Religious Conversions in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Clemens Brentano, Georg Büchner, and Heinrich Heine
Beesley, Lisa Joann
The early nineteenth century was a time of religious conversion in Germany, marked by a shift away from publicly practiced religion and toward a private, individualized form of spirituality. The conversions of Clemens Brentano, Georg Büchner, and Heinrich Heine provide case studies of very different kinds of religious conversion: religious intensification (Brentano), deconversion or loss of faith (Büchner), and repeated religious switching that leads to creative syncretism (Heine). This dissertation adds the perspective of literary analysis to the previously available studies of conversion in the fields of sociology, theology, and history by demonstrating how the conversions of Brentano, Büchner, and Heine are manifested in the aesthetics of their literary works. It traces the outcomes of their religious transformations that are evident in their evolving identities as authors and in their modes of self-expression, revealing ultimately that transformation, and more specifically conversion, is fundamental to the human poetic experience.