Romaticism and Religion in German Nationalism

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Growing out of the romantic movement of the 19th century, there were many factors and various groups that contributed to the rise of German nationalism. With the nation fragmented, and Europe in social turmoil, the German people were lusting for spiritual and emotional unity that Enlightenment thinking could not provide. The population turned to existing religious groups, romantic thinkers, and secular political religions to fill the emotional gap that existed in a modernizing Europe. In the article, “Romanticism and the Rise of German Nationalism,” Hans Kohn attempts to show how romanticism developed from a completely artistic movement, into a crucial component in the rise of German nationalism. In the first of five sections, Kohn begins by describing the origins of the romantic movement's opposition toward Enlightenment thinking, and of the French Revolution. He argues that the romantics revered history – namely the middle ages – which was the foundation for the development of the “national community.” This idealization of history that Kohn argues rejected the current times and had the emotional effect of instilling hope to the people, a point he makes clear when he states, “The romantic movement began as an artistic revolt against eighteenth-century culture which seemed not to satisfy the soul and not to warm the heart.” (FN, 445). The second section of the article focuses mainly on Novalis, who Kohn calls, “The first great German romanticist.”(FN, 447) He contends that Novalis wished the state played more of an intimate role in people's lives, but makes clear that this was not a political concept, but poetic.(FN, 448). He elaborates by stating that Novalis did not stress unification on a national basis, but based on the sp... ... middle of paper ... denominations – namely Protestantism. Williamson makes this abundantly clear when he states, “Indeed, I maintain in this study that the longing for myth is best understood not as a secularization of traditional religion or as a form of 'secular religion,' but rather as a development within Christian (especially German Protestant) culture...”(FN, 4) Williamson takes the time to discuss the reforms within Protestantism and keeps religion central in the study. This is a good study for anyone interested in nineteenth-century German intellectual history, and how religion played such a great role in the development of national ideas. In the midst of great change on the European continent, Germany was left in a position of uncertainty. With the arrival of modernization, the population was looking for order and emotional fulfillment in a fragmented and changing nation.

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