Gespräch über die Poesie
Gespräch über die Poesie; Conversation on Poetry (1800)
This text is in the form of a theoretical debate between a group of friends: Amalia, Camilla, Antonio, Andrea, Lothario, Ludoviko and Markus. Andrea claims that the best way to found a new poetry is to study classical poetry. His friends doubt whether poetry can be learned at all. Ludoviko gives a speech on mythology, in which he calls mythology ‘the hieroglyphic expression of surrounding nature, transfigured by fantasy and love’ (Kritische Schriften, pp. 500-01). He points out that mythology is the basis for all art and misses its absence in modern poetry.
Amalia complains that Jean Paul’s novels are not really novels but Antonio refutes this in his ‘Brief über den Roman’; ‘Letter on the Novel’, where he defends the arabesque, the grotesque and the sentimental as essential aspects of the novel. Here, Antonio defines the word ‘romantic’ as ‘das, was uns einen sentimentalen Stoff in einer phantastischen Form darstellt’; ‘that which represents to us a sentimental content in a fantastical form’ (Kritische Schriften, p. 512). Three pages later he goes on to say that the Romantic is not a literary genre, but an element of all poetry. As for novels they are the disguised confessions of the author.
Friedrich Schlegel, Kritische Schriften, ed. by Wolfdietrich Rasch (Munich: Hanser, 1971), pp. 473-529