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Novalis (1799), portrait by Franz Gareis
|Born||Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg|
2 May 1772
Oberwiederstedt, Electorate of Saxony
|Died||25 March 1801 28) (aged|
Weißenfels, Electorate of Saxony
|Occupation||Prose writer, poet, mystic, philosopher, civil engineer, mineralogist|
|Alma mater|| University of Jena |
University of Wittenberg
|Literary movement||Jena Romanticism|
Novalis ( // ; German: [noˈvaːlɪs] ) was the pseudonym and pen name of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (2 May 1772 – 25 March 1801), a poet, author, mystic, and philosopher of Early German Romanticism. Hardenberg's professional work and university background, namely his study of mineralogy and management of salt mines in Saxony, was often ignored by his contemporary readers. The first studies showing important relations between his literary and professional works started in the 1960s.
Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg was born in 1772 at Oberwiederstedt manor (now part of Arnstein, Saxony-Anhalt), in the Harz mountains. In the church in Wiederstedt, he was christened Georg Philipp Friedrich. An oil painting and a christening cap commonly assigned to him are Hardenberg's only possessions now extant.
The family seat was a manorial estate. Hardenberg descended from ancient, Lower German nobility with its ancestral seat at Nörten-Hardenberg since 1287 to this day. Different lines of the family include such important, influential magistrates and ministry officials as the Prussian chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg (1750–1822). He spent his childhood on the family estate and used it as the starting point for his travels into the Harz mountains.
His father, the estate owner and salt-mine manager Heinrich Ulrich Erasmus Freiherr (Baron) von Hardenberg (1738–1814), was a strictly pietistic man, member of the Moravian (Herrnhuter) Church. His second marriage was to Auguste Bernhardine von Böltzig (1749–1818), who gave birth to eleven children: their second child was Georg Philipp Friedrich. The Hardenbergs were a noble family but not rich. Young Georg Philipp was often short of cash, rode a small horse, and sometimes had to simply walk.
At first, young Hardenberg was taught by private tutors. He attended the Lutheran grammar school in Eisleben, where he acquired skills in rhetoric and ancient literature, common parts of the education of his time. From his twelfth year, he was in the charge of his uncle Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Hardenberg at his stately home in Lucklum.
Young Hardenberg studied law from 1790 to 1794 at Jena, Leipzig and Wittenberg. He passed his exams with distinction. During his studies, he attended Schiller's lectures on history and befriended him during his illness. He also met Goethe, Herder and Jean Paul, and befriended Ludwig Tieck, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and the brothers Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel.
In October 1794, he started working as actuary for August Coelestin Just, who became not only his friend but, later, also his biographer. The following January, he was appointed auditor to the salt works at Weißenfels.
During the time he worked for August Coelestin Just, Novalis met the 12-year-old Sophie von Kühn (1782–1797), a girl who was, according to accounts, a "perfectly commonplace young girl, neither intelligent nor particularly beautiful."Nonetheless, he fell in love with Sophie, since in the young Georg Philipp's view of the world "nothing is commonplace" because "all, when rightly seen, is symbolic." On 15 March 1795, when Sophie was 13 years old, the two became engaged, despite her family's reluctance and the fact that she was already tubercular.
The early death of Sophie in March 1797, from tuberculosis, affected Novalis deeply and permanently. She was only 15 years old, and the two had not married.
In 1795–1796, Novalis entered the Mining Academy of Freiberg in Saxony, a leading academy of science, to study geology under Professor Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750–1817), who befriended him. During Novalis' studies in Freiberg, he immersed himself in a wide range of studies, including mining, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and, not least, philosophy. It was here that he collected materials for his encyclopaedia project, Das allgemeine Brouillon. Similar to other German authors of the Romantic age, his work in the mining industry, which was undergoing then the first steps to industrialization, was closely connected with his literary work.
