As storm and urge (also genius, genius period) is a literature epoch, which can be dated from 1765 to 1790. The Sturm und Drang was mainly supported by young writers who created the literary work. The concept goes back to the Kömödie Sturm und Drang by Friedrich Maximilian Klinger.
The essential features of Sturm und Drang can be summed up as a rebellion against the epoch of the Enlightenment, which determined philosophical and literary life in the second half of the eighteenth century and decisively influenced literature.
The Enlightenment demanded the freedom of the mind and set the mind as one of the most important magnitudes of the time. Through the practiced use of reason man should escape his “immaturity” (Kant), whereby literary writings should help him and illuminate the mind. Literature was thus seen in the Enlightenment as a means to the formation of man.
Note: In this article, we will show you how the storm and the urge to rebel against these demands of the Enlightenment and how this could happen. We would also like to present to you the authors and works of the time and explain the historical context of the literaturepoche.
Temporal classification of the epoch
In the field of literature or various online encyclopedias, there are partly different indications of the exact duration of the storm and the urge, which differ from each other.
However, the few literary currents begin on a particular day and end abruptly at another. Rather, literature piles are created in parallel with an existing stream and are gradually exhausted, which is why a precise date specification is sometimes difficult.
Consequently, the epoch of storm and urge can also be viewed very generously, a little narrower, or even very narrow, and can be divided into different dates.
Broad dating of the epoch: 1767 – 1785
Whoever is the author of the epoch is the date of publication of Johann Gottfried Herder’s recent German literature and the end of last year’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s pre-classical phase in Weimar. Consequently, the period is limited to the years 1767 to 1785.
Herder emphasized the popular element in these literary critical fragments and gave him an important role in German literature. This thought, of course, was opposed to rational reasoning, since the folk song was neither formative nor morally valuable.
Goethe turned to classical music. We can interpret this epoch as a comprehensive combination of enlightenment and storm and urge, since reason and feeling are brought into unity. The feeling is affirmed, but just tamed.
Closely dating of the epoch: 1770 – 1784
When we date the epoch closely, we refer to the date of the Goethe and Herder in Strasbourg (1770) and set the cornerstone for the end of the current at the premiere of Friedrich Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (1784).
Herder and Goethe are also mentioned here. However, we refer to the joint work of the two poets and the resulting ideas. Thus, Herder supported a collection of Alsatian folk, and completed his speech on the day of Schopepeares in Strasburg, which can be regarded as the pioneer of the storm and the impulse.
Note: For this article, we have decided for a period from 1765 to 1790, since there was already before the work of the two poets, which favored the creation and the spirit of the storm and urge far into the classic.
Characteristics of the literature of Sturm und Drang
The literary polemic of Sturm und Drang did not receive this name until the nineteenth century. This is the title of a comedy by Friedrich Maximilian Klinger, which appeared in 1777.
The strikers and drifters were often young writers between the ages of twenty and thirty who turned against the prevailing current of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment presupposed reason and a modest way of life as one of the most important cornerstones of social life and of philosophical and literary action, which was met with refusal by the strikers and the oppressed.
The guiding principle of Sturm und Drang was the original genius. This genius lived according to their own laws and rules and acted according to their own wishes, even though it always took care of other forms of existence. The feeling or heart, and not reason or reason, was the determining factor in these rules and laws. That is why this epoch is also referred to as genius.
Both epochs, enlightenment and storm and urge, are in common, however, that they turned against the system of absolutism and rejected the courtly world of the nobility. Therefore, the protest against feudalism (landowners and landowners) is a central aspect of both currents.
The literature of the epoch is thus full of emotionality and rejection against the understanding as the highest good. In most of the works, we find the so-called self-help person, who takes every hurdle to live out his own individuality and sometimes radically violates social norms.
This radicalism of the strikers and drifters, of course, did not fit into the rigid rules of the Enlightenment or the Baroque, which provided a clear set of rules for poetry. Consequently, the authors of the epoch of this imposed rigidity opposed powerful expressions of force, half-sentences, and popular language. The language of the storm and the urge can be regarded as popular and youthful.
