Radical Reformation and the Anticipation of Modernism in Jacob Boehme

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The Nobel Prize-winning postwar German author Günter Grass once wrote a novel that re-imagined the seminal postwar German writers’ conference Group 47. Instead of 1947, his Meeting at Telgte takes place at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. The parallel suggests that thinking people in either era were shipwrecked by history: they were forced to recover a lost culture and restore a language debased by ideological or confessional propaganda. As a roman à clef , Grass’s Meeting requires Baroque counterparts for the Modernists and Realists of his own period. Who could stand in for Franz Kafka as the guiding light of a resurgent German Modernism? In Grass’s novel, it is Jacob Boehme who inspires the Baroque Modernists.


This chapter was originally published as “Radical Reformation and the Anticipation of Modernism in Jacob Boehme,” An Introduction to Jacob Boehme, ed. Ariel Hessayon and Sarah Apetrei (New York, London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 38-56 (19 pages).