Siarhei Biareishyk | The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory
Reconstructing the theories of encounter and individuation among Novalis and his contemporaries affiliated with the Freiberg Mining Academy, this article reconsiders German Romanticism through a Spinozan materialist tradition. Countering the reception of Novalis as a poet and an idealist philosopher of subjectivity belonging to Jena Romanticism, I advance an alternative constellation of his interlocutors that comprises an intellectual tendency around 1800, herein referred to as Freiberg Romanticism. This tradition is characterized by a materialist approach to the questions on forms of life, complexity, and power in the processes of emergence and becoming. In their respective theories of individuation, I show how Novalis, Johann Ritter, and Franz Baader share Spinoza’s materialist ontology of immanence and transindividuality offered in recent interpretations of Spinoza in continental philosophy. In his engagement with Ritter’s theory of Galvanism, Novalis develops a Spinozan logic of integration of individuals in nature. In his appropriation of Baader’s theory of elementary physiology, Novalis articulates the immanent causality in the determination of individuals. Interrogating Novalis’s, Ritter’s, and Baader’s respective epistemo-ontologies through Spinoza’s thought, this article demarcates the limits of Freiberg Romanticism and its potential lapses into animism and vitalism. While Spinoza contributes a strong concept of substance to Freiberg Romanticism, regulating and problematizing the equivocations of Novalis and his contemporaries, Novalis contributes to the Spinozan tradition a strong concept of encounter.