Bourgeois realism

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The Civil Realism is a literary movement of 1848 ( March Revolution ) by the end of the 19th century, which primarily came to fruition in Germany. It is usually divided into two phases: In the first phase (around 1849–1859) the programmatic foundations are laid down. In the second phase, bourgeois realism receives new impulses, for example through the social novel , and becomes more critical.

Historical background

The epoch of bourgeois realism begins in 1848 with the failure of the bourgeois revolution and ends with the rise of naturalism , which describes the life and social problems of the working class and those in need. The educated bourgeoisie (bearers of the revolution) renounced political power after 1848 and bought prosperity, social peace and order. 1871 it comes to the Empire of Germany, is experiencing an economic boom ( early days ). Germany is becoming a highly developed industrial state, while Austria will remain an agricultural state into the 20th century. The social consequences of industrialization are the growth of cities (factories, tenements), strong population growth, etc. a. through the invention of new antiseptic agents and great successes in the treatment of puerperal fever, the impoverishment of industrial workers, an intensification of the contrasts between industrial capitalism (wealthy bourgeoisie) and the proletariat (“fourth estate”) as well as waves of emigration, which mainly affect the unemployed. Despite the first social laws, the fourth estate is becoming increasingly impoverished. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write the Communist Party's manifesto . Many poets (and also educated citizens) withdraw into an apolitical inwardness, which also creates a spiritual demarcation from radical reality. Humor and irony in poetry are intended to resolve the contradiction between personal wishful thinking and objective reality. Literature production experienced an upswing: lending libraries and public libraries were created, weekly magazines ( Die Gartenlaube. Illustrated family paper ) and magazines were published, many authors were subordinate to the constraints of mass production and the tastes of broad groups of readers.

Content and stylistic devices

The works of civil realism deal with the social conditions in which humans live. They become the central subject of the presentation, which is limited to the bourgeoisie and its economic circumstances. Often it is about the power of the bourgeoisie and what political maturity it has towards the nobility and sovereigns. The works are partly moralizing and are intended to show that only the good, moral and capable citizen can achieve solid economic prosperity, while the immoral opponent ends in economic ruin. The characters live in an "ideal world" - good wins while evil perishes. The authors avoid major socio-political problems and act more village stories, in the local homeland with its landscape or in the past.


Most of the works of bourgeois realism share a common programmatic basis. In the first phase in particular, it was about idealizing the bourgeoisie and emphasizing the bourgeois canon of values. In addition to literature , this program also influenced German fine arts after 1848.

Literary forms



  • Sabina Becker: Bourgeois Realism. Literature and Culture in the Bourgeois Age. Tübingen / Basel 2003.
  • Edward McInnes, Gerhard Plumpe (Hrsg.): Bourgeois Realism and Gründerzeit. Munich 1996.
  • Andreas Huyssen (Ed.): Bourgeois Realism. Stuttgart 2006.
  • Gerhard Plumpe (ed.): Theory of bourgeois realism. Stuttgart 1997.
  • Gerald Rainer et al .: Keyword literature. History of German-language literature . 5th edition. VERITAS, Linz 2013, ISBN 978-3-7058-8145-7 , p. 233-249 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bürgerlicher Realismus (1848 - 1880) ( Memento from December 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) at, accessed on November 29, 2015.
  2. Arthur Müller: Good night, little boy! . E. Bloch, 1865 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  3. Arthur Müller: A Haberfeldtreib . Dempwolff, 1866 ( limited preview in Google book search).