Karoline von Günderrode

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Karoline von Günderrode, c. 1800, by an anonymous painter; Historical Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Karoline Friederike Louise Maximiliane von Günderrode (11 February 1780 – 26 July 1806) was a German Romantic poet, born in Karlsruhe.

Von Günderrode, the oldest of six siblings, came from a poor but aristocratic family. In 1797 she entered a residence for noblewomen in Frankfurt, an institution in which poor unmarried aristocratic ladies were cared for and could live respectably while still keeping an eye out for a suitable marriage partner.

Von Günderrode was unable to come to terms with the prescribed feminine roles. In a letter to Kunigunde von Brentano (de) she writes: "I've often had the unfeminine desire to throw myself into the wild chaos of battle and die. Why didn't I turn out to be a man! I have no feeling for feminine virtues, for a woman's happiness. Only that which is wild, great, shining appeals to me. There is an unfortunate but unalterable imbalance in my soul; and it will and must remain so, since I am a woman and have desires like a man without a man's strength. That's why I'm so vacillating and so out of harmony with myself…." Karoline suffered from a nervously induced melancholy and had an unpredictable temperament that alienated some.

While attending a social event, von Günderrode met Friedrich Carl von Savigny and fell in love. Sometime later von Günderrode reached the point where she expected a marriage proposal. Savigny, on the other hand decided to marry a less intellectual friend of Karoline von Günderrode: Kunigunde von Brentano.

After Savigny's betrayal, von Günderrode worked on her art. She wanted her art to unite life and writing. She wrote works with strong heroic women in the central role, such as Hildegun und Nikator and Mora. Through her writing she criticized the ideals of the bourgeois society at the time and its traditional gender roles.

In 1804 von Günderrode met the philologist and archeologist Georg Friedrich Creuzer. Although he was married, Creuzer and von Günderrode developed a relationship. Creuzer asked his wife for a divorce, which she agreed to, although Creuzer suffered depression and anxiety from the public scandal resulting from his divorce and relationship with von Günderrode. Creuzer sought advice from his friends and colleagues. They suggested that he forget von Günderrode because she would never be a suitable wife.

Under the stress and anxiety from the scandal Creuzer became ill. Von Günderrode believed that Creuzer was not going to survive, and decided that she wanted to die with Creuzer, so she killed herself with a dagger on the banks of the river Rhine at Winkel. Creuzer recovered from his illness.[1]

Von Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist were the two central characters in Kein Ort. Nirgends, a novel by Christa Wolf published in 1979. Kein Ort. Nirgends recounts a fictional meeting between von Günderrode and von Kleist in which the two escape the empty chatter of a tea party by taking a longer walk. Von Kleist also ended his life by suicide.


  • Poems and Fantasies (Gedichte und Phantasien, 1804); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • Poetic Fragments (Poetische Fragmente, 1805)
  • Udohla (1805)
  • Magic and Fate (Magie und Schicksal, 1805)
  • Story of a Brahmin (Geschichte eines Braminen, 1805); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • Nikator (1806); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • The Youth who sought the greatest beauty (Der Juengling der das Schoenste sucht, 1806)
  • Melete (1806)


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