„Eine für alles“ or The woman who comforts every wound
Romantic love instead of functional differentiation of society
Von Niels Werber
This brief lecture on romantic love and literature is based on the following thesis: that the specific romantic coding of intimacy in the medium of literature and most of all in the novel („Roman“) is one of several strategies which are reacting on the functional differentiation of society and are trying to dissolve its consequences through the reintegration of the individual in a post-differentiated totality. This totality occurs in several figures, and one of them is the holistic vision of romantic love. I will proceed in four steps.
1. First I will read some quotations from romantic texts as examples of the attempts to include the entire individual in the absolute symbiosis of romantic love.
2. Then I will try to sketch the self-description of society around 1800 as reflection of functional differentiation and as an insight into the decomposition of the literally indivisible individual into a plural of roles.
3. The third step is describing the mode of therapy: the romantic suggestions to escape the constraints of modern society in the medium of aesthetic education as Friedrich Schiller, of religion (Novalis), of ’new mythology‘ (Friedrich Hölderlin, Friedrich Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Schlegel) or, at least, love.
4. In the end I will try to read the semantics of love in Schlegels ”Lucinde“ as a back-coupling between proto-sociological observations of modernity and literary strategies to overcome the framework of this society.
1. Examples for romantic love
In his only novel „Hyperion oder der Eremit in Griechenland“ (1797) Friedrich Hölderlin gives a narration of the love-tale of Hyperion and Diotima. Hyperion, suffering from the so-called ”prosaic state of the world“ (Hegel) and the modern alienation of mankind, god and nature, finds a nearly perfect remedy in his love to Diotima. As his descriptions of the present state are characterised by a semantic of dissection and fragmentation, the discourse of his love is shaped through a semantic of wholeness and unity. In this context of extreme alternatives, love becomes the existential question of everything or nothing: „Was mir nicht Alles, und ewig Alles ist, ist mir Nichts“, Hyperion writes to his friend Bellarmin, continuing: „wo finden wir das Eine […]? Ach! […] wenn nur Ein Paar […] Ein Herz, Ein unzertrennbares Leben würden.“
„Ein“: one always written in capital letters. Hyperion longs to constitute a unity with this woman, and is convinced that mankind is not made for separation and particularity: „Wir sind nicht fürs Einzelne, Beschränkte geschaffen.“ Knowing and loving Diotima, Hyperion declares that his mistress means one and everything for him: „O so bist du ja mir Alles, rief ich!” As Hyperion, at this point, does not reflect on the social improbability and preconditions of his descriptions, he is using metaphors of nature to describe his supposed unity with Diotima: „Wir waren Eine Blume nur, und unsre Seelen lebten in einander, wie die Blume, wenn sie liebt, und ihre zarten Freuden im verschloßnen Kelche verbirgt.“
He compares the union of their love with a flower which conceals its intimacy behind its calyxes: a perfect figure for the romantic exclusion of present social environment. If society is concerned at all in the thinking of Hyperion, it is in the modus of an utopian future, emerging out of romantic love. The relationship of Hyperion and Diotima functions as a model for a new golden age of society.
„Unsere Seelen lebten nun immer freier und schöner zusammen, und alles in und um uns vereinigte sich zu goldenem Frieden.“ Romantic love: that is the total inclusion of every personal aspect of two individuals in a highly intensive relationship, romantic love is the prototype of the final conciliation of nature, society and mankind in a universal harmony: „Wie der Zwist der Liebenden, sind die Dissonanzen der Welt. Versöhnung ist mitten im Streit und alles Getrennte findet sich wieder.“
Everything that has been separated by the social division of labour, everybody who has been fragmented by the dissection of the individual in the plurality of social roles, should be healed and become one with the separated or alienated other again. A modern person, playing occasionally the role as consumer or producer, voter or politician, debtor or believer, researcher or student, defendant or judge, without playing ever exclusively only one part, this modern person would leave all that roles and masquerades behind, to be himself only, like he was in former, pre-modern epochs, where each person was unquestionably united with his social role as a knight, a farmer, a priest or a craftsman. The romantic paradigm for the post-modern restoration of the pre-modern unity of person and role is love, because the semantics of romantic love suggest a complete inclusion of every part of a person into the relationship. Hyperion, contemplating on a future, born out of the spirit of romantic love, gives his prognosis: „Es wird nur Eine Schönheit sein; und Menschheit und Natur wird sich vereinen in Eine allumfassende Gottheit.“
I will give you one more quotation, this time from Schlegels „Lucinde“, where nearly every aspect of romantic love is embedded: „Ja! ich würde es für ein Märchen gehalten haben, daß es solche Freude gebe und solche Liebe, wie ich nun fühle, und eine solche Frau, die mir zugleich die zärtlichste Geliebte und die beste Gesellschaft wäre und auch eine vollkommene Freundin.“
Julius, the protagonist, is finishing his career as gallant lover, as seducer of inexperienced young women, and as visitor of brothels in an association, where his mistress for the first time fulfills every felt or known need. Lucinde is his housewife, the mother of their daughter, the affectionate and tender mistress, the perfect friend, the hostess of their circle, and the welcomed company. She is „Eine für alles“ – one for everything. Julius is describing, what he was searching and allowed to receive in Lucinde.