This means that the Sturm und Drang less tried to mimic old values, norms and poetic rules, but rather sets these originality and authenticity in the focus of attention.
Based on the fact that the ideals of the storm and the urge are based on the feeling, the expression and the authentic as well as the expressive reproduction of experience, it is almost logical that the drama should be the most important literary genre. After all, the drama offers a great space for interaction with the audience and the possibility to express texts and individual situations expressively and above all individually.
Overview of epoch characteristics
Geniebegriff: The original genius is explained as a model of creative man. An original genius is a person who lives according to his own laws and desires and does not subordinate himself. Free self-development is the goal of the original genius, always taking into consideration other forms of existence. William Shakespeare is a model.
Drama: One of the most frequent literary genres of this period was the drama, which addressed the conflict between youth and the existing world order → literary genres
Free Poetics: Sturmer and Dranger turned away from an all-too rigid form of poetics and opposed an individual, artistic form. The original genius should not subject the rendering of his experiences to strict rules, but to handle them freely.
Feeling: As a youth movement, one turned away from the rigid ideas of the Enlightenment, which focused on reason and devoted itself to feeling (emotio) as a central object of literary creation.
Language: The strikers and drifters used an expressive language, which often consisted of half-sentences or also force expressions. Thus, the language of the people and, of course, the youth was brought to the theater stages.
Criticism of Feudalism: In this criticism there is an interface between Sturm und Drang and the Enlightenment. Both explain the overcoming of the feudal system as the goal.
Epic of Sturm und Drang
As a new literary genre, the letter-roman was created in a storm and anger. This form of narrative prose conveyed authenticity (accurate dating), a possibility of the uninterrupted representation of emotions (correspondence), and thus met the nerve of time.
As a prime example here must be the sufferings of the boy Werther, which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published in 1774. On the one hand, the content plays an essential role, but on the other hand it is the form of the correspondence. Thus, the novel offers a feeling of authenticity and allows a deep insight into the emotional world of the protagonist Werther.
Note: Werther is a legal practitioner in the novel, who describes his feelings to a friend in numerous letters, revealing internal conflicts and enabling the reader to identify himself directly with what is read.
Sturmer and Dränger understood the work as a protest against the imposed and strict norms of society, and as a rebellion against the oppression and restriction of the human individual, who can help himself but to choose suicide as a last resort.
Because of the enormous success and the fact that Werther’s suicide is portrayed as the last possibility of the main figure, many young people’s suicides came after the publication. The letter romance was forbidden as early as 1775.
Poetry of storm and urge
It was not only the epics that received a new genre in the course of the Sturm und Drang, but also poetry with different forms and elements, which were experimented with lyric poetry.
Recalling that Sturmer and Dränger disregarded the rules of rigid poetics, it is only a logical consequence that free rhythms determine the lyricism of the current and form the typical form of poetry.
However, it is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who begins in 1770 to present to the public novel works, which we will call afterwards as an experience lyric and which will characterize the German nature and love lyrical until the 19th century.
The poems are based on personal experiences, which are extended to general statements in the poem. In contrast to the traditional love lyric, Goethe shows love as something total, comprehensive and not as a division into serious-soul or joking-sensuous elements.
The experience-lyric should give the impression that what is depicted is immediate-indeed, almost at once-and as if it were written in a train. Nature is a central motif of the experience lyric and often reflects the mood of the lyric self. These characteristics also apply to many people as characteristics of a typical poem today.
The lyric thus acts as a credible pronunciation of feelings of the lyric self, and not as a theoretical reflection or rational and strict form of the old school.
But the lyrical light of the world did not only discover a new sub-genre, but other forms, such as the folk song, were accepted and emphasized as poetical works. Herder’s collection of folk songs (1778), which arose from a joint collection with Goethe, is well-known.
Herder criticized the arrogant attitude of the Enlightenment towards the common people and their culture. He demanded to acknowledge the importance, depth, and “integrity” of folk song and poetry as art and not simply ignore it.
