Revelation and Kunstreligion in W.H. Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck

Tom Spencer


I argue that Herzensergießungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders and Phantasien über die Kunst, co-authored by Wilhelm Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck, employ a “proto-theological” strategy to defend the meaningfulness of the idea of revelation in the romantic age. On the surface, these works argue for a natural affinity between art and religion due to a common dependence on supernatural inspiration. In the eyes of many scholars, however, the various markers of a modern sensibility in the text call into question whether the idea of Kunstreligion can or is even meant to be viable. Against this suspicion, I suggest that the scholarship has not adequately appreciated the total, and quite modern, strategy for representing divine action in these texts. Instead of being grounded in specific religious images—such as Rafael’s vision of the Madonna, which can be explained away as metaphor—the concept of divine action can most reliably be inferred from a more general quality of the text, namely the unsystematic heterogeneity of divine phenomena that it represents. When intuitive certainty of the divine is combined with an irreducible diversity of forms, we are pushed beyond the realm of rational-scientific competency and into a “proto-theological” realm viable even in modernity. (TS)

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