German literature rose to greater autonomy. Germany did not have a Paris in which everything converges and from which everything radiates. All the regional forces had therefore, even in poetry, a freer spontaneity of development. And Switzerland was also able to feed on its own traditions more freely. Especially the most tenacious of Swiss traditions – the practical sense, the taste for observing reality combined with the moralistic tendency – flourished from its roots with spontaneous strength. Already at the beginning of the 19th century, Swiss literature thus found its best expression in the raw but savory humor of U. Hegner (Die Molkenkur ; Salys Revolutionstage) or in the human realistic sense of D. Hess (Der Landvogt von Greifensee ; Johann Caspar Schweizer). Even opera – from JG von Salis Scewis down to KR Tanner – while continuing to prefer idyllic tones, stripped of the sentimentality of the previous age. In the stories of M. Usteri (De Vikari) and in CJ Kuhn’s Lieder the color of life lived is still accentuated by the use of the dialect.
More than for romanticism, which had its own organ in the Almanac Alpenrosen, but, despite some historical novels and an abundant flowering of ballads, it was essentially important for the study of fairy tales and popular legends which JR Wyss was inspired by in the his stories, Switzerland was a suitable ground for civil and political poetry. After the 1930s, the local struggles around the liberal principle in fact reached a great rage of passions; and literature also became an instrument of struggle in the service of ideas (AE Frohlich; Th. Bornhauser; JJ Reithard, etc.). And it is in the midst of these struggles that Jeremias Gotthelf rose to the grandiose realism of his powerful narratives of peasant life.
Beyond Gotthelf, with a far-reaching spiritual experience and with an adherence to all the smallest aspects of people’s life, Gottfried Keller (v.) Mixed fantasy and reality in the human truth of a poem in which, among the now comical, now tragic contrasts of passions, life rises in free flights of legend.
The ways of his art were inspired not only by his contemporaries (J. Spyri, A. Corrodi, J. Frey, etc.), but also later by Swiss realism – remaining almost completely outside the triumphant naturalism towards the ‘ 90 in Germany – remained faithful to his congenial rural-peasant tone or small-country citizen (W. Siegfried, E. Zahn, JC Heer, etc.). The poetry of simple passions and rough and strong life flourished (besides Zahn and Heer, see H. Federer, Isabella Kaiser, etc.), and also on the poets of the new generation (J. Bosshart; J. Schaffner; A. Steffen ; R. Walsre; P. Ilg; F. Moschlin; A. Haggenberger; and, above all, the dialect poet M. Lienert) the Bauernroman and the Dorfgeschichte have continued uninterruptedly to exert their appeal.
Simultaneously with this trend – in Switzerland which had already given Germanic humanism two of its greatest centers – other currents began to assert themselves, whose origins lie in a rich cultural experience. Already H. Leuthold and F. Schmid – pseudonym Dranmor – inspired their lyric to a classical sense of form, but it was the whole Swiss culture that underwent a radical renewal at that time: from J. Bachtold to A. Heusler the studies were renewed. literary and philological (see also E. Ermatinger, J. Fränkel, G. Bohnenblast, W. Muschj, etc.), at the same time the historical, theological and philosophical studies were renewed. With tenacious effort A. Ott tried to give Switzerland also a modern theater, in the Shakespearean sense.
Above all, the humanistic spirit merged with the reflective realism of the Swiss mentality. And precisely this spiritual condition was a powerful expression of C. Spitteler (v.), In whose work poetry is hardly conquered through infinite meanders of incidental reflections but always ends up in a classic and clear light of altitudes. And even today the tradition continues, not only in literature – with the critical essays by R. Faesi, E. Corrodi, F. Ernst and with the group of writers gathered around the magazine Corona -, but also in historical studies, and lives again, with vast breath, in the calm and comprehensive “humanitas” of Richelieu by C. Burckhardt.