„Denn in der Freundschaft besonders suchte ich alles, was ich entbehrte und was ich in keinem weiblichen Wesen zu finden hoffte. In dir habe ich es alles gefunden und mehr als ich zu wünschen vermochte; aber du bist auch nicht wie die andern. Was Gewohnheit oder Eigensinn weiblich nennen, davon weißt du nichts. Außer den kleinen Eigenheiten besteht die Weiblichkeit deiner Seele bloß darin, daß Leben und Lieben für sie gleich viel bedeutet; du fühlst alles ganz und unendlich, du weißt von keinen Absonderungen, dein Wesen ist Eins und unteilbar. […] und darum liebst du mich auch ganz und überläßt keinen Teil von mir etwa dem Staate, der Nachwelt oder den männlichen Freunden. Es gehört dir alles und wir sind uns überall die nächsten und verstehn uns am besten. Durch alle Stufen der Menschheit gehst du mit mir von der ausgelassensten Sinnlichkeit bis zur geistigsten Geistigkeit.“
In Julius’s perspective, Lucinde is a woman who is not split into multiple pieces of social roles, she is ”one and indivisible“, a real individual. And she is loving Julius as a real individual too, not leaving any part of him to the various obligations of modern society. The romantic couple is enjoying themselves, integrating all pleasures of love: from the ”most hilarious sensuality up to most intellectual spirituality“. In an historical perspective, this could be understood as an integration of epochal concepts of love and intimacy: the concept of platonic love, the concept of love as passion and gallantry, where sensuality and erotic are separated from matrimony, the British concept of companionship. Romantic love is an integrating program of communication, Julius declares.
„Es ist alles in der Liebe: Freundschaft, schöner Umgang, Sinnlichkeit und auch Leidenschaft; und es muß alles darin sein, und eins das andre verstärken und lindern, beleben und erhöhen.“ Love includes everything: friendship, good company, sensuality, passion, and everything must be part of it, because the ingredients are enhancing and amplifying each other.
2. Self-description of society: differentiation as fragmentation
It is a striking case of synchronism that during the last five years of the 18th century the most important German poets are reflecting the new state of society. Not philosophers like Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Schelling or Hegel are the first theoreticians of functional differentiation, but – among others – Schiller, Hölderlin and Schlegel. After Diotimas death, the totally disappointed Hyperion, who enters Germany without expecting too much, is observing a nation in the mode of dissipation and alienation. He is missing human beings as human beings, the individual seems to be torn to pieces. Hyperion is writing: „Ich kann kein Volk mir denken, das zerrißner wäre wie die Deutschen. Handwerker siehst du, aber keine Menschen, Denker, aber keine Menschen, Priester, aber keine Menschen, Herren und Knechte, Jungen und gesetzte Leute, aber keine Menschen.“
Indeed there are persons in Germany, doing their jobs and performing their roles, how it could be expected from craftsmen and philosophers, priests and superiors, but Germany absolutely lacks human beings in an emphatic sense. In the perspective of Hyperion, modern Germany looks like a field of war: „Ist das nicht, wie ein Schlachtfeld, wo Hände und Arme und alle Glieder zerstückelt untereinander liegen, indessen das vergoßne Lebensblut im Sande zerrinnt? Ein jeder treibt das Seine, wirst du sagen […], [und erstickt in Wahrheit jene] Kraft, [die] nicht […] zu seinem Titel paßt, [ein jeder] ist […] in ein Fach gedrückt, wo […] der Geist nicht leben darf.“
Everybody is acting in a way the society is expecting – each aspect of the personality is neglected, which is not needed to perform the provided roles in the social systems. Society seems to be an ”anthill“. Hyperion compares the fate of his age with Prokrustes, who throws his prisoners in a small cradle, cutting off all the unsuitable parts of their bodies. With the purpose of fitting them, modernity is dissecting its children, so that they can perform their service in the ”slave-mills“ of society.
