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Title: A critical study of Johann Elias Schlegel's aesthetic and dramatic theories
Author: Wilkinson, Elizabeth M.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1943
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The thesis attempts to shew that J. E. Schlegel was the first German writer to analyse the nature of art and its effects from an aesthetic point of view. Hitherto the only writer who had made a systematic study of the problem was Gottsched, but his approach was a purely practical one and the standards by which he judged art were chiefly those of practical reality. In order to shew how it happened that, despite his aesthetically worthless writings, Gottsched yet wielded a unique authority on literary questions, Chapter I contains a brief survey of writers before Gottsched who had discussed similar problems in a manner inherently more valid than his, and whose work yet remained without influence. Schlegel's views are measured against Gottsched's, since his was, then, the only poetic theory which counted when Schlegel began writing. The chief mark of the latter's more aesthetic approach is that he accepts the existence of great works of art and tests his theories by them, if necessary modifying the theories; whereas Gottsched tests the works by the principles. Hence Schlegel accepts the imitation theory, but realises that art is always only a modified imitation of nature, affording different experiences from those afforded by reality. Were it merely a copy, affording identical experiences, art would be superfluous. The deviations from nature which the artist makes are due partly to the laws imposed upon him by his medium, partly to the necessity of ensuring that his work gives rise to the right kind of experience. Chapter III relates Schlegel to later writers and to later developments in aesthetics. He is usually regarded as a forerunner of Lessing, but it is claimed here that this is true only of his more practical suggestions for the drama. Each has a totally different approach to the problem of art. Gottsched,Lessing, Bodmer and Breitinger, the Sturm und Drang, different as they are in other respects, all tend to confuse art and life. Schlegel distinguishes between them and, in this more aesthetic approach, he is closer to Mendelssohn and to Goethe and Schiller. Many of Schlegel's views are borne out, too, by the most recent developments in aesthetics, especially his realisation of the importance of medium and of the existence of a specifically aesthetic experience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: German Literature