Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich von Schiller

Book Essay on:
Theodore Ziolkowski,
German Romanticism and Its Institutions

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 440 pgs.
UCSB PT 361 248 1990.

byTiffany Lynn Lasister
November 11, 2006

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
19th Century Germany
UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2006

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About Tiffany Lynn Lasister

I'm a third year transfer student, new to UCSB as of fall 2006. I am a history major with an emphasis in teaching. I enjoy any history, but especially the founding of the United States to the post Civil War period. Particularly, I prefer any historical information I can get on the Civil War itself. I knew nothing of Germany besides the major roles it’s played in the twentieth century, and even then it was brief. I had no choice in taking the class as most of the history classes had been filled, but I can say I’m delighted that I did have a chance to find out how Germany established itself and its history as a rising nation. I have never been outside the United States , but it is a dream that I have to travel to Europe and visit each nation. I chose Theodore Ziolkowski's book as I wanted to know what the German Romantic Period held and what was so moving and educational about it.

Abstract (back to top)

In German Romanticism and Its Institutions, Theodore Ziolkowski brings his position and thoughts to the audience about how the German Volk played a role the German Romantic period. He analyzes five institutions that were prominent in German life: mining, law, the madhouse, universities, and museums. He explores how the Romantic figures of this time shaped these institutions, and how they, in turn, shaped the German Romantic period. In German Romanticism and Its Institutions, I focused on the university as it played an important role in influencing Germany and its Volk. The spirit of the university was focused on the leading school of Jena and how the philosophers of this time, two whom were Schiller and Fichte. They were able to bring their thoughts and philosophies to the lecture halls and to the German Volk though their students.

Essay (back to top)

Theodore Ziolkowski embraces his readers with his stance on German Romanticism and the volk, whether they are of the noble, the bourgeoisie, or the peasant class. In his book, German Romanticism and Its Institutions, Ziolkowski brings five of the volk’s daily life surroundings and illustrates how much they influenced the foundation of the German Romanic period. Ziolkowski brings life to mining, law, the madhouse, universities, and museums as he explores how the literary romantic figures of the time shaped these institutions and how they, in turn, shaped the German Romanic period. I will focus on the influence of the university for the reason that the “national idea [of Germany] had been and was entrenched in the sphere of the educated bourgeoisie…” (Schulze, 51) From the groundwork of the universities, Germany and that of its volk would see a re-shaping of the German political sphere as time and history advanced; but from Ziolkowski’s work, I question what the romantic period was to the University as it stood in that day. From the mentioned literary figures, Schiller and Fichte, Ziolkowski takes readers through the influence of their works and how they took the university and its students to the philosophical level of German romanticism though their eyes and thoughts. Ziolkowski mentions the leading school of Jena where so much of Germany’s political history was founded in the student uprisings, where “the first student fraternity (Burschenschaft) was founded in Jena in 1815…” (Kitchen, 52), and where Schiller and Fichte’s works took flight. What is the role that Jena played in the romantic period and what makes it such a university that Romantic philosophy can take flight and influence its students through the professor’s works? One suggestion is from Patricia Ann Simpson in her review of Ziolkowski’s book written for The Germanic Review, in which she declares that “…the university offers the primary (if transient) example of the Romantic desire to align theory and practice.” The university is a place where professors take students to a level of learning and shaping of their intelligence in preparation for their future in society. I have to agree with Simpson that the professors of this time do indeed use their theories to shape their teachings. But what are Schiller’s and Fichte’s philosophical theories that bring a notable voice to their teachings in Jena? In Theodore Ziolkowski’s work, I am going to answer these questions I found in German Romanticism and Its Institutions , and I will show going to show that the Romantic philosophers and thinkers of this time did shed light on the issues that influenced the university at Jena.

Jena and its Role

Jena’s role in the Romantic period came as a conclusion to the flow of influences into Germany from its volk and from outside sources. During the Napoleonic era, over half of the universities in Germany disappeared in what has been termed a “mass death” (Ziolkowski, 228; Laetitia, 23). Jena was not one that would suffer the “mass death,” as it was a territory that was protected by the “Treaty of Basel…not subject—from 1795 until 1806—to the Napoleonic measures…” (Ziolkowski, 235). Jena, regardless of the student uprisings and the inadequacies of the student body, was a perfect and striking place for scholars and intellectuals to study as it provided a place of academic liberty due to historical circumstances. Positioned in a form where it, as the state, was “answerable not to one single state authority but to four so-called Nutritorean: Weimar, Coburg, Gotha, and Meiningen” (Ziolkowski, 234; Fritz, 137-48).

Distinction of Jena

As with most German principalities, agreement on any decision was hard to come by and Jena was no exception. As a combined political power that controlled Jena, the four Nutritorean could hardly reach one conclusion and Jena was left with a “lack of coordination and supervision” (Ziolkowski, 234). Also, as Jena was infamous for its low salaries, it had to compete with the other German universities for faculty. In this case, the university had to be keen to tolerate new ideas and the young age of the instructors (Ziolkowski, 235). Two scholars who added an appeal to Jena’s lecture halls and who were an influence on other future scholars and philosophers was the “presence of Goethe and Schiller…[who were]…a magnet for a generation of writers and intellectuals [including] the Romantics who assembled in Jena at the end of the decade” (Ziolkowski 235).

