Novalisʼ speech Europa is one of the most striking texts of early Romanticism. Against the background of an – ironically treated – ʻRomantic conservatismʼ, Novalis conceives of a religious utopia, the basis of which seems to be a return to an idealised medieval age. He finished the speech in 1799, but it was only published in its entirety in 1826, long after his death. The more precise published title Die Christenheit oder Europa, by which the work still goes today, is by an unknown hand, as is the addition, in the form of a sub‐title: Ein Fragment. What may seem like a philological transgression from todayʼs point of view makes sense when this sub‐title is placed in the Romantic context of Friedrich Schlegelʼs ʻProgressive Universalpoesieʼ and Novalis's own ʻFragmentästhetikʼ. Although it is a finished text, and one which the author himself had also delivered as a finished speech, this article shows that Die Christenheit oder Europa is indeed a fragment in the specific sense of Romantic aesthetics and, moreover, a prime example of such a fragment. Once this is recognised, new perspectives emerge for interpretation. Thus, Novalis's utopian design contains an openness pointing beyond itself, which elevates the text far beyond the religious fixation and levity that are often attributed to it.
German Life and Letters – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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