Literary Landscape by Gerhard Ruiss

First Beginnings


Before the 20th century, parallel intralinguistic developments created a diverse literary landscape in the multi-lingual Habsburg monarchy. Independent media and publishing houses were non-existent at the time.

The most important representatives of German language literature in the Habsburg Monarchy in the first half of the 19th century, Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850), Adalbert Stifter (1805–1868) or Anastasius Grün (1808–1876), hailed from Banat (Romania), Bohemia (Czech Republic) or Ljubljana (Slovenia), and their works were published by German publishers. The ongoing disputes between Austrian playwrights and censorship authorities of the Austrian Metternich regime (1809–1848), sparked the regime's every effort in creating difficulties in performing the plays of Grillparzer, Nestroy et al., following an 1845 petition signed by 90 well-known writers and playwrights against censorship and the restrictions of their work. The petition may also be considered a confident gesture of an early independent approach to literature. This development was preceded by an astonishing act performed by a publisher: with the agreement of the reigning Archduchess of Austria, Maria Theresia (1717–1780), Thomas von Trattner (1717–1798), the biggest “pirate printer” in German-language publishing history, reprinted German classical literature in Vienna in the second half of the 18th century. Intended to serve educational purposes, the classics were published in watered down versions. The censorship of books and media was seamless: publishers had to have a concession and were obliged to submit the works for inspection before their release and imported books were screened. Until far into the 20th century, written literary products were reserved for German publishers, and theatrical literature had its home in Vienna, a city with a great theatrical tradition.