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Romantic Dialectics

6 Pages 1553 Words

Schlegel summarizes the terms of his new aesthetic in a now famous passage:
Romantic poetry is a progressive, universal poetry. Its aim isn’t merely to reunite all the separate species of poetry and put poetry in touch with philosophy and rhetoric. It tries to and should mix and fuse poetry and prose, inspiration and criticism, the poetry of art and the poetry of nature; and make poetry lively and sociable, and life and society poetical...It alone can become, like the epic, a mirror of the whole circumambient world, an image of the age. And it can also -- more than any other form -- hover at the midpoint between the portrayed and the portrayer, free of all real and ideal self-interest, on the wings of poetic reflection, and can raise that reflection again and again to a higher power, can multiply it in an endless succession of mirrors. It is capable of the highest and most variegated refinement, not only from within outwards, but also from without inwards; capable in that it organizes -- for everything that seeks a wholeness in its effects -- the parts along similar lines, so that it opens up a perspective upon an infinitely increasing classicism... Other kinds of poetry are finished and are now capable of being fully analyzed. The romantic kind of poetry is still in the state of becoming; that, in fact, is its real essence: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected. It can be exhausted by no theory and only a divinatory criticism would dare try to characterize its idea...
This passage is striking for its emphasis on various forms of synthesis. This is a key theme in his characterization of modern literature; the modern age is, after all, a chemical age, and Schlegel links this with synthesis as much as with analysis. Schlegel lists a number of synthetic possibilities (or projects): mixing poetry with prose, poetry with society, art with nature. Other fragments suggest the blending of philosophy and grammar...

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