German literature

The Frankfurt Book Fair
German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language. This includes literature written in Germany, Austria, the German parts of Switzerland and Belgium, Liechtenstein, South Tyrol in Italy and to a lesser extent works of the German diaspora. German literature of the modern period is mostly in Standard German, but there are some currents of literature influenced to a greater or lesser degree by dialects (e.g. Alemannic).

Medieval German literature is literature written in Germany, stretching from the Carolingian dynasty; various dates have been given for the end of the German literary Middle Ages, the Reformation (1517) being the last possible cut-off point. The Old High German period is reckoned to run until about the mid-11th century; the most famous works are the Hildebrandslied and a heroic epic known as the Heliand. Middle High German starts in the 12th century; the key works include The Ring (ca. 1410) and the poems of Oswald von Wolkenstein and Johannes von Tepl. The Baroque period (1600 to 1720) was one of the most fertile times in German literature. Modern literature in German begins with the authors of the Enlightenment (such as Herder). The Sensibility movement of the 1750s–1770s ended with Goethe’s best-selling Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774). The Sturm und Drang and Weimar Classicism movements were led by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Biedermeier refers to the literature, music, the visual arts and interior design in the period between the years 1815 (Vienna Congress), the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and 1848, the year of the European revolutions. Under the Nazi regime, some authors went into exile (Exilliteratur) and others submitted to censorship (“internal emigration”, Innere Emigration). The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to German language authors thirteen times (as of 2009), or the third most often after English and French language authors (with 27 and 14 laureates, respectively), with winners including Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Günter Grass.

Encyclopedia of German Literature