Swiss Literature – Biedermeier and Realism

By | November 11, 2021

First half of the 19th century: Biedermeier and realism

As a »popular enlightenment«, the late Enlightenment worked well into the 19th century in Switzerland. a. at Pestalozzi’s plant. It influenced i.a. considerably H. Zschokke educational (“people’s education is the People’s Liberation,” 1836) and literary work (story “The Gold-maker village,” 1817) and is also in J. Gotthelf visible. The “Swiss Romanticism” remained episodic. It can be seen in folk songs as well as in individual prose works such as in the fairytale-like story (e.g. in Susanna Ronus, pseudonym Selma, * 1769, † 1835, and in Rudolf Meyers, * 1791, † 1833, “The Spirit of the Mountains”, 1831). Compared to the 18th century, the literature of the early 19th century in Switzerland is both more realistic and more provincial. The interest in the provincial was connected with the interest in the dialect, which was developed by the Lucerne pastors Josef Ineichen (* 1745, † 1818), Jost Bernhard Barnabas Häfliger (* 1759, † 1837), the Olten Alois Franz Peter Glutz-Blotzheim (* 1789, † 1827) was used for her poems and songs, also by the Bernese Gottlieb Jakob Kuhn (* 1775, † 1849) and J. R. Wyss, the founders and editors (1811-30) of the magazine »Alpenrosen«, which became an important literary forum was; the folk song writer Josef Anton Henne (* 1798, † 1870) collected legends. The longing for idyll in a troubled present gave rise to the historical stories by Johann Konrad Appenzeller (* 1775, † 1850), Anna Rothpletz (pseudonym Rosalie Müller, * 1786, † 1841) as well as the works of Zurich’s David Hess (* 1770, †) 1843), U. Hegner and J. M. Usteri, whereby the latter, like WA Corrodi later, also wrote dialect idyllic poetry from the rural bourgeoisie and peasantry, with F. X. Bronner the idyll became part of the village history. GJ Kuhn and also excelled in this genre JR Wyss and after them numerous Swiss authors of the 19th century, the most important of them being J. Gotthelf. The vernacular form of the village history arose primarily out of an interest in folklore, for example with the Solothurn collector Franz Josef Schild (* 1821, † 1889) and his compatriot Bernhard Wyss (* 1833, † 1880).

The six-volume work “Paintings from the People’s Life” by the self-taught J. Stutz, published between 1835 and 1853, was contrary to any idyllic tendency, a moral arc of an almost naturalistic character. Despite the large number of folk writers in the 19th century, J. Gotthelf was the only one besides J. Stutz authentically portrayed folk life. He reacted to the advance of modern civilization with a conservative religious stance that also dominates his literary work. For him, the life of the Emmental mountain farmers was, as it were, a natural form of human existence that had to be preserved and which he – as one of the most important German-speaking narrators of the 19th century – shaped with Homeric gestures (including in the novel “Uli, the Knecht”, 1846). The period in which the federal state was founded (1848) was marked by political polarization, which was reflected in literary agitation poems, calendar pages and pamphlets. On the conservative side, in addition to J. Gotthelf, Johann Jakob Reithardt (* 1805, † 1857) and Abraham Emanuel Fröhlich (* 1796, † 1865). At the same time, German-speaking Switzerland became a gathering point for the contradictions characteristic of Vormärz, a refuge for German refugees and a place where democratic literature was printed (for example in the “Literary Comptoir Zurich and Winterthur” founded by J. Fröbel in 1841). The early lyrical work of G. Keller also has its roots in this political and literary context.

Second half of the 19th century to 1918: From realism to vernacular and vernacular literature

After the founding of the federal state (1848), the political differences settled surprisingly quickly. A real reconciliation literature emerged, the literary climax and conclusion of which was G. Keller’s novella “The Little Flag of the Seven Upright” (1861). G. Keller’s entire narrative work is linked to a decided democracy and a worldview based on L. Feuerbach. In a unique way, the love for home is paired with the keen eye for the social conflicts of his characters, who are formed with deep affection, but also with humorous or satirical distance. The proximity to Goethe’s humanism is particularly recognizable in the development novel “Der Grüne Heinrich” (4 volumes, 1st version 1854/55). The changed ending of the 2nd version (1879/80) – the hero no longer as a failed artist, but as a contributing citizen – corresponds to G. Keller’s living conditions as a town clerk in Zurich. In contrast, in the old age novel “Martin Salander” (1886), concerns about the European development of capitalism dominate. CF Meyer appears as a counterpoint to G. Keller who also worked in the entire German-speaking area; he designed large historical fabrics and monumental figures. The novel “Jürg Jenatsch” (1876) revisits Swiss national history, the later novellas pay homage to the fashionable renaissance cult. His formal lyric poetry, which he repeatedly reworked (for example, “The Roman Fountain”, last version 1882), at times anticipates the aesthetics of symbolism. H. Leuthold, who belonged to the “Münchner Dichterkreis”, had withdrawn from reality in life and poetry. The work of Meta von Salis-Marschlins , on the other hand, was entirely dedicated to the emancipation of women. J. Burckhardtembodied the continuation of the historicist idea in a perfect way; The school-educating art historian also emerged as a dialect poet in a Basel group of poets in the follow-up to the lever, to which a. the theologian Karl Rudolf Hagenbach (* 1801, † 1874) and the classical philologist Jakob Mähly (* 1828, † 1902) belonged.

Swiss Literature - Biedermeier and Realism