Unpopular Virtues

Unpopular Virtues

The Scholarly Reception of J.M.R. Lenz

Alan C. Leidner, Karin A. Wurst


Camden House



An up-to-date assessment of the most important scholarly criticism on one of the enfants terribles of the German Sturm und Drang.
In this study of the criticism of the most idiosyncratic voice of the German Sturm und Drang, the authors investigate why critics have so often failed to come to terms with Lenz's refusal to encourage the middle class and cater to its tastes. While many of Lenz's first reviewers found his work to be liberating, the mid-1770s soon brought a more conservative aesthetic, and he was virtually forgotten until after his death in 1792. With the rise of German classicism and romanticism, Lenz was viewed as a curiosity; his critique of contemporary society, his concern for the public welfare, and his open-textured and naturalistic style went unappreciated. And looming over every assessment of his work from the early nineteenth century on are Goethe's negative comments in Dichtung und Wahrheit: to speak of Lenz, even in our century, has always meant to deal with Goethe's opinion of him.
Leidner and Wurst's study traces Lenz reception from the earliest reviews through the nineteenth century, modernism, National Socialism, New Criticism, the rediscovery of Lenz in both Germanies after 1968, and the changes in focus after the 1992 Lenz bicentennial.


February 1999
183 pages
22.8x15.2 in
Literary Criticism in Perspective
ISBN: 9781571130938
Format: Hardback
Camden House
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Table of Contents

The First Reviews
Weimar Classicism and Romanticism
The Nineteenth Century
From Modernism to Fascism
Post-war Reorganization of Criticism (1945-1968)
Toward an Assessment of Values (1968-1991)
The Lenz Bicentennial


'The book provides scholars new to Lenz a very reliable, solid, and thorough history of the literary criticism; for Lenz experts it provides important information about little known or hidden scholarly studies.' GERMAN QUARTERLY'The authors have succeeded in presenting a lucid and easily read text.' COLLOQUIA GERMANICA'The authors provide a timely and readily digestible retrospective both on the various attempts to tackle the riddle of Lenz and ... on the evolution of crticism itself.' MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW 'A delightful addition to recent Lenz scholarship.... Concise and readable.' GERMANIC NOTES AND REVIEWS

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