The influence of Italy. – Among these humanistic currents, the richest and most fruitful was, perhaps, that which turned towards Italy. It was a current that had complex and remote origins: not only due to the blood bond represented by the writers who belonged to Swiss families of more or less distant Italian origin (Burlamacchi, Turrettini, Diodati, Sismondi; Pestalozzi, De Muralt, M. Manuel) ; and not only for the close cultural ties that were intertwined between Italy and Switzerland in the Renaissance, when Enea Silvio brought the first seeds of the new spirituality to Basel, and in Basel itself in 1459 the university was inaugurated with a legal faculty established almost exclusively by Italian humanists, and in Zurich in the following century Lelio Socino argued with Zwingli; but because even in the seventeenth century – regardless of the influences of Guarini and Marino – all the Baroque Catholic culture of Lucerne and, even more, of Solothurn was steeped in Italianness; and in the eighteenth century Bodmer read Gravina, edited the publication of Comparison of the tragic poetry of Italy with that of France by Calepio, corresponded with Calepio on the nature of poetic taste and revealed Dante to the Germans; and meanwhile an Italian Bibliothèque rose in Neuchâtel ; in Zurich the writings of the Caffè di Verri were translated; Rousseau “devoured” Italian music, had Pergolesi’s Serva Mistress printed at his own expense and was moved by the Tasso; and, in the Einleitung zu Vorlesungen über die neuere Geschichte Italiens (1786), Johannes von Müller declared that “in the face of the history of Italy every other history paled”.
But Johannes von Müller is also, under another aspect, significant: his interest in Italy tends to be historically polarized on the age of the Renaissance. It was the address that was soon to prevail. While in Bonstetten’s Voyage sur la scène des dix derniers livres de l’Enéide the poetry of the Roman Campagna shines through for the first time, gray and sad, through the essays of erudition and the propinations of humanitarian pathos, already the Corinne of Madame de Staël presents an image of Italy which was substantially born from an experience of Renaissance art and Italian poetry from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, seen in the light of early Germanic romanticism. Almost at the same time, Sismondi began to evoke, in concrete substance, History of the Italian republics (I, 1807); and the friend of Manzoni, editor of Tasso and Ariosto, biographer of Lelio Socino – JK von Orelli (v.) – specified, in the footsteps of Carlo de ‘Rosmini, the importance of the educational thought of the fifteenth century in Vittorino da Feltre oder die Annäherung zur idealen Pädagogik im fünfzehnten Jahrhundert (1812). Thirty years later the architect-poet Johann Georg Müller, studying the architectural history of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, resulted in a façade project – the failure of which was the drama of his life until his early death – and Filippo Brunelleschi drew inspiration for an unfinished short story in verse. In 1856 Francesco De Sanctis began his lessons in Italian literature in Zurich. And it is within this climate of “spiritual contiguity” and “customary continuity” with Italian culture that the many streams of the so varied history of the Renaissance idea came to merge into a unified vision, with that of Kultur der Renaissance (1860) by Jacob Burckhardt who, in the inexhaustibility of his lived wealth of historical experiences and in the colorful suggestiveness of his dramatic evocation power, constituted one of the great events of modern European culture. But how particularly close and similar the Swiss spirit felt to it, is shown by the fact that precisely from Switzerland arose the poet who, more than any other in the modern age, found the liberating force of his genius in the experience of Renaissance art.: CF Meyer: who not only evoked moments in Italian history in a warm style of color and monumental composition, which refers to the traditions of Italian figurative art, but, moving from the heavy sense of death and the austere moral severity of his Calvinist conscience, he sensed in the Renaissance, beyond Burckhardt himself, a unitary state of mind in which all contrasts merge into a mixture of good and evil, according to the nature of man and the eternal destiny of life. And it was again in the cultural atmosphere of Switzerland that F. Nietzsche rose to his “Dionysian vision of the Renaissance”.
It was a moment of great spiritual history for Switzerland. And its resonance in literature was, of course, immediate and lasting: such that it extends from A. Frey and H. Federer to some of the young contemporary writers, and also the poet of Arnaldo da Brescia and of the Muse of Aretino, who always moved in his art from a cultural experience even when he raised himself to his most poetic naivety as in Der Heilige und die Tiere: JV Widmann. In French Switzerland itself, where M. Monnier had accompanied the Italian Risorgimento with the open sympathy of his L’Italie est elle la terre des Morts?, his son F. Monnier was pleased to linger, with his impressionistic prose, in Venetian evocations and visions of the fifteenth century. And it is again through an experience of “classic Italian art” that H. Wölfflin has come to identify, by contrast, and to reveal to the German conscience, the special characteristics of his own style traditions and art trends.