A literature epoch is called a Biedermeier. This literary current can be found between the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) and the bourgeois revolution of 1848. Parallel to the rather conservative Biedermeier, the currents of the very liberal boy of Germany and the radical-democratic of Vormarz developed. All three currents are also referred to as the literature of the restoration epoch. The Biedermeier coined the literature, but also had a lasting impact on the culture and art of the bourgeoisie (clothing, music, architecture) that developed during this period. The literature of the Biedermeier is often referred to above as home-boring and conservative, with the escape into idyll and private being a typical epoch motif
The term goes back to the humorous poet and jurist Ludwig Eichrodt (1827 – 1892). With his study friend Adolf Kußmaul, he invented the figure of faithful Gottlieb Biedermaier, a Swabian village school teacher. Eichrodt himself was characterized by Gottlieb Biedermaier, who appeared in several poems, to make his little room, his narrow garden, his unsightly spot, and the scanty lot of a despised village schoolmaster, to earthly bliss. Herr Biedermaier was, therefore, the embodiment of the bourgeoisie, who was not interested in political activity, and was a little talented.
Accordingly, the term was originally negatively attested and stood as a substitute for the bourgeoisie, with very large parts of the bourgeoisie being mocked and caricatured. Only after the turn of the century, that is, from 1900 onwards, the term was mostly used as a value-neutral one. Since then, the Biedermeier has stood for the petty bourgeoisie and the domestic with the emphasis on the private.
As an epoch designation, this term emerged from the end of the 19th century and was used primarily in the field of architecture and art history. In addition, the furniture of this period and a certain clothing fashion were conceived under the term. As a name for a literary current, the term became popular especially in the 20th century.
Characteristics of Biedermeier
Even if the flow is clearly defined, since it is arranged between 1814/15 and 1848, an overview of the epoch-characteristics, which can be applied to all works, is almost impossible. On the one hand, many styles crystallized simultaneously and thus determined the literary landscape and, on the other hand, there were attributions which can not be applied to all the texts of that time. The following is an overview of the characteristics, which are mostly valid. Overview: The characteristics of the epoch at a glance
The social life of that time was marked by distrust of the authorities and politics. The authors of the Biedermeier grew up in a time which, above all, they were disappointing politically, which explains this attitude. Thus it is a typical feature of the contemporary poets that they were isolated from their outer world, as well as a small circle or their own home.
In general, political participation or the criticism of the system at that time was less desirable in the German area, and was sometimes severely punished, whereby the expression of free opinion was affected by ingenious mechanisms, or partly censored. This withdrawal of the authors of the Biedermeier was also a matter of security
This was intensified on September 20, 1819, when, after two assassinations, which were carried out by students in March 1819, Karlsruhe resolutions were passed. The main reasons for this decision were the prohibition of fraternities (student associations), because they were regarded as a place of free thought as well as resting. The censorship of books and newspapers, which also abolished the censorship of university professors, was a result. All this was understood as the purification of authorities, consistories, schools, and universities of dangerous errors, seducers, and seduced (see Demagogy).
The logical consequence was the flight of man into a protected space. Thus, what is nowadays called “Biedermeierzeit” (“Biedermeierzeit”) established itself primarily in the protection of one’s own home, as well as in the circle of friends and families, whose works were characterized by a conservative attitude and self-sufficiency (without restraint).
Historical background of the epoch
By 1800, Germany was not yet a national state, but consisted of countless individual states. Each of these states pursued their own goals and political interests, all of which were part of the Holy Roman Empire. Prussia and Austria were regarded as great powers.
Nevertheless, there were numerous unrest caused by small-scale government, the different interests of individual states, and regional differences. This meant that the Holy Roman Empire was on shaky legs and just before the collapse. In the course of the French Revolution (1789), there were conflicts between France and the European powers.
When Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in 1799, he continued the war in Europe and occupied many of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, which ultimately led to a collapse in 1806. Napoleon succeeded in bringing together these individual states (Reichsdeputationshauptschluss), in addition, the power of the church was cut off in politics, and ideals of the French Revolution entered the minds of men.
Nevertheless, the power of Napoleon was soon broken, and at the Congress of Vienna (1814/15), under the leadership of Prince Metternich, the reorganization of Europe was resolved. It was primarily about restoring the monarchy, which was why all the reforms that had been created on the French model had been quickly destroyed, in order to restore order in Europe.
As a result, fraternities were forbidden, advocates of an opposition and intellectuals, who represented different views, were called demagogues and introduced a censorship of the press (Karlsbader resolutions). However, the bustle of the authorities was overwhelmed by large sections of the population, which is probably due to the fact that many Germans welcomed security and stability, because the strong incisions also suggested an internal order. After all, the last years were at the mercy of a permanent state of war between the French occupiers and the great powers.
The above caricature shows the fictitious combination of scholars in the Denker-Club and was developed in 1819 in response to the Karlsbader resolutions. It illustrates the suppression of freedom of expression, symbolized by the gags, of scholars, and shows that free opinion was placed under censorship. The caricature is to be understood as an appeal to the people and is intended to convey that something has to be done before the state gains the upper hand over the thinking of the individual.
In the eighteenth century, an artistic trend developed, which was to be described as a Biedermeier. Supporters of Biedermeier joined the new situation, took the given and escaped into the protected, ie the private, space. However, a minority wanted to oppose the external circumstances created by the Vienna Congress. This current is known as Vormarz, which, in addition to the Biedermeier, coined the artistic influence before the March Revolution (1848).