In the period 1795–1796, Novalis concerned himself with the philosophical doctrine of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, which greatly influenced his worldview. He not only read Fichte's philosophies but also developed his concepts further, transforming Fichte's Nicht-Ich (German "not I") to a Du ("you"), an equal subject to the Ich ("I"). This was the starting point for Novalis' Liebesreligion ("religion of love").
Novalis' first fragments were published in 1798 in the Athenäum , a magazine edited by the Schlegel brothers, who were also part of the early Romantic movement. Novalis' first publication was entitled Blüthenstaub (Pollen) and saw the first appearance of his pseudonym, "Novalis". In July 1799, he became acquainted with Ludwig Tieck, and that autumn he met other authors of so-called "Jena Romanticism".
Novalis became engaged for the second time in December 1798. His fiancée was Julie von Charpentier (1776–1811), a daughter of Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Toussaint von Charpentier, a professor in Freiberg.
From Pentecost 1799, Novalis again worked in the management of salt mines. That December, he became an assessor of the salt mines and a director. On the 6 December 1800, the twenty-eight-year-old Hardenberg was appointed Supernumerar-Amtshauptmann for the district of Thuringia, a position comparable to a present-day magistrate.
From August 1800 onward, Hardenberg was suffering from tuberculosis. On 25 March 1801, he died in Weißenfels.His body was buried in the old cemetery there.
Novalis lived long enough to see the publication only of Pollen, Faith and Love or the King and the Queen and Hymns to the Night. His unfinished novels Heinrich von Ofterdingen and The Novices at Sais, his political speech Christendom or Europa, and numerous other notes and fragments were published posthumously by his friends Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel.
Young Hardenberg adopted the pen name Novalis from his 12th-century ancestors who named themselves de Novali, after their settlement Grossenrode, or magna Novalis.
Novalis, who was deeply read in science, law, philosophy, politics and political economy, started writing quite early. He left an abundance of notes on these fields and his early work displays his ease and familiarity with them. His later works are closely connected to his studies and his profession. Novalis collected everything that he had learned, reflected upon it and drew connections in the sense of an encyclopaedic overview on art, religion and science. These notes from the years 1798 and 1799 are called Das allgemeine Brouillon (literally "general rough draft"), now available in English under the title Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia.Together with Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis developed the fragment as a literary artform. The core of Hardenberg's literary works is the quest for the connection of science and poetry, and the result was supposed to be a "progressive universal poesy”. Novalis was convinced that philosophy and the higher-ranking poetry have to be continually related to each other.
The fact that the romantic fragment is an appropriate form for a depiction of "progressive universal poesy”, can be seen especially from the success of this new genre in its later reception.
Novalis' whole works are based upon an idea of education: "We are on a mission: we are called upon to educate the earth."It has to be made clear that everything is in a continual process. It is the same with humanity, which forever strives towards and tries to recreate a new Golden Age – a paradisaic Age of harmony between man and nature that was assumed to have existed in earlier times. This Age was described by Plato, Plotinus and Franz Hemsterhuis, the last of whom was an extremely important figure for the German Romantics.
This idea of a romantic universal poesy can be seen clearly in the romantic triad. This theoretical structure always shows its recipient that the described moment is exactly the moment ( kairos ) in which the future is decided. These frequently mentioned critical points correspond with the artist's feeling for the present, which Novalis shares with many other contemporaries of his time. Thus a triadic structure can be found in most of his works. This means that there are three corresponding structural elements which are written differently concerning the content and the form.
Hardenberg's intensive study of the works of Jakob Böhme, from 1800, had a clear influence on his own writing.
