Reading Goethe’s essay on Art and Literature the question as to whether he is a romantic or a neoclassic writer is one of the things most people would ask. Writers that are romantics such as Wordsworth, Shelley or Poe, mostly are from the late 18th or late 19th century.
Romantic writers write as if they can change the view of other people in the world. Romantics write from a view of a more “organic” stand point. By organic they write from a view of nature or an artistic view rather than a scientific or rational view.
The view of romantics have imagination that is elevated to a position as a supreme faculty of mind, one of the easiest way to understand what a romantic really is in a modern way is describing them as more of hippies.
They think that individual experiences are more important than society. Originality, freedom, intuition, and imagination are what they write from and where there opinions are formed from.
Romantics and Neoclassic writers write from to different perspectives.
The time of these two writing styles does overlap a little bit in transition from one or the other. The neoclassic style of writing started in the mid-17th century to the early 19th century. Some examples of this kind of writing are Alexander Pope or John Milton.
These writers write from a point of view that mankind is imperfect and has limited potential. They wrote in the age of exploration and wrote in a style of renaissance, and was constrained and had order. Neoclassic writers looked back to the ideals of art forms of classical times and modeled things on classical masterpieces.
Neoclassic writers needed rule and order. Neoclassic writers wanted to correct mankind, they wanted to make everything proportional, symmetric, united and everything have harmony. They relied on reason to support arguments they looked at things from fact. Neoclassic writers believed society was more important than individuals; they believed that tradition was important for society. They believed that rules and order are needed in art mechanical forms logic and objectives.
Neoclassics and romantics are pretty much opposite ways of looking at things. Romantics look at things in a natural open way; neoclassics look at things in an order and have law and rules. Reading Goethe you see some of both types of writings. Goethe is written in a time where the transition from romantic to neoclassic was taking place.
The style of the writing actually reflects both romantic and neoclassic tendencies. In the reading, he goes back and forth between law and spiritual beauty, law being the neoclassic side of writing and spiritual beauty being the romantic side of this writing. He writes in both styles because he has early influences of romantics and later influences of neoclassicism.
One perfect example of why he is a romantic is in the very beginning of this writing. He starts by describing this statue as “A genuine work of art, like a work of nature, will never reveal all its mysteries to the human mind”. (“Essay of Art and Literature” 14-23) But he also has examples of neoclassic style in his writing.
He talks about the laws of art, grace and beauty but a romantic would not combine law with any of these natural things. Another neoclassic tendency that he shows is when he categorizes things in nature as things in a society and not as individuals.
I think he takes qualities from both styles of writings and puts them in a way that makes sense to a broad amount of people and he puts them in a way that makes it easier to understand a statue without seeing it. He puts things in a way that have reason and emotion and when describing a physical thing like a statue I think having both of those things is important so you can kind of feel what the artist is trying to put into the feel of the statue and you can also have the realness of the material in the world.
Essay of Art and Liturature. 1986. 14-23. Print.
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