It is Friedrich Schiller, who gave an outstanding description of the end of the corporate state and the transition into modern modes of differentiating and coding communication in his 1795 published „Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen“. Starting point of his considerations is the observation, that the identity of a human being, up to now completely determined by the affiliation to a state, a guild, a house, a family, an age or a gender, is at stake now. The human being, thought indivisibly thus far, might be torn to ”fragments“, whose reintegration into an intact unit is becoming a motive for romantic utopias. Sociologically speaking, one could diagnose a division into system-specific service- and client-roles, whose handling alone decides the question of inclusion of persons into system-communications. Not birth, state, or inherited privileges, but only specific knowledge and acquired qualities are now decisive for the promotion of persons in society. The reason is, as Schiller has noted both sensitively and irritated, that ”state and church, laws and customs, leisure and work“, in short: every social area formerly integrated into corporations, status, guilds and households, are now ”separated into pieces“. The modern human being is reduced to a mere „Formular“, a ”form“ that is filled out depending on the included ”business“. ”Indifferent against character“, says Schiller, politics, economy, justice, science and religion are only interested in ”fragmentary parts“ of the human being, for example in its roles as voters, customers, attorneys, subjects, culprits, patients, taxpayers or churchgoers. The ”individual skills“, necessary for the adequate performance in the communication process of the functional systems, are developed and cared by the systems themselves, and „zu einer großen Intensität […] getrieben“, while on the other hand all excluded ”remaining talents“ are neglected. Specialisation is one effect of this process, alienation the other, as Johann Adam Bergk writes in „Die Kunst, Bücher zu lesen“: „Der Dichter vergöttlicht die Einbildungskraft, der Philosoph die Vernunft, der Geschäftsmann den gesunden Menschenverstand, und der Epikuräer die Sinnlichkeit. Der Kaufmann sieht stolz auf den Gelehrten herab, dieser verachtet den Künstler, die Gelehrten selbst bemitleiden sich unter einander […]. Der Mathematiker findet keinen Geschmack an der Dichtkunst, der Dichter an der Mathematik, der Jurist an der moralischen Religionslehre, der Theolog an der Rechtslehre.“
Like Hölderlins „Hyperion“, Schlegels „Lucinde“ is also influenced by Schillers observations. As could be expected in 18th century semantics, Schlegel is focussing his observations on the difference of the human being as such and his social roles. Human personality is located in the inside of a person, social roles are described as ephemeral phenomenons. „Was wir ein Leben nennen, ist für den ganzen ewigen innern Menschen nur ein einziger Gedanke, ein unteilbares Gefühl“, Julius declares, and we are told that he is involved „an allem Äußern“ without any „Zweck und Maß in seinem Innern“. Julius is experiencing a strange distinction between his public acting and his internal feeling and thinking. He is locating the essential part of himself in his inside: „Sein ganzes Wesen war gleichsam von der Oberfläche zurückgetreten nach dem Innern.“ Everything that has constituted the essence of a person in the corporate state, its manner of appearance, its clothing, its coat of arms or hairdo, now is regarded as peripheral. How Julius is dressing himself, from which ”House“ he is descending, to which religion he belongs, how high his property amounts are, or whether he might inherit a title we are not told, because these information are regarded as impersonal and secondary. But the problem is, that modern society is based only on these trivialities and that the procedures of the functional systems are only accessing the external, visible roles of the person and not his intrinsic and peculiar individuality. This discrepancy between the reality of society and the high esteem of the individuality makes the boom of those romantic utopias plausible, which promise a future where every talent and quality of a person shall be included in society, where every part shall be integrated in the whole, where no force to specialise would suppress the rich skills of the individuals.