A mystical worldview, a high standard of education, and the frequently perceptible pietistic influences are combined in Novalis' attempt to reach a new concept of Christianity, faith and God. He forever endeavours to align these with his own view of transcendental philosophy, which acquired the mysterious name "magical idealism",drawing heavily from the critical or transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant and J. G. Fichte (the earliest form of German idealism), and incorporates the artistic element central to Early German Romanticism. The subject must strive to conform the external, natural world to its own will and genius; hence the term "magical". At the same time, Novalis' emphasis on the term "magic" represents a challenge to what he perceived as the disenchantment that came with modern rationalistic thinking and therefore functions as a "solution" of sorts to the lamentation in Hymnen an die Nacht. David Krell calls magical idealism "thaumaturgic idealism." This view can even be discerned in more religious works such as the Spiritual Songs (published 1802), which soon became incorporated into Lutheran hymn-books.
Novalis influenced, among others, the novelist and theologian George MacDonald, who translated his 'Hymns to the Night' in 1897.More recently, Novalis, and the Early Romanticism (Frühromantik) movement as a whole, has been recognized as constituting a separate philosophical school, as opposed to simply a literary movement. Recognition of the distinctness of Frühromantik philosophy is owed largely, in the English speaking world at least, to the writer Frederick Beiser.
The philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner spoke in various lectures (now published) about Novalis.
In August 1800, eight months after completion, the revised edition of the Hymnen an die Nacht was published in the Athenaeum. They are often considered to be the climax of Novalis’ lyrical works and the most important poetry of the German early Romanticism.
The six hymns contain many elements which can be understood as autobiographical. Even though a lyrical "I", rather than Novalis himself, is the speaker, there are many relationships between the hymns and Hardenberg's experiences from 1797 to 1800.
The topic is the romantic interpretation of life and death, the threshold of which is symbolised by the night. Life and death are – according to Novalis – developed into entwined concepts. So in the end, death is the romantic principle of life.
Influences from the literature of that time can be seen. The metaphors of the hymns are closely connected to the books Novalis had read at about the time of his writing of the hymns. These are prominently Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (in the translation by A.W. Schlegel, 1797) and Jean Paul’s Unsichtbare Loge (1793).
The Hymns to the Night display a universal religion with an intermediary. This concept is based on the idea that there is always a third party between a human and God. This intermediary can either be Jesus – as in Christian lore – or the dead beloved as in the hymns. These works consist of three times two hymns. These three components are each structured in this way: the first hymn shows, with the help of the Romantic triad, the development from an assumed happy life on earth through a painful era of alienation to salvation in the eternal night; the following hymn tells of the awakening from this vision and the longing for a return to it. With each pair of hymns, a higher level of experience and knowledge is shown. Some of the poems notably lament the historical replacement of European Paganism by Christianity, creating ambiguity about the exact view of the Hymns on Christianity and polytheism.
The novel fragments Heinrich von Ofterdingen and Die Lehrlinge zu Sais (The Novices of Sais) reflect the idea of describing a universal world harmony with the help of poetry. The novel 'Heinrich von Ofterdingen' contains the "blue flower", a symbol that became an emblem for the whole of German Romanticism. Originally the novel was supposed to be an answer to Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, a work that Novalis had read with enthusiasm but later on judged as being highly unpoetical. He disliked the victory of the economical over the poetic.
The speech called Die Christenheit oder Europa was written in 1799, but was first published in 1826. It is a poetical, cultural-historical speech with a focus on a political utopia with regard to the Middle Ages. In this text Novalis tries to develop a new Europe which is based on a new poetical Christendom which shall lead to unity and freedom. He got the inspiration for this text from Schleiermacher’s Über die Religion (1799). The work was also a response to the French Enlightenment and Revolution, both of which Novalis saw as catastrophic and irreligious. It anticipated, then, the growing German and Romantic theme of anti-Enlightenment visions of European spirituality and order.
Walter Pater includes Novalis's quote, "Philosophiren ist dephlegmatisiren, vivificiren" ("to philosophize is to throw off apathy, to become revived")in his conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Novalis' poetry and writings were also an influence on Hermann Hesse.
20th-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger uses a Novalis fragment, "Philosophy is really homesickness, an urge to be at home everywhere" in the opening pages of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.
Novalis was an influence on Rudolf Steiner.
