Aesthetic Vision and German Romanticism

Aesthetic Vision and German Romanticism

Writing Images

Brad Prager

Crosses disciplinary boundaries to explore German Romantic writing about visual experience and the interplay of text and image in Romantic epistemology.
The work of the groundbreaking writers and artists of German Romanticism -- including the writers Tieck, Brentano, and Eichendorff and the artists Caspar David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge -- followed from the philosophical arguments of the German Idealists, who placed emphasis on exploring the subjective space of the imagination. The Romantic perspective was a form of engagement with Idealist discourses, especially Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Fichte's Science of Knowledge. Through an aggressive, speculative reading of Kant, the Romantics abandoned the binary distinction between the palpable outer world and the ungraspable space of the mind's eye and were therefore compelled to develop new terms for understanding the distinction between "internal" and "external." In this light, Brad Prager urges a reassessment of some of Romanticism's major oppositional tropes, contending that binaries such as "self and other," "symbol and allegory," and "light and dark," should be understood as alternatives to Lessing's distinction between interior and exterior worlds. Prager thus crosses the boundaries between philosophy, literature, and art history to explore German Romantic writing about visual experience, examining the interplay of text and image in the formulation of Romantic epistemology.

Brad Prager is Associate Professor of German at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

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Table of Contents

Interior and Exterior: G.E. Lessing's Laocoon as a Prelude to Romanticism
Image and Phantasm: Wackenroder's Herzensergießungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders, Tieck's Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, and the Emergence of the Romantic Paradigm Wanderungen, and the Emergence of the
Symbol and Allegory: Clemens Brentano's Godwi
Sublimity and Beauty: Caspar David Friedrich and Joseph Anton Koch
Light and Dark: The Paintings of Philipp Otto Runge
Absolution and Contradiction: Confrontations with Art in Heinrich von Kleist's "Die heilige Cäcilie oder Die Gewalt der Musik" and "Der Findling" Findling"
Self and Other: Joseph von Eichendorff's Das Marmorbild
Works Cited


In this lucidly written and well-researched volume, Brad Prager investigates the thematization of visual perception in canonical works of the Romantic period (texts by Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck, Clemens Brentano, Heinrich von Kleist, and Joseph von Eichendorff) and in relation to various Romantic painters (Caspar David Friedrich, Joseph Anton Koch, and Phillip Otto Runge).... , Prager's book is a thought-provoking re-reading of Romantic narratives which demonstrates the continuing necessity of philosophically informed close readings in the study of culture. H-GERMAN

Although the argumentation is not new, Prager does interpret an unusual and interesting set of texts. The analyses of specific paintings are especially welcome. The volume's numerous black-and-white illustrations facilitate comprehension. CHOICE

Kant's attack on the sure foundation of the objective world, argues Prager, opened up an abyss; this situation of crisis compelled the Romantics to construct new fundamental principles that described how we perceive; they deal with the subject-object division.... Detailed readings of Wackenroder, Tieck, Brentano, Kleist and Eichendorff ... emphasise the encounters with visual art in their texts.... The author stresses the ongoing importance of romantic preoccupations. FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

That Prager interprets Romantic literature and painting through the lens of philosophical approaches ... makes it a model of new cultural studies.... He offers dazzling readings of various permutations of image and imagination. By organizing ... chapters around conceptual pairs that signify the "new inner divisions" and engender opposition as well as complementarity, Prager ends up writing a Romantic text.... In short, [Prager] presents a series of readings that any further study of the subject must consider. GERMANIC REVIEW

Prager's monograph ... can be seen as an original contribution to the discussion on current research on Romanticism. It is, however, also well suited to constitute an introduction into the themes and issues concerning Romantic aesthetics. MONATSHEFTE

Prager has chosen outstanding examples and offers important insights into the interdisciplinary study of Romanticism, the crossings between philosophy, literature, and the arts, and the theoretical debates surrounding symbol and allegory....[A] fresh contribution to the study of Romanticism. GERMAN QUARTERLY

Author Bio

Brad Prager is associate professor of German at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

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