Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
The Novel and Hegel's Philosophy of Literature
Hegel's philosophy of literature, in the Aesthetics and other texts, gives no extended discussion of the novel. Hegel's predecessor Friedrich Schlegel had produced a philosophy of literature with a central position for the novel. Schlegel's discussion of the novel is based on a view of Irony which allows the novel to be the fusion of poetry and philosophy. Hegel retained a place for art, including poetry, below that of philosophy. The Ironic conception of the novel has themes, which also appear in Hegel, of the unity of opposites. However, for Hegel Irony does not allow the unity of artistic form and does not allow art to be guided by law and science. Therefore Hegel's philosophy of literature owes much to Schlegel but needs to attack Irony and minimise the role of the novel. Irony is criticised as a purely negative position of a 'beautiful soul', which cannot act and in its absolutely subjective resistance to evil in the world becomes evil itself. Hegel gives great importance to Epic which foreshadows the emergence of philosophy in its unity, but it is a unity based on conflicting individuality and lawlessness. In the modern world Heroic lawlessness can only be approached as nostalgia, the novel cannot integrate individuality and law, only religion and philosophy above aesthetics, including the novel.