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Theses on Literary Modernism (1887)

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6. Our highest artistic ideal is no longer to be found in antiquity, but rather in the modern era.

7. Given these fundamental principles it appears that a struggle is called for to combat the following elements: outdated imitative classicism, the spreading disease of literary exquisiteness, and blue-stocking inspired dilettantism.

8. Movements that strive towards a decisive, healthy reform of the reigning literary circumstances are to be viewed as a positive support for modern literature. One such movement seeks to create a literary revolution on the basis of modern aesthetic principles.

9. Aesthetic criticism appears to be an important and indispensable weapon in the struggle to initiate a new blossoming of literary culture. The purging of this culture of unqualified, ignorant, and malevolent elements, and the development of a mature criticism are thus, together with genuine artistic production, to be considered as the main task of a modern literary movement.

10. At a time like the present, when any new poetic movement characterized by an unusual vitality tends to engender a concerted opposition, it is essential that all like-minded individuals join together—not to build cliques or even schools, but rather in a common struggle towards mutually accepted literary goals.

Source: Anonymous, "Thesen zur literarischen Moderne" ["Theses on Literary Modernism"], in Allgemeine Deutsche Universitätszeitung [General German University Newspaper] (1887), cited in Gotthard Wunberg, Die literarische Moderne: Dokumente zum Selbstverständnis der Literatur um die Jahrhundertwende [Literary Modernism: Documents on Literature’s Self-Conception at the Turn of the Century]. Frankfurt am Main, 1971, p. 1.

Original German text also reprinted in Jürgen Schutte and Peter Sprengel, Die Berliner Moderne 1885-1914 [Berlin Modernity, 1885-1914]. Stuttgart, 1987, pp. 186-88.

Translation: Richard Pettit

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