The Romantic period discussed one utopian aim, the postmodern unity of the individual and society, by approaching the topic through different models. Romantic suggests to escape the constraints of modern society in the medium of aesthetic education, of religion, mythology, or love. All these visions are proceeding in the same manner: one single discourse or communication system is selected, which should, however, function as a paradigm for future organisation of society. This paradigm is supposed to have such an influence, that other discourses and systems and the alienated people would follow its example. For Schiller, poetry is such a prototype of a playful integration of parts and the whole.
Novalis hopes that Catholicism would reunite the European nation states and their people in the frame of a neo-mediaeval empire, where everybody knows his place again. Or a ’new mythology‘ should be the medium of the re-unification of the dissected and divided powers, roles, and interests. All these expectations have an intrinsic paradox in common: that a discourse or system, which is itself only possible as a consequence of functional differentiation, such as the modern systems of literature, education, or religion, should serve as a vehicle of the de-differentiation of the modern society. The poet, the educator, the politician, the believer, who should transform modern society into a postmodern unity, are ever acting themselves within the framework of their specific roles. Nevertheless the Romantic expects that the functional differentiation of society shall be overcome by one functional system and its highly specialised members. So it seems to be the patient, who should prescribe and execute his own therapy.
4. Love in Schlegels „Lucinde“: past and present epochs of coding intimacy
Schlegels novel is a hybrid, composed of very different elements: dialogs, letters, first-person and third-person narratives, tales, essays, and reflections. He uses the potential of the novel to integrate genres, to show Julius’s career as a lover from different angles. Considering this material, one could reconstruct an individual developing process which corresponds with the history of the human race from Greek antiquity via present modernity to an utopian post-modernity. The merit of having drawn the attention of scholars on this correspondence between romantic philosophic speculation on history and the romantic concept of love is dued to Hannelore Schlaffer and her essay „Frauen als Einlösung der romantischen Kunsttheorie“ (1977). Her thesis is, that philosophic speculation is structuring the narrative, especially the part called „Lehrjahre der Männlichkeit“, which is regularly valued as the heart of the novel.
Prima vista, this observation is convincing: Three women are playing a major role in Julius’s socialisation, Luise, Lisette, and Lucinde. Yet these names as such are hints of historical concepts, embedded in the periods of Julius’ engagement with them. Luise connotes an Arcadian innocence, Lisette sounds French, modern and coquette, and Lucinde? Well, Mrs. Schlaffer is giving her answer afterwards. At first she suggests that Luise and Lisette are indicating the epochs of antiquity and modernity. The situations, in which Julius has been confronted with these women, validate this thesis. Luise is in fact very young and very innocent when Julius is trying to seduce her. She is a perfect naïve, just nature guides her actions, this being a rare case in an epoch, where, how Schiller observed, a sentimental attitude is regulating the relation to nature. Her unaffected simplicity and her natural charms are connoting Grecian grace. Her age, „an der Grenze der Kindheit“, facilitates the association with the ancient age, where mankind itself was young.
However, Lisette is some kind of a fallen girl. Born and grown up in a good family, she was seduced and corrupted as a young woman. When Julius met her for the first time, she was working as a high-class whore for rich Englishmen. Her fate could have been Luises future, if she had not been spared by her seducer. Lisette shows a typical modern character, that is, in a romantic perspective, a disunited, inharmonious, dissipated one. Lisette shows wit and reason, delicacy and egoism, high spirits and style. She is gifted with erotic skills and executes her job sometimes with cold blood, another time in bacchanalian rage – she could be full of sentimental feelings about her lost virtue, simultaneously she could be greedy, desirous to earn more money.
