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Since the Enlightenment and in a special way in Romanticism in German, depth has described a brooding attitude or state of mind, often with the connotation “gloomy / melancholic ” and / or “unfathomable” (i.e. not finding or searching for a final reason).

The literary scholar Erich Auerbach (1892-1957) also used the term “profundity” to describe the meaning dimension of literary texts or symbolic formation in general.


Immanuel Kant understood "profundity (melancholia)" as "a delusion of misery ... that the gloomy (grieving) self-tormenter creates". Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi understood his “childish profundity” as “brooding over eternity a parte ante”.

According to Lothar Pikulik , sensitivity was already an epoch of profound brooding, as can be seen from Lavater's Secret Diary. Become clear by an observer of Himself . Steffen Martus examined the development of profundity in the 18th century using the example of Hagedorn , Gellert and Wieland .


Friedrich Schlegel spoke of the "most unfathomable and intricate profundity" as it is shown in Albrecht Dürer's work . Carl Gustav Carus pointed to an antiplatonic aspect of profundity and understood this as "that direction of the mind which turns against the exploration of the idea itself."

Romanticism discovered profundity and the "dimension of depth " in a special way . The literary scholar Northrop Frye showed the romantic profundity using the example of William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley , and Theodore Ziolkowski later noted the same for German Romanticism. According to Ziolkowski, the leitmotif journey into the interior of a mine, as it shaped the romantic art fairy tale from Novalis to Ludwig Tieck to ETA Hoffmann , is an expression of profundity. Novalis' hero Heinrich von Ofterdingen, for example, uses a journey into the interior of the mountain to make a journey inward, a “movement towards oneself”. The romantic depth dimension explores "mines of the soul" and thus opens up three essential dimensions of human experience: "history, religion and sexuality."

Walter Benjamin on the baroque age

Walter Benjamin created an idea of ​​the profound Baroque age . He referred to Albrecht Dürer's melancholy brooding and based his conception of tragedy , melancholy and allegory on this. The baroque melancholic is reflected in the allegory because his profound nature finds no definitive knowledge, but only an infinite resemblance between all beings, but a single meaning cannot be found: “Ghosts like the deeply significant allegories are appearances from the realm of mourning; they are attracted by the mourner, the brooder about signs and the future. "

Erich Auerbach: Depth as a text dimension

The literary scholar Erich Auerbach (1892-1957) used the term profundity to describe a text dimension, i. H. as a meaning dimension of literary texts or symbolic formation in general: He spoke of the profundity of the Old Testament texts and distinguished them from the Homeric style of aesthetics of the surface. This distinction goes back to the thesis of the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) about the depth of baroque painting .


  • Northrop Frye : The Drunken Boat: The Revolutionary Element in Romanticism. In: Northrop Frye: Romanticism Reconsidered. Selected Papers from the English Institute, New York 1963.
  • Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek : Depth. About the fascination of brooding. Fink Verlag, Paderborn / Munich 2010. ISBN 978-3-7705-4952-8 .
  • Lothar Pikulik: The early romanticism in Germany as the end and beginning. About Tieck's William Lovell and Friedrich Schlegel's fragments. In: Silvio Vietta (Ed.): The literary early romanticism. Göttingen 1983.
  • Theodore Ziolkowski : The mine: image of the soul. In: Theodor Ziolkowski: The office of poets. German Romanticism and its Institutions. Munich 1994, pp. 29-82.

Individual evidence

  1. Immanuel Kant: The dispute between the faculties. Anthropology in a pragmatic way. In: Immanuel Kant: Academy edition. Volume 7, p. 213.
  2. ^ Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi: Works. IV, 2, ed. v. Friedrich Roth and Friedrich Köppen, Darmstadt 1968, p. 67f
  3. Steffen Martus: The emergence of depth in the 18th century. On the temporalization of poetry in the aesthetics of improvement in Hagedorn, Gellert and Wieland. In: German quarterly journal for literary studies and intellectual history 74, 2000, pp. 27–43.
  4. ^ Friedrich Schlegel: Message from the paintings in Paris. To a friend in Dresden, in: Europa 1803, 1.Bd.1.St., S. 154f.
  5. ^ Carl Gustav Carus: lectures on psychology, go to Dresden, Erlenbach in the winter of 1829/30; Zurich; Leipzig 1931, p. 409.
  6. ^ Inka Mülder-Bach: Depth. On the dimension of romanticism, in: Rooms of Romanticism, ed. Inka Mülder-Bach and Gerhard Neumann, Munich 2007, pp. 83-102
  7. Theodor Ziolkowski: Das Bergwerk: Bild der Seele, in: Ders .: Das Amt der Poeten. German Romanticism and its Institutions, Munich 1994, p. 46f.
  8. ^ Walter Benjamin: Origin of the German tragedy, in: Ders .: Collected writings, Volume I1, p. 370.
  9. Erich Auerbach: Mimesis. Reality presented in Western literature, Bern 1946, p. 14.