Jena’s Leading Role

From 1785 to 1806 Romantic philosophy became the leading field, and Jena took the role of the leading university in Germany. From the philosophical teachings of Gottlieb Hufeland, the theologian of ethics teachings of Johann Wilhelm Schmid, Carl Leonhard Reinhold and his commitment to teach Kantian philosophy, and his replacement, thirty-two-year old Fichte with his “democratic view,”’ (Ziolkowski, 236) Jena housed a wide variety of educators, each with his own views on life and the university. It was because of these philosophical leaders that the “young intellectuals who constituted the first wave of Romanticism were attracted to Jena by this atmosphere of intellectual excitement” (Ziolkowski, 237).

Schiller’s Philosophies and Lectures

“Many of the most creative minds of the age were challenged by the sense of academic ferment—and specifically at Jena—to address themselves to university matters” (Ziolkowski, 237). Schiller, who was brought to Jena on Goethe’s recommendations, was unprepared and under-qualified to become a teacher. But the success of his main lectures of 1789 drew students to him, his teachings, and to the biggest lecture hall at Jena. His lecture as a whole was entitled Introductio in historiam universalem but the lecture that was the sensation of the university was that of Was heißundzu welchem Ende studiert man Universalgeschichte. This lecture was Schiller’s “central thesis that citizens of the modern world, even in the most mundane situations of bourgeois life, are “the debtors of past centuries.” (Ziolkowski, 238; Sämtliche. 761) Schiller goes on in the lecture to emphasize the position of teachers, in which they have the responsibility to present the truth. Students as an outcome, have something to learn from history, no matter what they may pursue for a future. But what made his lecture so distinguished from other romantic philosophers was his “famous distinction between the narrowly focused, professionally oriented student, who is studying only in order to make a living…and ‘the philosophical mind’…who has a nobler purpose.” (Ziolkowski, 239) The fact that Schiller shows a contempt of sorts for professionally oriented students, illustrates that he believes a student could learn from the surroundings around him and that students who don’t apply themselves fully are “trained in that way [that] actually suppresses reform and hold up progress” (Ziolkowski 230). Because of this contempt, all of Schiller’s lectures are focused on the “philosophical mind,” since for it, “history contains invaluable lessons.” (Ziolkowski, 240). Schiller’s lectures soon lost the appeal of the students, and his retirement in 1793 from the lectern would be ‘the “midpoint” from which the philosophical mind surveys and unifies its field of knowledge’ (Ziolkowski, 240). The lecture halls would not stand unfilled for long, as the students were taken to a new philosophical level as Fichte entered the University’s halls in his place.

Fichte’s Philosophy and LecturesFichte

Fichte took the lecture post in 1794 and was met with similar success as Schiller did in drawing students, but was almost at once undermined by several of his envious colleagues due to his publications regarding the French Revolution. Fichte had arrived in Jena with a reputation for radical sympathies that his colleagues did not support. Unlike Schiller, Fichte was a forceful speaker. His students did anything they could to listen in. Still during his time in Jena Fichte was met with resistance from students in the secret societies [fraternities] when he used his lectures to disapprove of the new unrest that had arisen. Fichte met resistance from a single colleague who distorted his lecture to Jena’s philosophical leaders in hopes to dispel him. Besides these earlier troubles, Fichte still stood, taught, and in a series of four lectures, defined the profession of the scholar through his role as a part of mankind. His first lecture defined “the vocation of mankind according to the dialectical terms of his epistemology; “The scholar is a scholar only to the extent that he is opposed to other human beings who are not scholars...” (Ziolkowski 242; Gesamtausgabe text 29); meaning that to be a scholar, one has to know one’s own thoughts or philosophies, and in turn, has to be opposed to other people who does not share those thoughts or philosophies.

Fichte’s Second Lecture – Man’s goal to define himself in society

The second lecture, a continuation of the first, does not focus on the vocation of mankind, but focuses on man as himself and “that man can define himself only within society, which he [Fichte] characterizes as “the relations of reasonable beings to one another”” (Ziolkowski 243, Gesamtausgabe text p.37). This means that we, as individual people, demand the conception of other rational people (beings) outside and entirely different from our individual use. With this demand, it will help us achieve our self-identity and self-awareness.

Fichte’s Third Lecture – A scholar is not just a member of society

In the third lecture, Fichte addresses the class structure in which “…the scholar is not just a member of society; he is also a member of a particular class or institution [Stand] within that society…” (Ziolkowski 243; Gesamtausgabe text p. 42). This is a problem with society in Fichte’s eyes as there are different classes of men and the question arises to how these different classes of men come about. Fichte then introduces “the principle of human freedom: for each individual is free to chose the profession or class for which he feels most suited by nature and in which he wishes to make his contribution to the social whole…[where]…we must strive to pay the debt that we owe to society for all that it has provided us for” (Ziolkowski, 243). We, as individuals, have the right to chose what we will do in our life, the principle of human freedom, but in order to have that freedom, we have to pay the debt that we owe to society for what it has provided to us.