Literature of the Biedermeier
As already indicated in the above survey, mainly literary small forms determined the literature of the epoch. Furthermore, there is no genus that originated from the current, but mostly texts were filled with content, which exist formally long. According to this, the literature of the current is mainly characterized by certain motives, less by a superficial style.
In the following, the individual literary genres are presented, with a detailed description of all the peculiarities of the time and certain expressions. Furthermore, text examples are named and typical works and representatives of the Literaturepoche are presented. Below is a complete overview of all the representatives, including the associated and characteristic works.
Poetry of the Biedermeier
The lyricism of the time is shaped by a great simplicity, as regards form and style alike. In part, the lyric of the time drifts into the popular. From this developed folk songs and simple lyrical gimmicks, which worked out above all on the motives love, self-determination (renouncing certain claims), renunciation and the transience of the earthly and the domestic.
The lyric poetry of the current is also often related to nature and religious themes, whereby, of course, the basic motifs of transience, renunciation, and reflection on the interior fit into this context. A well-known work of the Biedermeier is one of the most popular spring poems ever: the one-time poem. It is by Eduard Mörike, which condenses the characteristics of the epoch. Let’s look at the text:
Spring lets its blue ribbon
Again, fluttering through the air;
Sweet, well-known fragrances
Stripe well the country.
Violets already dream,
Want to come balde.
– Listen, from afar a low sound!
Spring, yes you are!
I heard you!
The work of Mörikes illustrates, on the one hand, the natural motif, which is in the absolute foreground of the example. On the other hand, the poem is borne by a harmonious basic mood as well as by a joyous expectation of the lyrical ego, whereby the simple, almost popular character of the work is manifest, whereby it is formally simple (Metrum: Trochäus, Reimschema: embracing rhyme, Kreuzreim, Reimwaise).
Frequently, poetry cycles can also be found in the Biedermeier period, such as the idols (1841/42) of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Further cycles can be found at Nikolaus Lenau, Franz Grillparzer and even at Eduard Mörike, although his oeuvre is much more extensive.
Nature, especially in lyric poetry, was no longer regarded as the projection surface of pain or the inner turmoil, as was the case in previous epochs, but was regarded as a good to be observed to which something divine could be made visible. In addition, during this time, research trips arose, whereby nature also became something that could be investigated and cataloged and presented in a circle of friends.
Epic of the Biedermeier
The epic in the Biedermeier is mainly characterized by rather short prose texts, although there are quite a few major poems, such as Der Nachsommer (Founders), Die Epigonien (Immermann) and painter Nolten (Mörike). Literary short forms, such as the novella or the short story, determine this epoch, with images of moods, sketches, fairy tales, diaries, letters, travelogues, satires, life memories and creepy, but also instructive narratives.
However, the most widespread is the amendment. Typical examples of such Biedermeier novels are Der Judenbuche (Droste-Hülshoff), Der arme Spielmann (Grillparzer) and Die schwarze Spinne (Gotthelf).
The narrated world of the Buchenbuch is located in the remote Westphalian village of B. The book of the Jews, which is probably one of the best-known novellas of this time and still a central theme of the teaching, is characterized by a village and a narrow milieu. The central theme is the turning away from the world, which is also a typical feature of the literature in the Biedermeier.
Drama of the Biedermeier
The drama was determined at the time of the Biedermeier period by Franz Grillparzer, Johann Nepomuk Nestroy and Ferdinand Jakob Raimund, whose artistic work was predominantly characterized by pessimism and melancholy. The discussion with Goethe was also significant for the poets of the epoch, although it is clear that their work – especially after the wedding of classical music – had to appear imitative.
However, for the dramas of that time, it is not only the melancholic or the pessimistic, but equally the gloomy. However, there was also the stir, a play that would stir the audience to tears, for which the works of Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer are a testimony.
In addition comedic plays spread rapidly, especially the jokes of Johann Nestroy are very typical. Nevertheless, these are usually grotesque, that is, overpowered and partly distorted features. The torn-out (1844), a posse with singing in three acts, was most particularly characteristic of the criticism. Lips, the protagonist of this work, is a bored and rich and ironic man – the play is mainly about comic and love.
Short overview: The most important thing about the Biedermeier at a glance
The Literaturepoche, which is now known to us as a Biedermeier, originated between the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) and the March Revolution. It can be regarded as a logical consequence of the historical background. The population was marked by the coalition wars against the domination of France and marked by the war.
The poets of this period, therefore, grew insecurity and were at the mercy of a constant change of political order; so it is hardly surprising that the most important motifs of the Biedermeier were the reflection on the private and the secure space of the home, which is why the epoch is often described as conservative and bourgeois.
Further motifs of the artistic epoch were longing, melancholy as well as resignation, unfulfilled wishes, the enhancement of the good old times (before the French occupation) and melancholy. Furthermore, the literature was characterized by frugality, proximity to nature, the retreat into private life, the taming of passions, love and melancholy.
In the epic dominated small forms, especially the novella and the short story are typical for the literaturepoche, in the lyric-dominated ballads, enumerations and the idyll – an epic poem, which was presented in the circle of the loved ones – as well as the epigram, the drama was characterized by melancholic features.
Important representatives of the Biedermeier are Ferdinand Jakob Raimund, Franz Grillparzer, Karl Leberecht Immermann, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Jeremias Gotthelf, Johann Nestroy, Nikolaus Lenau, Eduard Mörike and Adalbert Stifter.