Free love, free thoughts and free art! Romanticism was an unbridled revolution that celebrated equality, eco-consciousness and the aestheticization of life. Is there something we can learn from it?
This essay by Ruben Donsbach is taken from our current Fräulein print issue #30
There is a chalk drawing of FRIEDRICH SCHLEGEL in which he looks out from such a distance and yet is strangely close. It is almost 230 years old, but something about it seems to bridge time. As if the image had just been taken. Perhaps it is the alert eyes of German Romanticism’s Spin Doctor, the ironically flashing intelligence in them, that gives an inkling to his unrulythinking. And the Romanticism that Schlegel explained in ever new manifestos was wild and erratic, rampant and confused, the mindset of a time in which the inhabitants of pro-vincial German small states became citizens of the world almost overnight.
Today, almost no word is as tired as romantic. Romantic is a candlelight dinner or a romantic comedy, the description of a naive, juve-nile emotion. But, it was so much more than this, more, too, than what Friedrich and his brother August Wilhelm, their wives Dorothea and Caroline, as well as authors like Novalis, Brentano, Chamisso, or Eichendorff have recorded as the romance of the world: a passion that causes everything to fall and tremble, an unbridled and unformed impulse towards freedom. Resistance to the everlasting and, above all, against the disenchantment of the world. This seems incredibly relevant in 2020. One might ask: Aren’t many feeling an internal rebellion against the coldness of technology, the demanding pace of time, or the economic exploitation of creativity? Such rebellion already has romantic traits. The negative, irrational side of these impulses can be seen, for example, in corona demonstrations, hand in hand with right-wing radicals, fleeing back to the past, lost in absurd conspiracy theories. The positive side, however, has nothing reactionary about it, quite the contrary. In it lies a hope, a potential for change. It is an attempt to leap far into the future, a striving to reconcile human-kind’s culture with a nature that has become alien to it.