Note: There are many songs in Herder’s collection that we can still sing and listen to today. For example the “Abendlied” by Matthias Claudius (→ Schweifreim)
Drama of storm and urge
It is true that Goethe’s Werther is a milestone in German literary history, which can be regarded as the forerunner of the modern novel, but the drama was the most widespread genre of Sturm und Drang and is regarded as a dominant form of artistic representation.
The treatment of current social problems is an innovation of the drama of the storm and the urge towards other epochs. Nearly all the dramas of the epoch have one aspect in common: the hero fails at the end and only finds a way out of his situation in suicide, murder or self-mutilation.
Furthermore, there is usually a hero, which is clearly to be identified as a natural genius, which conflicts with the existing world order. Thus the acting persons of the drama often act as criminals, since they radically violate social norms.
At this point Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen (1773) and Schiller’s The Robbers (1781) must be named. And here, too, we find the clear type of storm and urge: the revolting natural genius, which is at the center of the action and demands and emphasizes the right of the individual to a free life and self-determination.
Critics criticized the breaking and neglect of the dramatic technique and units in these dramas. Even so far as the dramas of the epoch very often scratched at the limits of their portrayability and were hardly suitable for a performance.
But this aspect can also be seen as a clear feature of the drama of these days. At the same time, the strikers and drifters were directed against the existing rules of poetics and demanded free forms and artistic liberties.
Short overview: epic, lyric, drama
Epik: The Briefroman was established as a new literary genre. This was chiefly the result of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. The writer’s novel was on the one hand an authentic means and was also stress-relieved.
Poetry: The lyrical writing experienced a strong change in the storm and urge, and turned against the rigid rules of the Enlightenment and Baroque. Contemporary writers wrote in free rhythms and created the experience lyric.
Drama: Dramatic texts are regarded as the dominating genre of the epoch and focus on current societal problems of the epoch. The hero is usually a genius that turns against the social order and radically violates norms.
Storm and urge in painting, architecture and music
Most of the currents throw a wide shadow on all forms of artistic debate and creative processes. The situation is different with the storm and the urge.
If in the Renaissance, the Baroque, classicism, and also romanticism, tendencies are reflected in art, storm and urge can be regarded as a phenomenon in literature. Although there are some attempts to transfer the most important features to the visual arts or the music, there is no corresponding epoch.
Of course, influences of parallel currents can be identified in all artistic periods. Nevertheless, there is no epoch in other areas, which is called “Sturm und Drang”.
Historical context of literature poche
The storm and impulse is limited only to the German-speaking world, which is why the view of the Germany of this time provides the most important points. An overview.
Kleinstaaterei: Although Germany was already referred to as the German Reich, it was merely a framework. The fact is that Germany was divided into numerous small states and imperial cities and was fragmented.
Confession: The confines of the individual small towns often also meant confessional differences. A confession is a subgroup of a religion which differs in teaching, organization or practice from other subgroups.
Administration: Nevertheless, the individual states were increasingly centralized, which meant a strong expansion of the administrative system. The bourgeoisie played a decisive role in this expansion and took over tasks of the administration itself.
Industrialization: The strong German bourgeoisie also came into play in economic areas and had to carry the burgeoning industrialization almost to the very beginning.
Bourgeoisie: Industrialization and administration are certainly only small aspects. Nevertheless, the increasing distribution of tasks to the bourgeoisie led to a growing self-awareness of this class, which should directly affect the literature.
Representatives and works
The authors of the Sturm und Drang were mostly young and belonged to the ordinary bourgeoisie. Many people therefore lacked an audience for their own works and financial backing, which is why many authors have probably fallen into oblivion.
Representative and mastermind of Sturm und Drang
Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1794)
The peasant by his thirsty tyrants (1774)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Willkomm and Farewell (1771)
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The suffering of young Werther (1774)
Johann Gottfried of Herder (1744-1803)
Fragments on modern German literature (1767/68)
Friedrich Maximilian Klinger (1752-1831)
Storm and Dust (1776)
Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (1751-1792)
The Court Master or Benefits of Privately (1774)
The Soldiers (1776)
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
The Robbers (1781)
Cabal and Love (1784)