Romantic cosmopolitanism: Novalis's “christianity or europe”

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2):pp. 269-284 (2008)
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German Romanticism is commonly associated with nationalism rather than cosmopolitanism. Against this standard picture, I argue that the early German romantic author, Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772–1801) holds a decidedly cosmopolitan view. Novalis’s essay “Christianity or Europe” has been the subject of much dispute and puzzlement ever since he presented it to the Jena romantic circle in the fall of 1799. On the basis of an account of the philosophical background of Novalis’s romanticism, I show that the image of the Middle Ages sketched in “Christianity or Europe” plays a symbolic role and should not be taken as a literal description of the historical past or as a blueprint for the future. Rather, the romantic picture of medieval Europe serves to evoke poetically the ideal of a cosmopolitan re-unification of humanity.
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