In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the art, German Romanticism dominated philosophy of central Europe. Perhaps the most obvious example of this movement is the work of Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven was instrumental in moving music out of the classical age of Mozart and Haydn. With his third, fifth, and ninth symphonies, Beethoven left some of the most tangible and recognizable aspects of German Romanticism.
German Romanticism, however, did not originate with Beethoven. It was, instead, initiated by writers such as Friedrich Schiller, whose plays sought to embody the German Volk, or national spirit. Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” was incorporated into Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The greatest writer of German Romanticism was Goethe, whose Faust is considered to be the greatest of all works of German fiction.
German philosophers, such as Hegel and Kant took the ideals of the French Revolution as they disseminated along with Napoleon’s armies and created a growing sense of nationalism in the often-fragmented German lands. These philosophers looked towards Nature for their inspiration. Others, such as Johann Gottfried von Herder, collected ancient German folk tales and songs as an expression of the authentic German experience. Such nationalism spread throughout all of German culture in the early decades of the nineteenth century.