The great dualisms of philosophical thinking: nature and mind, or nature and art, are mixed together in Lisettes character without any hope of reuniting the fragments harmonically. After she has been abandoned by Julius, Lisette commits suicide. Julius is now leaving modernity – like a dead corpse – behind himself, heading towards a relationship which promises to integrate the best of the preceding areas. Lucinde, in the opinion of Hannelore Schlaffer, symbolises a postmodern epoch, in which the differentiated systems of society and the divided attributes of the individual become a unity. Julius is experiencing his love to Lucinde as transition into a state where everything is complete, where no quality or specialisation is bought with the sacrifices of other potential qualities. We are told, that Julius „glaubte alles in ihr vereinigt zu besitzen, was er sonst einzeln geliebt hatte: die schöne Neuheit des Sinnes, die hinreißende Leidenschaftlichkeit, die bescheidne Tätigkeit und Bildsamkeit und den großen Charakter.“
The single attributes of his former liaisons are incorporated in this love to Lucinde. In this context, love and life are becoming inseparably united. As Friedrich Schleiermacher observes in his ”Intimate Letters on Lucinde“ (1800): „die ganze Liebe und das ganze Leben“ coincide. This unity of passion, friendship, eroticism, sensuality, and matrimony is self-sufficient in its social dimension – the couple is separating itself from their social environment and is only conversing with a very few friends –, and it is complete in its temporal dimension. There is no future expected, the mode of this love is eternity. If one takes this romantic love as an allegory of utopian hopes, its structure equals the condition of post-modernity: future does not matter any longer, formerly separated discourses are re-integrated. A love, which includes every personal aspect and assimilates every social role, could in such a way function as an utopian paradigm for further social evolution. Love seems to be just another answer for the romantic question about overcoming modernity, like Schiller’s „Aesthetic education“ or Novalis project of a neo-catholic, unified Europe.
Mrs. Schlaffer gave a persuasive interpretation of Julius love to the three major female protagonists in Schlegels novel, but – beside her disregard of Julius’s other engagements and his leading motives – she does not care about the question, to which problem of historical philosophy love should give an answer. If one considers that Lucinde is a mistress so totally different than the others – this makes her attractive not for her lovers, but for romantic philosophy of history. I think that both philosophical speculation on history and literary imagination in the romantic area are quarrelling with the same difficulties: to realise the transformation of the corporate state in modern society and to deal with its consequences. The social project of a civilisation, which is not alienated and where everybody could realise his facilities, and the erotic project of a symbiotic love, where the fragmented and divided individuals are united, have one problem in common: that modernity is decomposing the individual, that modern social systems are only including roles, that communicative addresses have only a chance of connectivity, if they use highly specialised codes. Romantic love is simulating an enclave, where these modern burden is banned. Julius calls his relationship with Lucinde society and family at the same time: „Lucinde verband und erhielt das Ganze und so entstand eine freie Gesellschaft, oder vielmehr eine große Familie.“
Romantic love – featured in romantic novels – suggests family as a model of society. Not the poetic concept, but this proposition has been successful for a longer time. Hegel claims in his „Phenomenology of Spirit“ (1807), that the state finds his form in family. Even Karl Marx will confirm this opinion, although with renewed sense. Family, says Marx, is indeed the germ cell of state, but family only so far is the first organisation until the division of labour takes part and a tendency towards slavery could be observed since ancient times.
To bring it back to Schlegel: the genuine romantic hopes in love and society failed in reality, but the romantic ideal of the integration of love, companionship, sexuality and matrimony has survived in semantics.
Perhaps, such an experiment can only convince in the world of literature, disburdened from all risks and needs of modern everyday life. So far the love between Julius and Lucinde is a very interesting and thrilling concept, so far it is a literary success. The only connectivity romantic love has produced, was inside the literary communication: in the form of novels. Outside of literature, the romantic semantic of intimacy remained without successors. Its claims for incorporating every part of oneself into all-including relationships was exceptionally exclusive. In modern society, even love knows its roles, institutions and times. Communication of intimacy is a coded and specialised social system as well – and not a paradigm for overcoming functional differentiation. In German literary history, romantic love is loosing attention during the second third of the 19th century. Authors like Theodor Fontane are starting their narratives on a point, where the romantic novels are ending: with a love match, only to explore the destruction of love, families and relationships. Adultery becomes a fascinating topic in realistic literature: realistic novels like „Effi Briest“ are quoting the motives of romantic love only to mock or to treat it ironically.