Karoline von Günderrode

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Karoline von Gunderrode, c. 1800 Karoline von guenderode.jpg
Karoline von Günderrode, c. 1800

Karoline Friederike Louise Maximiliane von Günderrode (11 February 1780 – 26 July 1806) was a German Romantic poet, born in Karlsruhe. She used the nom-de-plume of Tian.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Poetry Form of literature

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Karlsruhe Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Karlsruhe is the second-largest city of the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg after its capital of Stuttgart, and its 309,999 (2016) inhabitants make it the 21st largest city of Germany. On the right bank of the Rhine, the city lies near the French-German border, between the Mannheim/Ludwigshafen conurbation to the north, and the Strasbourg/Kehl conurbation to the south. It is the largest city of Baden, a region named after Hohenbaden Castle in the city of Baden-Baden. Karlsruhe is also the largest city in the South Franconian dialect area, the only other larger city in that area being Heilbronn. The city is the seat of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), as well as of the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) and the Public Prosecutor General of the Federal Court of Justice.



Günderrode, the oldest of six siblings, came from an aristocratic but poor family. In 1797 she entered a residence in Frankfurt am Main, run by a charitable foundation, in which poor unmarried noblewomen could live respectably while keeping an eye out for a suitable marriage partner. [1] In Frankfurt her friends included the three siblings Kunigunde Brentano (later von Savigny; 1780-1863), Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano) and Clemens Brentano. [2]

Bettina von Arnim 19th-century German writer

Bettina von Arnim, born Elisabeth Catharina Ludovica Magdalena Brentano, was a German writer and novelist.

Clemens Brentano German poet, novelist

Clemens Wenzeslaus Brentano was a German poet and novelist, and a major figure of German Romanticism. He was the uncle, via his brother Christian, of Franz and Lujo Brentano.

Günderrode was unable to come to terms with the prescribed feminine roles. In a letter to Kunigunde Brentano  [ de ] she wrote: "I've often had the unfeminine desire to throw myself into the wild chaos of battle and die. Why didn't I turn out to be a man! I have no feeling for feminine virtues, for a woman's happiness. Only that which is wild, great, shining appeals to me. There is an unfortunate but unalterable imbalance in my soul; and it will and must remain so, since I am a woman and have desires like a man without a man's strength. That's why I'm so vacillating and so out of harmony with myself…." [3] Karoline suffered from a nervously induced melancholy and had an unpredictable temperament that alienated some.

While attending a social event, Günderrode met the legal scholar Friedrich Carl von Savigny and fell in love with him. Sometime later, she reached the point of hoping for a proposal of marriage, but Savigny decided instead to marry her less intellectual friend Kunigunde Brentano.

Friedrich Carl von Savigny German jurist

Friedrich Carl von Savigny was a German jurist and historian.

After what she saw as Savigny's betrayal, Günderrode worked on her art as a poet, aiming to unite life and writing. She wrote works with strong heroic women in a central role, such as Hildegun und Nikator and Mora. Through her writing she criticized the ideals of the bourgeois society at the time and its traditional gender roles.

In 1804, Günderrode met the philologist and archeologist Georg Friedrich Creuzer. Although he was married, they developed a relationship. Creuzer asked his wife for a divorce, which she agreed to, but Creuzer, who suffered depression from his secret relationship with Günderrode, and anxiety about the public scandal of a divorce, postponed the decision. He sought advice from his friends and colleagues, who suggested he should forget Günderrode, as she would never be a suitable wife. In the midst of the unresolved situation, he became ill; finally, through a friend, he sent a letter to Günderrode ending the relationship. Upon receiving the news, Günderrode killed herself with a dagger on the banks of the river Rhine at Winkel. [1]

Georg Friedrich Creuzer Philologist and archaeologist

Georg Friedrich Creuzer was a German philologist and archaeologist.

Rhine River in Western Europe

The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, emptying into the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Oestrich-Winkel Place in Hesse, Germany

Oestrich-Winkel is a town with roughly 12,000 inhabitants in the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany.

Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist were the two central characters in Kein Ort. Nirgends , a novel by Christa Wolf published in 1979. This recounts a fictional meeting between Günderrode and Kleist in which the two escape the empty chatter of a tea party by taking a long walk. Kleist also ended his life in a suicide pact with the cancer-stricken Henriette Vogel.

Heinrich von Kleist German poet, dramatist, novelist and short story writer

Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist was a German poet, dramatist, novelist, short story writer and journalist. His best known works are the theatre plays Das Käthchen von Heilbronn, The Broken Jug, Amphitryon, Penthesilea and the novellas Michael Kohlhaas and The Marquise of O. Kleist committed suicide together with a close female friend who was terminally ill.

Kein Ort. Nirgends is a 1979 novel by East German author Christa Wolf. It tells the fictional meeting of the German poets Heinrich von Kleist and Karoline von Günderrode in a salon in Winkel in the Rheingau. In real life, both protagonists had independently committed suicide; Günderrode in 1806 in Winkel, Kleist in 1811 in Berlin.

Christa Wolf German literary critic, novelist, and essayist

Christa Wolf was a German literary critic, novelist, and essayist. She was one of the best-known writers to emerge from the former East Germany.


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  1. 1 2 Duda, Sibylle. "Karoline von Günderrode." FemBio [lexicon/database of women's biographies, from a feminist perspective]. Translated by Joey Horsley. FemBio Frauen-Biographieforschung. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  2. von Hoff, Dagmar (1995). "Aspects of Censorship in the Work of Karoline von Günderrode." Women in German Yearbook. vol. 11. p. 99–112; here p. 103. Accessible via JSTOR (registration required).
  3. As quoted in Duda, "Karoline von Günderrode," FemBio; translation from the German.