Rethinking the Politics of Literature
Edited By Louisa Söllner and Anita Vržina
Nation-Building in Nineteenth Century German Literature: The Example of Wilhelm Raabe
This essay discusses the German author Wilhelm Raabe (1831–1910) and his reflections on the nation-building of the German Unification in nineteenth century, focusing on the two works of Raabe’s poem “Zum Schillerfest” from 1859 and his novel Der Dräumling from 1871.
The year 1859 marks one of the most important dates in the German process of becoming a nation in the nineteenth century. After decades of supression by the German states, the former revolutionaries of 1848 hoped for better days at last. The new Prussian king Wilhelm I appointed a moderate liberal ministry and granted concessions to the liberals. It was also the year of Friedrich Schiller's 100th birthday – an anniversary the liberal and democratic forces in Germany used to express their ambitions for political change and national unity. In September 1859 Schiller became “an icon of the hope of a united nation for a utopia of freedom and moral refinement” (Sammons 110). His person and body of work was transformed into a source of legitimation for national intentions. In 1859, the Austrian writer Franz Grillparzer criticized staging Schiller as a leader of the fatherland by realizing that “man wolle dabei noch etwas anderes feiern als Schiller, den ausgezeichneten Dichter und Schriftsteller: etwa das deutsche Bewusstsein, die deutsche Einheit, die Kraft und Machtstellung Deutschlands” (one wanted to celebrate something else besides Schiller, the excellent poet and author: perhaps German consciousness, German unity, the strength and power of Germany) (Oellers 428).1...
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