The libretto of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde contains strong allusions to Novalis' symbolic language, especially the dichotomy between the Night and the Day that animates his Hymns to the Night.
Novalis was also an influence on George MacDonald, and so indirectly on C. S. Lewis, the Inklings, and the whole modern fantasy genre. Borges refers often to Novalis in his work.
Novelist Penelope Fitzgerald's last work, The Blue Flower , is a historical fiction about Novalis, his education, his philosophical and poetic development, and his romance with Sophie.
The krautrock band Novalis, beside taking their name from him, adapted or used directly poems by Novalis as lyrics on their albums.
The American avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage made the film First Hymn to the Night – Novalis in 1994. The film was issued on Blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection.
In tribute to his writings, Novalis records are produced by AVC Audio Visual Communications AG, Switzerland.
Novalis' works were originally issued in two volumes by his friends Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel (2 vols. 1802; a third volume was added in 1846). Editions of Novalis' collected works have since been compiled by C. Meisner and Bruno Wille (1898), by E. Heilborn (3 vols., 1901), and by J. Minor (3 vols., 1907). Heinrich von Ofterdingen was published separately by J. Schmidt in 1876.
Novalis's Correspondence was edited by J. M. Raich in 1880. See R. Haym Die romantische Schule (Berlin, 1870); A. Schubart, Novalis' Leben, Dichten und Denken (1887); C. Busse, Novalis' Lyrik (1898); J. Bing, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Hamburg, 1899), E. Heilborn, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Berlin, 1901).
The German-language, six-volume edition of Novalis works Historische-Kritische Ausgabe - Novalis Schriften (HKA) is edited by Richard Samuel, Hans-Joachim Mähl & Gerhard Schulz. It is published by Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1960–2006.
Several of Novalis's notebooks and philosophical works or books about Novalis and his work have been translated into English:
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant. Recently, philosophers and scholars have begun to appreciate Fichte as an important philosopher in his own right due to his original insights into the nature of self-consciousness or self-awareness. Fichte was also the originator of thesis–antithesis–synthesis, an idea that is often erroneously attributed to Hegel. Like Descartes and Kant before him, Fichte was motivated by the problem of subjectivity and consciousness. Fichte also wrote works of political philosophy; he has a reputation as one of the fathers of German nationalism.
Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin was a German poet and philosopher. Described by Norbert von Hellingrath as "the most German of Germans", Hölderlin was a key figure of German Romanticism. Particularly due to his early association with and philosophical influence on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, he was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism.
Johann Ludwig Tieck was a German poet, fiction writer, translator, and critic. He was one of the founding fathers of the Romantic movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature and criticism. Compared to English Romanticism, the German variety developed relatively early, and, in the opening years, coincided with Weimar Classicism (1772–1805). In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety of Romanticism notably valued wit, humour, and beauty.
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Johann Gottlieb Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his one-time university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling's philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its evolving nature.
August WilhelmSchlegel, usually cited as August Schlegel, was a German poet, translator and critic, and with his brother Friedrich Schlegel the leading influence within Jena Romanticism. His translations of Shakespeare turned the English dramatist's works into German classics. Schlegel was also the first professor of Sanskrit in Continental Europe and produced a translation of the Bhagavad Gita.
Karl Wilhelm FriedrichSchlegel, usually cited as Friedrich Schlegel, was a German poet, literary critic, philosopher, philologist and Indologist. With his older brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel, he was one of the main figures of the Jena romantics. He was a zealous promoter of the Romantic movement and inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Adam Mickiewicz and Kazimierz Brodziński. The first to notice what became known as Grimm's law, Schlegel was a pioneer in Indo-European studies, comparative linguistics, and morphological typology. As a young man he was an atheist, a radical, and an individualist. In 1808, the same Schlegel converted to Catholicism. Two years later he was a diplomat and journalist in the service of the reactionary Clemens von Metternich, surrounded by monks and pious men of society.
