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Title: Jean Paul's style and aesthetic thought
Author: Rowson, P. D.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1972
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Our study of Jean Paul's style and aesthetic thought is arranged chronologically because we have attempted to show that Jean Paul is an important figure in the transition from the "Aufklärung" to Romanticism. In the first chapter, "Jean Paul and the Eighteenth Century", we have shown that Jean Paul was influenced by the "Aufklärung" attitude to wit and that his style contains many rationalistic techniques common in the century. On closer examination however we saw that Jean Paul adapted the rationalistic principle of wit, and by associating this principle with the personality of the writers and thus liberating it from reason, he laid the basis for the transformation of wit into the poetic principle of phantasy. Similarly the rationalistic structure of his early satires is seen to be misleading, for Jean Paul in fact destroys the lucidity of "Aufklärung" prose by insisting on the active cooperation of the reader in literature. Even whilst writing rational satires therefore Jean Paul appeal's to be sceptical about the power of reason and of language to understand or convey fully the complexities of life. The second chapter, "Jean Paul and Pre-Romanticism", examines the development of these irrational elements in Jean Paul's style and aesthetic thought in the 1790's. Like the Romantics later however, Jean Paul aims at synthesis rather than at the clear-cut triumph of feeling over reason. Consequently complexities and contradictions arise both in Jean Paul's style and in his aesthetic thought. Rationalistic and biblical, humorous and sentimental techniques combine together to produce a colourful but demanding style. In his aesthetic thought Jean Paul appears at times to believe completely in the autonomy of the poetic imagination proclaimed by Hamannj on the other occasions the pull of the "Aufklärung" makes itself felt, particularly in the figure of the ageing Herder, and Jean Paul insists that art should serve a moral purpose. The confusion in Jean Paul's style and aesthetic thought in this period is the result of his attempt to combine incompatible elements in preromantic thought. This confusion is the cause of Jean Paul's ambivalent relationship with the Romantics discussed in the third chapter. The Romantics violently attacked those aspects of Jean Paul's writing which were connected with his sentimentality; at the same time they encouraged the hesitant Jean Paul to place complete trust in poetic phantasy. The relationship of Jean Paul with the Romantics therefore brought out into the open the contradictions inherent in his aesthetic thought in the 1790's. But since the personal influence of Herder was less strong after Jean Paul left Weimar in 1800, Jean Paul began to value the achievements of the early Romantics increasingly highly and at the same time to attack the outdated Berlin representatives of the "Aufklärung". Jean Paul's style and aesthetic thought contain many conflicting elements in each of the three periods considered. But despite this he was successful in synthesising different literary traditions and in creating a style which was extremely effective in making his readers think. As a transitional figure between the "Aufklärung" and Romanticism Jean Paul presents in his writings and in his personality the violent clash of two incompatible outlooks. The tensions and confusions that result from this clash are mirrored in the extraordinary style of his works.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available