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(nōvä`lĭs), pseud. of

Friederich von Hardenberg

(frē`drĭkh fən här`dənbĕrk), 1772–1801, German poet. He studied philosophy under Schiller, Schlegel, and Fichte and was especially influenced by Fichte. He later studied geology. Novalis was one of the great German romantics; his chief work was the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen (1802), unfinished at the time of his early death from tuberculosis. It tells the story of a legendary minnesinger, whose wanderings and search for a "blue flower" became symbols of German romantic poetry. Novalis's grief at the death (1797) of his young love, Sophie von Kühn, found expression in a volume of beautiful and deeply religious lyrics, Hymns to the Night (1800; tr. 1889, 1948). Christendom or Europe (1826, tr. 1844) is an exposition of his Roman Catholicism.


See studies by B. Haywood (1959), J. Neubauer (1971), and J. Neuberger (1980).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(pen name of Georg Friedrich Philipp von Harden-berg). Born May 2, 1772, in Oberwiederstedt, near Mansfeld; died Mar. 25, 1801, in Weissenfels. German early romantic poet and philosopher. Member of the circle of the Jena romantics.

Novalis studied philosophy and jurisprudence at the universities of Jena, Leipzig, and Wittenberg. He later studied mining at Freiberg. Like K. W. F. von Schlegel and F. W. J. von Schell-ing, Novalis was initially influenced by J. G. Fichte’s “science of knowledge” [Wissenschafts-lehre]. However, he transformed the Fichtean subjective dialectic of consciousness into an objectively idealistic dialectic of nature. The main thesis of Novalis’ dialectic was its affirmation of the discrete quality of the world and, at the same time, of the indivisibility of its elemental foundation, owing to which the world is to be understood as a unified whole.

One of Novalis’ concepts was that opposites are two orders of phenomena, one of which acts to signify the other. Hence it is possible to have a universal transition, the ecstatic play of essences and names. This is why Novalis called his philosophy magic idealism. As a microcosm trying to overcome inner fragmentation, man must strive for unity: mind, reason, and fantasy are separate functions of the deeply hidden “I,” inaccessible to the language of words. This concept reveals the influence of the German mystics, especially J. Böhme.

According to Novalis, “I” and the world are subject to final unification as a result of their interpenetration and the individual’s intuitive empathy for an object of knowledge: this is attained most fully by the poet in the creative act. Art is the highest sphere of spiritual activity that makes possible the fusion of science, religion, and philosophy. This was what Novalis strove for in his work, particularly when he developed the poetic and philosophical genre of the fragment.

Novalis’ cycle of lyrical poems Hymns to the Night (published in the journal Athenäum, 1800) allegorically affirms infinite nonbeing to be superior to finite life. In Sacred Songs, Novalis provided a pietistic interpretation of texts from the Scriptures; this work has many affinities with the ideas of F. Schleier-macher. Novalis’ unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen (1802; Russian translation, 1914) begins as a traditional didactic novel but develops into a mythological work on a fabulous and cosmic scale.

In his search for an ideal society, Novalis turned to the Middle Ages, in which he saw the unity of spiritual culture, a strict hierarchy of social organizations, the hegemony of the clergy, and “concern” for the individual. Novalis regarded medieval Europe as the prototype of the ideal state of the future in contrast to the bourgeois society of his own time (Christendom or Europe, 1799; published 1826).


Schriften, vols. 1–4. 2nd ed. Stuttgart-Munich, 1960–65.
In Russian translation:
Fragmenty. Moscow, 1914.
“Stikhotvoreniia.” Apollon, 1910, no. 7.
“Ucheniki v Saise.” In Nemetskaia romanticheskaia povest’, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.


Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1966. Pages 139–48.
Berkovskii, N. Ia. Romantizm v Germanii. Leningrad, 1973.
Haering, T. Novalis als Philosoph. Stuttgart, 1954.
Beheim-Schwarzbach, M. Novalis, 2nd ed. Hamburg, 1948.
Ritter, H. Der unbekannte Novalis. Göttingen, 1967.
Malsch, W. Europa: Poetische Rede des Novalis. Stuttgart, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


real name Friedrich von Hardenberg. 1772--1801, German romantic poet. His works include the mystical Hymnen an die Nacht (1797; published 1800) and Geistliche Lieder (1799)
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