Elemental Connections: Concinnity's Romantic Aftermath
This essay considers the conceptual aftermath of concinnitas—roughly, an agreeable interplay of parts—from the point of view of Early German Romanticism. In the Renaissance, concinnitas plays a central role in Leon Battista Alberti's architectural writings due to its ability to masterfully connect and compose other essential elements, such as number, outline, and position. At that time, concinnitas also served other discourses beyond architecture, including rhetoric and music, where the concept of harmony is closely linked to concinnitas. From the perspective of German Romantic aesthetics, it seems logical that such a concept, with its ability to move easily among various aesthetic discourses and to navigate between parts and the whole, would be of particular interest. This essay argues that the Romantic concepts of Ebenmaß and Architektonik offer the most logical connections to Alberti's theory of concinnity. With reference to Novalis's encyclopedia project and his novel, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, I suggest that reflection on concinnity has something special to offer a discussion of Romantic elements: a heightened awareness of materiality in the midst of conceptual abstractions. As a guiding concept that becomes embodied in various ways in Romantic thinking, concinnity might also become a valuable heuristic tool for Romanticist scholars.