In the 1830s, a group of Central European authors started to criticize the Romantic cultural style. They accused its adherents of using aesthetic theories to mask and apologize for political, social, and economic oppression. In 1835, authorities in the German Confederation formally banned the writings of these authors, known collectively as "Young Germany.” The group’s most famous representative, the poet and literary critic Heinrich Heine (1796-1856), was already living in exile in Paris at the time. In The Romantic School, which was published the following year, Heine told his French audience why “Young Germany” was critical of the Romantics, but he also praised their aspirations.
Already implicit in the writings of “Young Germany” was the call for a more realistic art – an art that strove to portray life as it actually was, not as it should be according to various ideals. Berthold Auerbach (1812-82) and Gustav Freytag (1816-95) were two of the leading Realist novelists of the mid-nineteenth century. In the preface to Village Tales (1844), a collection of short stories, Auerbach wrote that his intention had been to write a realistic, not an idealized, account of peasant life in southwest Germany. In an 1853 review of various novels published in his literary journal Die Grenzboten (The Border Messengers), Freytag presented a program for a realist literature.