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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

4                      MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

These changes of outlook would, no doubt, if they had been
left to themselves, have worked their own way to a new expres-
sion. But Germany, always receptive to ideas, has at all stages of
new development in her literature caught the vivifying fire from
abroad. Now, while Marx and Darwin were working so to speak
under the surface, ideas came in with a rush from three foreign
sources: Russia, France, and Norway. Much as in the eighteenth
century Rousseau had forced on literature a change of front with
his paradox of 'back to nature', Tolstoy now, with his denunci-
ation of the depravity of the cultured classes and his preaching of
asceticism, raised a new ideal, and turned attention to the misery of
the poor. His Powers of Darkness (1886) was a powerful influence.
Dostoieffsky, with his minute and relentless psychology and his
strange characters, pointed to new directions. Zola, following up
Taine's theory of milieu, proclaimed that the meticulous methods
of science should be applied to literature, that an author should
give a slice of life seen through a temperament. Zola's procedure,
deliberately photographical, seemed the denial of poetry and in-
spiration; in actual result, however, he achieves the effect of poetry
by his gigantic symbolism. Ibsen, too, in the plays of his maturity,
made a show of the abnegation of poetry in the shorn plainness of
his dialogue; but he again in his latest plays wedded an illusory
realism to a mystical and wistful symbolism. The stark ugliness of
Tolstoy's picture of life reappears in the first period of naturalism.
Zola is more than any one else the acclaimed model of the first
naturalists, both in drama and the novel. Ibsen lends form and
substance to the dramas of the iconoclasts; he himself, however,
had continued the problem plays of Hebbel, and there is thus in
the naturalistic plays which are modelled on those of Ibsen a chain
of continuity with a link forged across the sea.1

Another strongly emphasized feature of the new naturalism is
hostility to the doctrines of Christianity. This is, however, nothing
new in German literature. There is anti-religious feeling in Gott-
fried Keller's Der grune Heinrich (1854) and in Spielhagen's Pro-
blematische Naturen (1861); and the anti-clerical atmosphere of
Paul Heyse's Kinder der Welt (1873) had been denounced as the
glorification of Sodom and Gotnorrha. Anti-clericalism goes to-
gether with the assertion of the rights of the senses (Gufczkow's

1 Dramatists who continue Hebbel directly in our period belong to neo-
classicism.