Utopianism around AD 1800

  • Ulrich Simon


When it was my lot to teach undergraduates about Schleiermacher nothing irritated me more than the lack of background knowledge. One was supposed to ignore the complex development of the man himself, who naturally enough shared all the influences of, and reactions to, Herrnhut pietism, the Enlightenment and the rationalism of the eighteenth century, the political enthusiasm and the disenchantment caused by the French Revolution, the Terror, and soon Napoleon. But even more annoying was, and, I think, still is, the presentation of Schleiermacher out of context, without so much as mentioning the poets of the Sturm und Drang and their own reaction to these events and to the formidable voice of Kant. True, this grave omission ought to have been remedied when Karl Barth’s famous and brilliant Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century appeared at last in its English translation in 1972, but even in this monumental work there are gaps. Barth is more interested in the roots of liberal Christianity than in the Utopian strands of religion and secular movements, and, as he himself came to regret, time was not found to complete the grand design with a chapter on Goethe. Hölderlin only receives one mention, and that in company with Schelling and Hegel.


French Revolution Christian Theology Secular Movement Grand Design Monumental Work 
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  1. 3.
    See esp. Ilse Graham, ‘Kant-Goethe-Kleist: Of Knowing and Relating’, Inaugural Lecture, King’s College, London, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. Cf. also Emil Staiger, Goethe, 3 vols (Zürich and Freiburg, 1952-) passim. Eckermann remembers Goethe’s words on 11 April 1827: ‘Kant never took any notice of me, though from my own nature I went a way like his own’ (Conversations, p. 243).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Goethes Campagne in Frankreich, 1792, ed. G. Roethe (Berlin, 1919).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See J. D’Ormession, ‘Mon dernier rêve sera pour vous’, Une biographie sentimentale de Chateaubriand (Paris, 1982).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850) XI. 140–4.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Cf. Stephan Wackwitz, Utopie und Trauer um 1800. Studien zu Hölderlins Elegienwerk (Stuttgart, 1982). For the opposite view see Martin Simon, ‘The Theory and Practice of Religious Poetry. Studies in the Elegies of Friedrich Hölderlin’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Durham, 1982).Google Scholar

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© David Jasper 1986

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  • Ulrich Simon

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