Dead crab. Or maybe it's sleeping. Little Howrah Beach. January 2012.
Theme Thursday again and our minds are firmly fixed on the concept of STORM. Well, I should really say that my little mind is actually geared towards STURM (und Drang).
Typically, people have translated STURM und Drang as "STORM and Stress" and use it to describe the proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music that occurred in the late-eighteenth century. Ever the dissenter, I prefer the less frequent translation of "STORM and Urge". The implications of the difference is not a minor one.
STURM und Drang was characterised by the liberation of individual subjectivity and the embrace of spectacular extremes of emotion – i.e. ladies fainting, men challenging each other to duels/ love affairs/ adventures. This free expression emerged largely in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and its associated aesthetic movements.
An example, previously to STURM und Drang I might have been strolling on the beach and said something to the effect of
Schau mal, ein toter Krebs .... [Oh look, a dead crab...]
STURM und Drang comes along and I'm walking down the same beach and see the same dead crab and suddenly I'm collapsing to my knees, weeping, slapping my friend for looking at me oddly, threatening suicide and then going home and forcing myself onto my twelve-year old cousin.
It was surely an exciting time to be around.
Sure, the German romantics were an odd mob, but there is something in the idea that the Enlightenment ideals of rationalism, empiricism, and universalism had failed to adequately capture the human experience. Humans are much more than ‘rational beings’ as evident by their emotional extremes and the inherent impurity of personal motivations.
Of course, there is a broader socio-political point to be made about the need for greater human freedom and more respect for the natural world, but that’s not nearly as exciting as all the love affairs and dueling…..