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Summary Article: STURM UND DRANG
From The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

(Ger., "storm and stress").The term refers to a revolutionary literary movement that flourished in Germany from the late 1760s to the early 1780s. Because most of its representatives ceased to be radicals with advancing years, the term frequently denotes a brief period of youthful exuberance or maladjustment, although the hendiadys originally meant the impulse to give violent expression to one's individuality. It also refers to the second title of a wildly bombastic play (1776) by F. M. Klinger. Participants in the movement were often called Originalgenies (original geniuses); thus, Geniezeit (genius epoch or time) is an earlier term for Sturm und Drang.

Hostile to neoclassicism as exemplified in Fr. lit. and hence often deliberately indecorous in theme and lang., Sturm und Drang was greatly influenced by Fr. and Eng. preromanticism, the latter esp. important in that, since the 1740s, Eng. lit. had been regarded as particularly congenial to the Ger. national character. A general repudiation of normative aesthetics based itself on (1) the new sense of historical relativism and the importance attributed to environmental differences, (2) the revaluation of the primitive and of early national lit. and art, and (3) the cult of original genius, which J. G. Herder, like Adam Ferguson, conceived as dynamic.

Sturm und Drang developed as the optimism of 18th-c. rationalists began to seem unwarranted in light of what the Enlightenment had actually achieved. Herder and his theologically less liberal teacher J. G. Hamann were both centrally concerned with religious issues, and many Sturm und Drang writers subscribed to a Herderian pantheism in which elements of Baruch Spinoza and G. W. Leibniz were sometimes fused with pietistic subjectivism. With nature felt to be a demonic force not entirely accessible to reason, a deliberate cult of the irrational—and of myth as opposed to allegory— became widespread.

For drama, Shakespeare, as formally unconventional, and Denis Diderot and Louis-Sébastien Mercier, as socially realistic, were inspirations and models. The lyric was permanently enriched with folk song elements (new structural freedom, simpler and more direct lang.) and forceful Pindaric directness (esp. in J. W. Goethe), although the ode after F. G. Klopstock was still cultivated, esp. by members of the Göttingen Dichterbund. Yet despite new, almost expressionistic technical experiments in drama and lyric, the movement was abortive. Repudiation of despotic absolutism was perhaps the only sociopolitical attitude shared by all Sturm und Drang writers, whose apparent concern with contemp. social issues often reflects only the choice of unconventionally naturalistic themes. As Sturm und Drang writers' primary interests were private rather than social, Sturm und Drang could not realize its vision of a broadly popular national lit. in a complex and sophisticated age. Analogous features of Sturm und Drang have been discerned in some other 18th-c. lits. (Swedish, Eng.), but only in Germany was Sturm und Drang a self-conscious movement. Though strongly secular and limitedly cosmopolitan, by radically undermining traditional conceptions of poetry, Sturm und Drang undoubtedly hastened the first flowering of a conscious romanticism, that of Germany in the 1790s.


Sturm und Drang: Kritische Schriften, ed. E. Loewenthal (1949); Sturm und Drang: Dramatische Schriften, ed. E. Loewenthal, 2 v. (1959); Sturm und Drang. ed. R. Strasser, 3 v. (1966); Sturm und Drang: Dichtungen und theoretische Texte, ed. H. Nicolai, 2 v. (1971); Sturm und Drang und Empfindsamkeit, ed. U. Karthaus (1978); Sturm und Drang: Weltanschauliche und Ästhetische Schriften, ed. P. Müller, 2 v. (1978); Sturm und Drang. ed. A. Leidner (1992); Klassische Schullektüre, Sturm und Drang: Bilder, Texte, Materialien zu einer Epoche. ed. D. Lüttgens (1994); Gedichte des Sturm und Drang und der Klassik. ed. G. Malsch (1997).

Criticism and History

K. Wais, Das antiphilosophische Weltbild des französischen Sturm und Drang (1934); E. A. Runge, Primitivism and Related Ideas in Sturm und Drang Literature (1946); H. B. Garland, Storm and Stress (1952); F. S. Schneider, Die deutsche Dichtung der Geniezeit (1952); R. Pascal, The German Sturm und Drang (1953); Wellek, v. 1.9; E. Blackall, "The Language of Sturm und Drang," Stil- und Formprobleme in der Literatur. ed. P. Böckmann (1959); S. Atkins, "Zeitalter der Aufklārung," Fischer-Lexikon: Literatur. v. 2 (1965); W. Kliess, Sturm und Drang (1966); H. A. Korff, Geist der Goethezeit. 8th ed., v. 2 (1966); A. Heuyssen, Drama des Sturm und Drang (1980); H. Thomke, "Sturm und Drang," Reallexikon II 4.278-96; Kollektiv für Literaturgeschichte, Sturm und Drang. 6th ed. (1983); B. Kieffer, The Storm and Stress of Language (1986); E. McInnes, Ein Ungeheures Theater: The Drama of the Sturm und Drang (1987); A. Leidner, The Impatient Muse: Germany and the Sturm und Drang (1994); M. Luserke, Sturm und Drang Autoren, Texte, Themen (1997); B. Duncan, Lovers, Parricides, and Highwaymen: Aspects of Sturm und Drang Drama (1999); G. W. Bertram, Philosophie des Sturm und Drang (2000); U. Karthaus, Sturm und Drang (2000); S. Frank, Kunst-Konzepte des Sturm und Drang (2002); Literature of the Sturm und Drang, ed. D. Hill (2002); G. Kaiser, Aufklārung, Empfindsamkeit, Sturm und Drang (2007); S. Frank, Kunst-Konzepte des Sturm und Drang (2008); Sturm und Drang Junge Autoren blicken auf eine Epoche, ed. H.-G. Koch (2009).

Copyright © 2012 by Princeton University Press

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