Baroque literature

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As baroque literature or literature of the Baroque (from " Baroque ", from barocco Portuguese for shaped strange, crooked round pearl ) is in the German literary history since about 1800 the literary production in Europe (especially in Italy, Spain, Germany) in the period between about 1600 and 1720 designated. In France, however, the literature of this period is called classical or classicistic , although it uses similar stylistic devices. Baroque stylistic devices are also used in 17th century English literature; however, there is no mention of English baroque literature. A distinction must be made between a concept of the Baroque epoch, which was coined in Germany, and a concept of style for special characteristics of literature (metaphors, religious and mythological allegories, “Schwulst”) from other phases. Daniel Georg Morhof is considered to be the founder of the history of literature in the Baroque era .

In Baroque poetry, German took the place of Latin, which had been the language of the most important German poets of the 16th century. However, an elite educated in humanism and trained in Latin works continued to be the bearer of literature. In this respect, Baroque poetry is much more in the tradition of Latin poetry than previous German-language poetry (e.g. the tradition of the Mastersingers around Hans Sachs ). The book von der Deutschen Poeterey (1624) by Martin Opitz , the first poetics in the German language, was decisive for this reform of German poetry .

Because of its “artificiality”, baroque literature mostly eludes immediate empathy; because of its lack of "naturalness" it is little appreciated by literary critics of the early and middle enlightenment .

Literary motifs in the baroque

The Baroque poetry is essentially shaped by three leitmotifs that describe people's attitude to life. Against the backdrop of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), everyday life was determined by violence and destruction. All of these motives deal with the widespread fear of death and its effects in different ways:

  • Memento mori ( Latin = "Remember that you have to die" ). The memento-mori motif expresses the agonizing consciousness of death. This includes the frequently repeated memory of (near) death. It relates more to death and dying than to life and thus stands in clear contrast to the appealing Carpe diem motif. (Example: Tears of the Fatherland in the year 1636 by Andreas Gryphius )
  • Vanitas ( Latin = "vanity", "nothingness", "failure", "transience of the world" ). The vanitas motif is similar to the memento mori attitude towards life in that they both deal with death and transience instead of focusing on the life to come. The focus here is not on death itself, but on the transience and nothingness of people. This should also be seen in connection with the great importance of transcendence at this time, that is, the Christian belief in a better life in the hereafter. (Examples: It's all vain by Gryphius and Die Welt by Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau [1679])
  • Carpe diem ( lat. = "Use / enjoy the day" ). This motif, which goes back to the Roman poet Horace, calls for people to consciously experience and enjoy the day and not to let the thoughts of transience weigh on them too heavily. In its renunciation of transcendence, especially the acceptance of a life beyond, it contradicts the Christian worldview. It is therefore questionable whether carpe diem can be seen as a central motif of the Baroque. The ode I feel almost a grawen by Martin Opitz [1624], which is often cited as an example, was only published in a reprint in the 19th century under the title “Carpe diem”.

The three motifs are part of the frequent intention of the poets (see below), which consists of the invitation to enjoy life as well as the admonition to commemorate death and the nullity of everything earthly and the resulting recommendation to turn to faith.

The feeling of life in the baroque period showed a pronounced antitheticism (contradiction). Frequent manifestations of this were

  • On the other side and beyond
  • Game and seriousness
  • appearance and reality
  • Lust and virtue
  • Eroticism and asceticism
  • earthly and heavenly life
  • " Carpe diem " (Latin for "use the day") and " Memento mori " (Latin for "Remember that you will die")

and were implemented in the lyrical and epic works as well as in the dramas of the time.

Other frequently used fabrics and themes come mainly from antiquity, but the fate of Christian martyrs as well as the women's price and love were often discussed.

Baroque literature

The authors of Baroque literature include: Martin Opitz , Casper von Lohenstein , Andreas Gryphius , Grimmelshausen , Caspar Ziegler , Paul Fleming , Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau and Angelus Silesius .

Baroque lyrics

The preferred literary form was the poem, especially the sonnet , the usual meter was the Alexandrian with 6-lobed iamb with strong caesuras , often in the middle of the verse. In the baroque era, external aesthetics and sound played a major role. To achieve this effect, various stylistic devices were used, including anaphors , metaphors , antithetics , hyperbolics as well as allegories and repetition . Stylistic devices such as metaphors and symbols were preferred in order to explain elementary things such as this and the hereafter as well as the role of humans through pictorial representations. Metaphors and allegories such as the “port” (in the poem “Evening” by A. Gryphius ) for a homecoming to God are typical. Emblems and allegories were also used that reveal and reveal a deeper, hidden meaning behind names and things.

The pastor's son Gryphius, for example, had to watch his father's cardiac death as a child after a soldier's sack broke into his church. His poems about vanity - in the meaning of nothingness - and transitoriness It's all vain and tears of the fatherland are among the most famous baroque poems . The hymns by Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676) such as Geh aus, mein Herz, und sucht Freud are assigned to the baroque poetry.

Baroque prose works

An important prose work is the picaresque novel Der adventurous Simplicissimus Teutsch (1668) by Grimmelshausen. In contrast to later text works of the German Baroque, it is by no means pompous, but written in a folk way and with drastic wit. Accumulations of erudition or Latinisms are usually ironically exaggerated when they appear occasionally. The same applies to Christian Reuter's Schelmuffsky of 1696/97.

Motives that always call for a responsible improvement of the bad reality arise from the Christian character of the authors. They trusted in a better order and a better life with God.

The baroque sermon

Fables and fairy tales usually convey a moral lesson. In addition, comparisons, vacillations and proverbs were often used. Many preachers used linguistic images and did not only resort to the Bible, but also to ancient works. The choice of topics for the sermons was broad. Theological problems were discussed as well as biblical exegetical statements.

