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Author Topic: Folklore: "Elemental Spirits" by Heinrich Heine  (Read 5125 times)


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Re: Folklore: "Elemental Spirits" by Heinrich Heine
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2014, 11:50:43 am »
Quote from: carillion;157554
I was reading a lot last fall on the emergence of and transference between the U.K. and Germany of  the Gothic literature form (Walpole, Radcliffe et al). Your mention of the embracing of the wild and 'pagan' was much spoken of in the books  I read and I wonder if the rising of this new form had an effect on the analysis and/or preference for certain 'styles' of folklore at this time or whether the borrowing was all on one side? Did the embedding of the Romantic folkloric tropes *within* this new narrative form create a heightened taste and curiosity for folklore itself?

It kind of depends. Like, what were the individual writers researching/using folklore trying to accomplish? The rise of Romanticism--and the Gothic, which is a branch of Romanticism--had to do with widespread disenchantment with Enlightenment discourses of rationality and balance and perfection. Like, yay we're glad for scientific progress (for the most part), greater religious tolerance, and the fact that we're not executing witches anymore, but doesn't it all seem kind of... bland? Where's the passion, where's the emotion, where's the LIFE? Of course all those old religions were barbaric superstition, but they also look like a lot more fun. Our proper modern Protestant rationality is correct, but kind of boring.

(If this sounds familiar to basically everyone who's attracted to paganism/witchcraft in the first place, that's because we've inherited exactly that attitude towards the past. Modern paganisms are thoroughly Romantic.)

In the case of someone like Radcliffe, "wild" "barbaric" "pagan" (and/or Catholic) stuff was all about adding the thrill of interesting spooky flavor, but then proper English Protestant rationalism triumphs at the end. Other writers weren't so sure about the inevitability or desirability of good Protestant sense. When you toss nationalism into the Romantic/Gothic mix, then distancing yourself from the pagan past becomes even less desirable--because that paganism is the expression of the soul of your people (Volksgeist). So depending on what the writer was going for, that "barbarism" could be for scariness, or it could be part of constructing an idea about your national past, or a call for revolution against the dominant institutions of Enlightenment Europe, or any other number of very different goals.


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