The romantic outlaw narrative
Focusing on five German works of the Romantic Period, this study offers a glimpse into the nature of Romantic outlaw narrative and its place in literary history. Friedrich Schiller's Die Rauber (1781), serving as a fountainhead of the Romantic treatment of the outlaw, is discussed in the context of Kantian ethics. Several other works by Schiller illustrate his interest in criminality, particularly his programmatic treatment of the outlaw in "Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre"; (1786) and his subtle and tangential treatment in Wilhelm Tell (1804). C. A. Vulpius's Rinaldo Rinaldini (1798), a best-selling novel and potent text for exploration of the outlaw theme, represents German Robber Romanticism (Rauberromantik). In Heinrich von Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas (1808), we see the deflation of the outlaw hero and the beginnings of a transition to other kinds of criminal narrative. The portrayal of the outlaw in Romanticism draws on earlier elements of criminal narrative, but the intensity, variety, and complexity of treatments represents a new phenomenon. The portrayal of inner humanity of the criminal, the tribute given to the melancholy outlaw, and the importance of nature in both the inner and outer existence of the outlaw make the Romantic outlaw narrative unique. My contribution to the existing critical literature is a concentrated effort tying the canonical German outlaw narratives with the less canonical and providing a framework for distinguishing Romantic outlaw narrative from other criminal narratives.