Sturm und Drang

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Abraham van Beijeren, River Landscape (17th century), private collection
Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger in an 1807 etching by Karl August Senff. Klinger's 1776 play Sturm und Drang, first performed in 1777, lent its name to the proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music from the 1760s to 1780s


Borrowed from German Sturm und Drang with the same figurative meaning, from Sturm (storm) + und (and) + Drang (pressure, stress; urge, impulse, longing). The phrase is the title of the play Sturm und Drang (1776) by German dramatist Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger (1752–1831).

The fact that the phrase is often italicized suggests it has not been fully assimilated into English.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʃtəɹm ʊnt ˈdɹaŋ/


Sturm und Drang (uncountable)

  1. A proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music which occurred from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, emphasizing individual subjectivity and the free expression of emotions.
    • 1953, Roy Pascal, “Introduction”, in The German Sturm und Drang, Manchester: Manchester University Press, OCLC 227810, page xvi:
      The best of the Stürmer und Dränger grew out of their Sturm und Drang, and it was necessary to indicate in what ways [Johann Gottfried] Herder and [Johann Wolfgang von] Goethe changed as they grew older. It should be stressed, however, that the very principles which forced them to burst the husk of the Sturm und Drang are in themselves a vital element within the Sturm und Drang.
    • 1985, Larry Vaughan, The Historical Constellation of the Sturm und Drang (American University Studies, Series I (Germanic Languages and Literatures); 38), New York, N.Y.: Peter Lang, →ISBN, page 61:
      [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel's further observation shows the route taken by those who survived their Sturm und Drang and went on to produce more: "Because the sickness is in the essence itself, its isolated manifestations can be repressed [zurückdrängen] and the superficial symptoms suppressed [dämpfen]."
    • 2004, David Hill, “Sturm und Drang”, in Christopher John Murray, editor, Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760–1850, volume 2 (L–Z, Index), New York, N.Y.; London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, →ISBN, pages 1100–1101:
      [page 1100, column 1] The Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) was a literary movement that flourished in Germany in the 1770s and 1780s and represented the protest of a group of young university-educated men against the norms of polite society. [] [page 1101, columns 1 and 2] [T]he Sturm und Drang reflected the growth of modern individualism and the challenge that middle-class ideas of selfhood presented to so-called enlightened absolutism, that is to say, to political and cultural structures that sought legitimacy by assimilating elements of bureaucratic rationalism. [] The Sturm und Drang was nevertheless an important forerunner of Romanticism in its formal experimentalism, its enthusiasm for popular culture and the primitive, its acceptance of the power of unconscious, irrational forces, and above all its concern with individual experience.
    • 2006, Angus [James] Nicholls, Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients, Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House Publishing, →ISBN, page 81:
      It was precisely this reason, science and the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to account for genius in rational terms that allowed the non-rational thinkers who fueled the fires of the Sturm und Drang movement to vivify, and elaborate upon, the ancient Greek notion of genius as a numinous power associated with the Muses and the gods.
    • 2014, Katalin Nun and Jon Stewart, editors, Kierkegaard's Literary Figures and Motifs: Tome I: Agamemnon to Guadalquivir (Kirkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources; 16), Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, →ISBN, page 105:
      The complex figure of Clavigo is therefore a variant on the Sturm and Drang theme of the enemy brothers, which forms the framework for a far older theme: that of Shakespeare's Hamlet who kills Ophelia's brother Valentin. Goethe's play is in fact modeled after Shakespeare's tragedy, and the last act is riddled with references to the cemetery scene from Hamlet. A theme dear to Sturm and Drang is also revisited: fratricide. The period during which Goethe wrote Clavigo was that in which the young Sturm and Drang poets all flocked around the figure of Goethe.
  2. Turmoil; a period of emotional intensity and anxiety.
    • 1945, Bennet Cerf, editor, Laughing Stock: Over Six-hundred Jokes and Anecdotes of Uncertain Vintage, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, OCLC 335819, page 219:
      After six months of sturm and drang she had to let him go.
    • 1966, Peter Paret, “The Last Years of the Old Monarchy”, in Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform, 1807–1815, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, OCLC 251724913, page 73:
      For a time, revolutionary armies tend to be lawless: an absence of rules best expresses their spirit and in the period of their Sturm und Drang enables them to function most effectively.
    • 1998, Ferenc Miszlivetz; Katalin Ertsey, “Hungary: Civil Society in the Post-Socialist World”, in Alison van Rooy, editor, Civil Society and the Aid Industry: The Politics and Promise, London: Earthscan, OCLC ISBN 978-1-85383-553-7; republished as Civil Society and the Aid Industry (Earthscan Library Collection, Aid and Development; 3), London; Stirling, Va.: Earthscan, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84971-042-8, page 78:
      The strongest link to the State, however, occurs with quangos, (quasi-NGOs), and the many umbrella groups that also thrive on State support. Many of the new parties realized after their Sturm und Drang years that they still needed regular contacts with the 'civil' world and that their civilian support base had been seriously eroded.
    • 2007, Arthur Goldwag, “Sturm und Drang”, in -Isms and -Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You've Only Pretended to Understand, New York, N.Y.: Madison Park Press, →ISBN:
      Writing about her famous stepbrother Paul's partnership with John Lennon, Ruth McCartney declared that the two "were meant to meet, meant to create and one was designed to play sturm and drang to the other's yin and yang."
    • 2009, Henry [Arnold] Waxman; Joshua Green, The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works, New York, N.Y.: Twelve, →ISBN:
      House Republicans had an additional worry. For all their Sturm und Drang, few provisions of the "Contract With America" had actually made their way into law. And their leadership had committed a serious tactical error when it shut down the federal government during a November 1995 budget dispute with the White House, a maneuver that backfired when the public blamed the Republicans, rather than Bill Clinton, for the fiasco.
    • 2016 April 26, “Tom Hanks says self-doubt is ‘a high-wire act that we all walk’”, in Fresh Air, NPR[1], archived from the original on June 18, 2016:
      My dad was married to the love of his life – finally – it took him three marriages to get there, but when they landed together, they were so busy having fun and dealing with their own Sturm und Drang that I could've been a tenant who lived downstairs.

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Further reading[edit]


German Wikipedia has an article on:
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  • IPA(key): [ˈʃtʊɐ̯m ʊnt ˈdʁaŋ]


Sturm und Drang m (genitive Sturmes und Dranges or Sturm und Drang, no plural)

  1. (figuratively) A period of turmoil.