Fichte’s Fourth Lecture – Three Classes of scholars

The fourth and last lecture focuses on the subject of the scholar and that of his vocation, as Fichte had previously cleared the dilemma of unfairness among the classes with the principle of human freedom. Within each human being there is a personal desire and urge to know and with the special desire, a fourth class of society could be obtained, the class of the scholars. Fichte

differentiates three different kinds of knowledge that constitutes what is known as learning or scholarship. Philosophical knowledge, based on purely rational criteria….Philosophical-historical knowledge...which seeks to understand by what means those needs can be satisfied,…and Historical knowledge [which] ascertains what stage mankind has reached in its progress and what needs and satisfactions are appropriate for the contemporary world (Ziolkowski, 244).

From Fichte’s view on the vocation of the scholar as a whole, the scholar consequently has a social accountability, more then any other class, to be the teacher of mankind, no matter if he belongs to the nobility, the bourgeoisie, or the peasant class.

Conclusion – Without the scholar, mankind can not learn as a whole

Putting their theories in practice, Schiller and Fichte “see knowledge as a totality, a unified whole, in sharp contrast to the merely voluminous erudition that in their view had characterized education down through the Enlightenment” (Ziolkowski, 251). Their lectures allowed theories on knowledge and the vocation of the scholar and/or professor to bring about a change in university thinking and therefore the future thinking of the men who would go out into society. Schiller and Fichte show that without the scholar, there would be no way for mankind to learn as a whole. Jena, its role as university unrestrained by four different powers, had to welcome the freedom of thought and expression even though the other universities were restrained in their thinking. For this, it became a leader in the role of Romantic philosophy further allowing scholars to bring about a new wave of thought and Romantic ideas that would be further carried into the German lands by those who listened to the lectures.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)

Books and Articles

  • Schulze, Hagen. The Course of German Nationalism: From Frederick the Great to Bismarck, 1763-1867. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Prell, 1993), University of Cambridge.1993. 174 pages.
  • Kitchen, Martin. A History of Modern Germany 1800-2000. (New York Blackwell. 2006). 445 pages.
    These were two of our course books for 19th Century Germany. T hey provided me with a few of the quotes and information on Jena and on the German bourgeoisie.

Ziolkowski’s sources:

Endnotes to Chapter Five: These were the sources that were used by Theodore Ziolkowski that I quote above. I wasn’t able to actually read these sources as they were all in German. Notes 61 and 69 did not include the full citation.

  • 24. Laetitia Boehm, “Einführung,” in Universitäten und Hochschulen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, eds. Laetitia Boehm and Rainer A. Müller (Düsseldorf: ECON, 1983), 23.
  • 47. Fritz Hartung, Das Großherzogtum Sachsen unter der Reierung Carl Augusts 1775-1828 (Weimar: Böhlau, 1923), 137-48
  • 61. Sämtliche Werke, IV. (761)
  • 69. Text cited according to Gesamtausgabe, 1/3, 25-68.

Book Reviews of German Romanticism and Its Institutions

  • Simpson, Patricia Anne. "German Romanticism and Its Institutions." The Germanic Review 69.n2 (Spring 1994): 92(2). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. UC Santa Barbara. 17 Oct. 2006
    This is the main review of Ziolkowski’s work that I used. Simpson takes each chapter/institution and gives an account of what each chapter holds. I found that there was more information in the reading that she didn’t cover, but it was well written and useful for my work.
  • Sammons, Jeffrey L . “German Romanticism and Its Institutions”. Theodore Ziolkowski. Modern Philology, Vol. 89, No. 2. (Nov., 1991), pp. 283-285.
    Available on JSTOR, Jeffrey Sammons’ review is more detailed the Patricia Simpson’s and gives more insight to the “University” institution that Theodore Ziolkowski writes on. Well worth the read with the in-depth look at that chapter.


  • Theodore Ziolkowski.
    A very brief introduction to Ziolkowski, his studies, and his written works.
  • Friedrich Schiller.
    I used Wikipedia as most of the sites on Friedrich Schiller were in German. It gives a biography, some of his works, and other important facts on his life.
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte.
    As I had used Wikipedia for Schiller, I was able to find out about Fichte also. Wikipedia gives a biography, life works, and links to other sites that give more information. It does not say anything about his time in Jena or his activity there.
  • Jena.
    Wikipedia offers a brief look into the city of Jena. Although I knew some about the University, it was interesting learning about its history and about its economic status present and past. This site doesn’t offer a lot of full information, but the links to other sites are useful.
  • Friedrich Schiller University of Jena.
    This is the modern day University that is in Jena. Wikipedia offers a brief history of the school and a brief list of the famous philosophers who taught in the lecture halls, including Fichte and Schiller. However, Wikipedia does not offer the extensive history of Jena that I have learned in Professor Marcuse’s class. Since this is the case, I can’t fully recommend this site for extensive purposes on the University of Jena.

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

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