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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"


Consistent naturalism did not very long hold the field as the
movement of the day; before it had lost its strangeness it
was challenged by a new movement, that of symbolism,
neo-romanticism or impressionism (three names for much the
same thing); and gradually naturalism merges with these new
currents, some poets shifting as mood dictates from one style to
the other. Impressionism is partly a reaction from naturalism, but
to a great extent it derives from French symbolism, which was
itself a reaction against two completely different styles, naturalism
and Parnassianism; in Germany, however, the manner of the
French Parnassians is imitated, e.g. by Richard von Schaukal, at
the same time as that of the symbolists, i.e. the sculptured or
pictorial Parnassian style blends with symbolist infolding of

Impressionism in painting loosely assembles light effects round
blurred outlines. So, too, literary impressionism may produce (to
quote Schiller's summing-up of Klopstock's nebulosity) a given
state of mind without the help of a given subject. At all events,
impressionism produces Stimmung, mood, atmosphere, ttat d'&me.
It is a law of physics that action and reaction are equal and in
opposite directions. The direction which impressionism gives to
art is away from nature. Hermann Bahr interpreted the phase
somewhat whimsically: the poet or painter, he says, is the mirror
in which nature is reflected; or, nature as we see it in the work of
art is not seen directly but reflected in a temperament. If the tem-
perament is abnormal, the reflection will be abnormal; but it will
be art. Moreover, according to naturalistic theory nature must
always appear the same in art, for art must be a photographic
reproduction of nature; art would thus be infinitely monotonous;
according to impressionistic theory, on the other hand, the re-