Romanticism and Jena: Novalis

Novalis, a central figure in the Jena circle of early German Romantics, was influenced by the work of Fichte, Herder, Goethe, and the Christian mystic Jakob Boehme. The Jena group included Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck, Caroline Schlegel, Dorothea Veit-Schlegel, and others[1]. Novalis presented his “speech” to the Jena romantic circle in 1799, which included the Schlegel brothers, Dorothea Veit, Caroline Schlegel, and Ludwig Tieck[2]. The Jena Set, as they were known, laid the foundations of modern consciousness and were united by an obsession with the free self. Caroline Michaelis-Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, a formidable and free-spirited member, was part of this group[4]. The Jena Set’s works were read in various countries, and they played a significant role in the development of Romanticism in Europe[4]. The group’s exploration of new ways of thinking in the light of political and scientific change was a key aspect of their work[1]. Novalis and the Jena group’s contribution to Romanticism was complex and radical, going beyond the popular image of Romanticism as simply emphasizing emotion and nature[4].

Citations:
[1] https://iep.utm.edu/novalis/
[2] https://philarchive.org/archive/KLERCN
[3] https://philarchive.org/rec/KLERCN
[4] https://aeon.co/essays/english-romanticism-was-born-from-a-serious-germanomania
[5] https://www.jstor.org/stable/41389720

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Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, known by his pen name Novalis, was a German aristocrat and polymath, recognized as a poet, novelist, philosopher, and mystic. He was born on May 2, 1772, in Oberwiederstedt, Prussian Saxony, into a family of Protestant Lower Saxon nobility[3]. He studied law at the University of Jena, where he became acquainted with Friedrich von Schiller, and then at Leipzig, where he formed a friendship with Friedrich von Schlegel[3]. He completed his studies at Wittenberg in 1793[3].

In 1794, Novalis met and fell in love with 12-year-old Sophie von Kühn. They were engaged in 1795, but she tragically died of tuberculosis two years later[3]. Novalis expressed his grief in “Hymnen an die Nacht” (1800; Hymns to the Night), a work that celebrates night, or death, as an entry into a higher life in the presence of God[3].

In 1797, he went to the Academy of Freiberg to study mining[3]. He became engaged to Julie von Charpentier in 1798, and a year later, he became a mine inspector at the saltworks at Weissenfels[3]. Novalis died of tuberculosis on March 25, 1801, at the age of 28[3].

Novalis’s work, which includes philosophical essays, notes, and short essays on various topics, was mostly published posthumously[4]. His writings reflect his training as a philosopher working within the post-Kantian Idealist tradition, with a focus on issues such as the possibility of freedom and the nature of the human vocation[4]. His work has had a significant influence on Jena Romanticism[1].

Citations:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novalis
[2] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/novalis/
[3] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Novalis
[4] https://iep.utm.edu/novalis/
[5] https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Novalis
[6] https://sunypress.edu/Books/T/The-Birth-of-Novalis2
[7] https://mypoeticside.com/poets/novalis-poems

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Novalis, born Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, was a prolific writer despite his short life, and he produced a number of notable works. Some of his most famous works include:

  1. “Hymnen an die Nacht” (1800; “Hymns to the Night”): This is a collection of six prose poems interspersed with verse, in which Novalis expresses his grief over the death of his fiancée, Sophie von Kühn. The work celebrates night, or death, as an entry into a higher life in the presence of God[3].
  2. “Die Lehrlinge zu Sais” (“The Novices of Saïs”): This is a novel that reflects Novalis’s philosophical and scientific interests[1].
  3. “Heinrich von Ofterdingen”: This unfinished novel is one of Novalis’s most famous works. It introduces the symbol of the blue flower, which became a key symbol of Romanticism[6].
  4. “Blütenstaub” (1798; “Pollen”) and “Glauben und Liebe” (1798; “Faith and Love”): These are two collections of fragments that were published during Novalis’s lifetime[3].
  5. “Christendom or Europe” and “Faith and Love or The King and Queen”: These are among Novalis’s philosophical essays[1].
  6. “Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia” (“Das Allgemeine Brouillon”): This is a collection of notes and short essays on a wide range of topics, including science, medicine, religion, history, language, art, and nature[1][4].

Most of Novalis’s works were published posthumously, and they reflect his training as a philosopher working within the post-Kantian Idealist tradition[1].

Citations:
[1] https://iep.utm.edu/novalis/
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novalis
[3] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Novalis
[4] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/novalis/
[5] https://allpoetry.com/Novalis
[6] https://www.thriftbooks.com/a/novalis/290186/
[7] https://mypoeticside.com/poets/novalis-poems
[8] https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Novalis

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Some of the key philosophical ideas that influenced Novalis’ writing include:

  1. Nature and Human Freedom: Novalis believed that personal freedom and creativity emerge from an affective understanding of the world and others, which is possible only if people are not estranged from the earth[1].
  2. Philosophy as an Intellectual Experiment: He viewed philosophy as a sustained intellectual experiment that should be inductive and forever evolving, rather than a set of fixed theoretical dogmas[2].
  3. Critical Self-Understanding: Novalis emphasized the importance of reaching a state of critical self-understanding, which he believed could not be achieved through isolated contemplation but through engagement with the world[2].
  4. Cosmology and the Human Vocation: He presented the universe as the self-development of an infinite unity into finite, differentiated forms, with human beings playing a central role in this process. The human vocation, according to Novalis, is to integrate aspects of the self with the spiritual nature of the universe[3].
  5. Romanticization and Poetry: Novalis sought to “romanticize” the world, which involved not just a new perception but the ability to elevate oneself to a higher level of consciousness and understanding through poetry and art[2].
  6. Integration of Knowledge: His philosophical approach was characterized by the integration of various fields of knowledge, including science, medicine, religion, history, language, art, and nature[1].
  7. Magical Idealism: Novalis developed a concept of “magical idealism,” which challenged common distinctions between the internal and external world, the natural and the supernatural, and knowing and thinking. He saw magic as the art of transforming thoughts into external objects and vice versa[6].
  8. Influence of Kant and Fichte: Novalis was influenced by Kant’s transcendental idealism and Fichte’s philosophy, which he studied in depth. He critically endorsed Kant’s ideas and developed his own philosophical position based on these influences[2][5].

These philosophical ideas are reflected in Novalis’ literary works, where he often explores themes of nature, the spiritual journey of the self, and the integration of different realms of human experience.

Citations:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novalis
[2] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/novalis/
[3] https://iep.utm.edu/novalis/
[4] https://www.jstor.org/stable/30301971
[5] https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/novalis-fichte-studies/
[6] https://againstprofphil.org/2018/02/15/poetry-is-the-hero-of-philosophy-novaliss-metaphilosophy/
[7] https://philarchive.org/archive/CAHNMI
[8] https://academic.oup.com/book/36585/chapter-abstract/321549652?login=false&redirectedFrom=fulltext

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In her epilogue Wulf traces the influence of the Jena thinkers on subsequent generations: through the English romantic poets, especially Coleridge, and via him the American transcendentalists (Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman), on to the thoughts of Sigmund Freud and James Joyce, and into the present. We have so far “internalised the Ich”, the author argues, that we no longer recognise it. What was revolutionary is now standard: we are all romantics now. And all this began in a small town in Germany more than 200 years ago.

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