Sturm und Drang

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Sturm und Drang

(shto͝orm o͝ont dräng) or

Storm and Stress,

movement in German literature that flourished from c.1770 to c.1784. It takes its name from a play by F. M. von Klinger, Wirrwarr; oder, Sturm und Drang (1776). The ideas of Rousseau were a major stimulus of the movement, but it evolved more immediately from the influence of Herder, Lessing, and others. With Sturm und Drang, German authors became cultural leaders of Europe, writing literature that was revolutionary in its stress on subjectivity and on the unease of man in contemporary society. The movement was distinguished also by the intensity with which it developed the theme of youthful genius in rebellion against accepted standards, by its enthusiasm for nature, and by its rejection of the rules of 18th-century neoclassical style. The great figure of the movement was Goethe, who wrote its first major drama, Götz von Berlichingen (1773), and its most sensational and representative novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Other writers of importance were Klopstock, J. M. R. Lenz, and Friedrich Müller. The last major figure was Schiller, whose Die Räuber and other early plays were also a prelude to romanticism.


See studies by R. Pascal (1953, repr. 1967) and M. O. Kirsten (1969).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sturm Und Drang


a literary movement in Germany in the 1770’s, which received its name from F. M. von Klinger’s drama of the same name. The work of the Sturm und Drang writers reflected the growth of antifeudal attitudes and is filled with the spirit of rebellious sedition (J. W. von Goethe, von Klinger, J. A. Leisewitz, J. M. R. Lenz, H. L. Wagner, G. A. Bürger, C. F. D. Schubart, and J. H. Voss). This movement, which owes a great deal to the ideas of Rousseau, declared a war on aristocratic culture.

In opposition to classicism with its dogmatic principles, as well as to rococo affectation, the “stormy” geniuses advanced the idea of a “characteristic art” that would be original in all its manifestations; they required of literature that it depict vivid and strong passions and characters unbroken by the despotic regime. The main field of creativity of the Sturm und Drang writers was the drama. They sought to establish a militant theater for a third layer of society that would actively influence social life, as well as a new style of drama; the chief characteristics of this style were great emotional tension and lyricism. Having made the inner world of man a subject for artistic representation, they worked out new techniques of individualizing characters and created a lyrically colorful language full of pathos and imagery. The development of Sturm und Drang aesthetics was decisively influenced by J. G. von Herder’s ideas on the national distinctiveness of art and its popular roots and on the role of fantasy and emotionalism. Sturm und Drang was a new phase in the development of the German and European Enlightenment. Continuing in the democratic traditions of G. E. Lessing under different conditions and proceeding from the theory of D. Diderot and L. S. Mercier, the “stormy” geniuses promoted the rise of national consciousness, played a prominent role in the formation of a national German literature, and opened to it the living element of the creativity of the people, thereby enriching it with a new democratic content and new artistic means. Although the political weakness of the German burghers led to a crisis for Sturm und Drang as early as the second half of the 1770’s, in the 1780’s the rebellious attitudes of the “stormy” geniuses came to life again with renewed vigor in the tragedies of the young F. von Schiller, which acquired a clearly political orientation.


Sturm und Drang: Ein Lesebuch fur unsere Zeit. Weimar, 1957.

Sturm und Drang: Dramatische Schriften, vols. 1-2. Berlin-Heidelberg, 1959-60.

In Russian translation:

In Khrestomatiia po zapadnoevropeiskoi literatury, [vol. 3.] Moscow, 1938. Pages 544-604.


Sil’man, T. “Dramaturgiia epokhi ‘Buri i natiska.’” In Rannii burzhuaznyi realizm. Leningrad, 1936. (A collection of articles.)
Libinzon, Z. E. “Literaturno-esteticheskie vzgliady pisatelei perioda ‘Buri i natiska.’” Uch. zap. Gor’kovskogo ped. in-ta, 1958, vol. 23.
Neustroev, V. P. Nemetskaia literatura epokhi Prosveshcheniia. Moscow, 1958.
Braemer, E. Goethes Prometheus und die Grundposition des Sturm und Drang. Weimar, 1959.


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