – 1885.

‘Zarathustra’ also contains the famous dictum “God is dead”.
In his autobiographical work ‘Ecce Homo’, Nietzsche states that the book’s underlying concept is the ‘eternal recurrence’ of the same events.
Before ‘Zarathustra’, Nietzsche had mentioned the concept in the fourth book of ‘Die fröhliche Wissenschaft’ (e.g., sect. 341); this was the first public proclamation of the notion by him.
Apart from its salient presence in Zarathustra, it is also echoed throughout Nietzsche’s work. At any rate, it is by Zarathustra’s transfiguration that he embraces eternity, that he at last ascertains “the supreme will to power”.
This inspiration finds its expression with Zarathustra’s ‘reigen’, featured twice in the book, once near the book’s close:

Mitternacht Lied
O Mensch! Gib acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
»Ich schlief, ich schlief –,
Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: –
Die Welt ist tief,5
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist ihr Weh –,
Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit –,
– will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!«
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
Herman Hesse
Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter.
His best-known works include ‘Steppenwolf’ and ‘The Glass Bead Game’, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.
In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; world-wide fame would only come later.
In the 1960s, a space of just a few years, Hesse became the most widely read and translated European author of the 20th century.
Hesse was especially popular among young readers, a tendency which continues today.
‘Beim Schlafengehen’

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.

Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962)

‘Beim Schlafengehen’