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with Romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. The best-known thinkers in the movement, besides Kant, were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the proponents of Jena Romanticism. August Ludwig Hülsen, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Salomon Maimon, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Arthur Schopenhauer also made major contributions.
Naturphilosophie is a term used in English-language philosophy to identify a current in the philosophical tradition of German idealism, as applied to the study of nature in the earlier 19th century. German speakers use the clearer term Romantische Naturphilosophie, the philosophy of nature developed at the time of the founding of German Romanticism. It is particularly associated with the philosophical work of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel—though it has some clear precursors also. More particularly it is identified with some of the initial works of Schelling during the period 1797–9, in reaction to the views of Fichte, and subsequent developments from Schelling's position. Always controversial, some of Schelling's ideas in this direction are still considered of philosophical interest, even if the subsequent development of experimental natural science had a destructive impact on the credibility of the theories of his followers in Naturphilosophie.
Heinrich von Ofterdingen is a fabled, quasi-fictional Middle High German lyric poet and Minnesinger mentioned in the 13th century epic of the Sängerkrieg on the Wartburg. The legend was perpetuated by Novalis in his eponymous fragment novel written in 1800 and by E. T. A. Hoffmann in his 1818 novella Der Kampf der Sänger.
Christiane Wilhelmine Sophie von Kühn was the love interest and eventual fiancée of the German Romantic poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg, known to many simply as Novalis. Her image famously appears in Novalis’ Hymns to the Night, a foundational text of the literary movement known as German Romanticism.
The Blue Flower is a 1995 novel by the British author Penelope Fitzgerald. It is a fictional treatment of the early life of Friedrich von Hardenberg who, under the pseudonym Novalis, later became a practitioner of German Romanticism.
August Ferdinand Bernhardi was a German linguist and writer.
Dorothea von Schlegel was a German novelist and translator.
The Athenaeum was a literary magazine established in 1798 by August Wilhelm and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel. It is considered to be the founding publication of German Romanticism.
Cyril J. O'Regan is an Irish Catholic intellectual and the Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He specialises in systematic theology and historical theology, with a specific interest in continental philosophy, religious literature, mystical theology and post-modern thought. He is best known for his multi-volume gnosticism series. This series began with Gnostic Return in Modernity and continued in Gnostic Apocalypse: Jacob Boehme's Haunted Narrative. Rehabilitating a project attempted in the nineteenth century by a leader of the Tübingen school of theology, Ferdinand Christian Baur, O'Regan attempts to identify a gnostic structure or "grammar" that can be traced through sources and authors as diverse as Valentinianism and William Blake. By identifying this grammar, he hoped to find a way to distinguish works of gnosticism from other types with superficial resemblances, such as writings in Neoplatonism. As a Christian theologian, he also hopes to equip theologians to avoid gnosticism, which he sees as an alternative contrary to genuine Christian faith yet, by its nature, one that is present in every era. This project is in some ways similar to that of Eric Voegelin, who in his Science, Politics and Gnosticism (1968) attempted to identify some core features of gnosticism that he viewed as dangerous, though the two thinkers disagree about how to define gnosticism and why it should be rejected.
Jena Romanticism is the first phase of Romanticism in German literature represented by the work of a group centred in Jena from about 1798 to 1804. The movement is considered to have contributed to the development of German idealism in late modern philosophy.
Andrew S. Bowie is Professor of Philosophy and German at Royal Holloway, University of London and Founding Director of the Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC).
August Ludwig Hülsen, also known by the pseudonym Hegekern, was a German philosopher, writer and pedagogue of early German Romanticism. His thought played a role in the development of German Idealism.
Transcendental poetry is a term related to the theory of poetry and literature and, more precisely, to the fields of aesthetics and romantic philosophy. The expression "transcendental poetry" was created by the German critic and philosopher Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) and also used by the poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1801), also known as Novalis. Transcendental poetry links the literary field to the philosophical one, poetry to thinking, and the critical reflection to the artistic creation..
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