Abraham a Sancta Clara is the most famous Catholic preacher of the Baroque in the German-speaking world. The less well-known today Georg Scherer often fought the Reformation in his baroque sermons .

The Jesuit Piotr Skarga (1536–1612) was the most famous Polish preacher of the Baroque period. His most important works are the Parliamentary Sermons of 1597, the Stories of Saints from 1579 and the Military Masses of 1618.

Baroque literature in Spain and Latin America

The pinnacle of Spanish theatrical work was formed by the strictly formed, philosophically inspired, but not very popular pieces by Pedro Calderón de la Barca . About 120 dramas (so-called comedias ) and 80 Corpus Christi games ( autos sacramentales ) have come down to us from him. The Jesuit drama was used as a popular, broad-based instrument for the edification and religious education of the broad illiterate masses ; of these pieces hundreds of thousands - e.g. B. Passion or the Corpus Christi games , which are very popular in Mexico .

A specifically Spanish-Hispanic American variant of Baroque poetry and prose is Gongorism (after Luis de Góngora ) with its penchant for periphrases , screwed metaphors and extremely complex syntax . Simple meanings should be conveyed with as many words as possible (example: "Era del año la estación florida" (Góngora) - "It was the blooming time of the year", that is, it was spring). The representatives of Gongorism were in conflict with those of conceptismo , namely with Francisco de Quevedo , whose style combined a simple vocabulary with witty puns. Gongorism was also referred to as culteranismo ("cultivated Lutheranism") by its opponents , as it appeared to them to be a heresy of the classical rules of poetry.

Criticism of style and rule poetics, end of the era

As early as 1721 Liselotte von der Pfalz criticized the pompous writing style that had become fashionable in the late Baroque period in one of her letters: “I think everything in Germany has changed so much in the 50 years that I am in France that it precompounds me like another world. I've seen letters ... so I struggle to understand. In my day it was thought to be written when the phrases were briefly understood and you said a lot in a few words, but now you think it's nice when you put a lot of words around them, they mean nothing. I do not care, but thank God all those with whom I correspond have not accepted this disgusting fashion; I couldn't have answered ... "

In 1729, the early Enlightenment scholar Johann Christoph Gottsched criticized the artistic understanding of poetry in French classicism from a rationalist perspective. His postulate, derived from the rigid regularity of poetry, that poetry can be taught and learned, and the rhetorically sophisticated imagery as well as the typified emotional expression appear to him to be a lack of originality; they led to stylistic overload. Lessing rejects the idea of ​​baroque rule poetics in an even more radical way and calls for the use of sophisticated everyday language.

The rationalistic criticism of Gottsched is increasingly joined by criticism from the perspective of the growing modern sensualism and the literary trend of sensitivity , which demand a “natural” expression of emotions. The cult of genius , which is based on Shakespeare's example, which is trend-setting across Europe , finally puts an end to the baroque rule poetics.

It was not until the 20th century that the baroque epoch found greater interest again due to structural similarities with postmodernism , namely the creative exaggeration and reuse of linguistic material.

Important representatives of German baroque literature (selection)

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b Wolfgang Beutin: German literary history: from the beginnings to the present . Metzler, 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02247-9 , pp. 111-113 .
  2. ^ Letters from Liselotte von der Pfalz, ed. v. Helmuth Kiesel , Insel Verlag, 1981, pp. 249f. (Letter to Herr von Harling dated June 22, 1721)
  3. ^ Johann Christoph Gottsched: An attempt at critical poetry before the Germans , reprint of the 4th edition 1751, Darmstadt 1962.


  • Paul Hankamer : German Counter Reformation and German Baroque. (Stuttgart, 1935)
  • Gerhard Dünnhaupt : The baroque iceberg. Considerations for the collection of the literature of the 17th century. In: From the second-hand bookshop. (1980), No. 10 ISSN  0343-186X
  • Herbert A. u. Elisabeth Frenzel : Dates of German poetry. Chronological outline of German literary history. (1953).
  • The libretto as the main literary genre at the end of the 17th century? On Zi (e) gler's novel Die Asiatische Banise and its opera versions. In: Eleonore Sent (ed.): The opera at the Weißenfelser Hof (= Weißenfelser Kulturtradionen, 1 (Rudolstadt, 1996), pp. 143–196.
  • Illustration from: Olaf Simons, Marteaus Europa or The novel before it became literature. (Amsterdam, 2001), p.12.
  • Willy Grabert, Arno Mulot , Helmuth Nürnberger : History of German literature. (1983)
  • Volker Meid : Baroque poetry. 2nd edition, Metzler 2008
  • Max Wehrli (Ed.): German Baroque Poetry. Schwabe & Co., Basel 1967.
  • Werner Wilhelm Schnabel: What is baroque? To the scope of the literary epoch keyword and periodization construct. In: Dieter J. Weiß (Ed.): Barock in Franken. Dettelbach 2004 (Bayreuth Historical Colloquia, 17), pp. 47–79.
  • Meinolf Schumacher : Love in Poetry between the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times. In: German lessons. 65 (1), 2013, pp. 2–11 ( digitized version ).

References to the baroque sermon:

  • Werner Drobesch: Statements on social policy in the collections of sermons of the Counter Reformation. In: Catholic Reform and Counter-Reformation in Inner Austria 1564–1628. ed. France M. Dolinar (Klagenfurt, 1994) 491-507
  • Valentin Hertle: Andreas Strobl as a model case of the Bavarian baroque sermon. (Catholic-theol. Diss. Munich, 1965)
  • Maximilian Neumayr: The Sermon in Scripture in the Baroque. Based on the theory of Catholic Baroque homiletics. (Paderborn, 1938)

Web links

Wiktionary: Baroque  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations