Symbolism as a direction is reflected in many cultural spheres, including literature. Most of all, it was widespread at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly in Europe and Russia.
Philosophical foundations of poetic symbolism
It must be said that initially symbolism originated precisely in literature, after which it spread to other spheres of culture. The work of the Symbolist poets reflected the philosophical and aesthetic principles described by Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and other representatives of the classical German philosophical school. The work of Richard Wagner also significantly influenced the representatives of poetic symbolism. Nevertheless, the Russian symbolist poets in theoretical and philosophical foundations did not always rely on the same thing. For example, Valery Bryusov presented symbolism exclusively as an artistic direction, while Dmitry Merezhkovsky relied on Christian teaching in symbolism. Vyacheslav Ivanov was looking for the foundations of the theory and philosophy of symbolism in ancient culture, passed through the prism of Nietzsche's philosophy. One of the brightest representatives of Russian poetic symbolism, Andrei Bely, drew his poetry from the philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov, Nietzsche and Kant.
Resistance to realism
Symbolist poets hated the idea of following the general masses, narrowly focused and completely closed in the material world. No, on the contrary, they strove for freedom from the material world, they thought much deeper and broader. Representatives of poetic symbolism, proceeding from these aspirations, sharply opposed their work to the work of realist poets. They believed that they looked too superficially at the world and all the things in it, while the Symbolists themselves have a unique ability to penetrate the essence of these things, which means they understand the world better. Some representatives of symbolism in literature even tried to win over such realists as Pushkin and Gogol to their side. Valery Bryusov's statement remarkably illustrates the position of all Symbolists: "… Art is the comprehension of the world by other, not rational ways." He also believed that the works of the Symbolists are keys that allow you to unlock the door of freedom of the spirit.
Schools of Symbolism
Despite the fact that symbolism as a direction found its responses both in drama and in prose, it was most vividly reflected in poetry. The poetry of the Symbolists is distinguished by the essence of the questions they pose in their works. This, unlike other areas, is not an urgent worldly problem, but global, philosophical reflections. However, symbolism in literature and, in particular, in poetry, was not everywhere and was the same for everyone. Certain trends, or schools of symbolism, were different. For example, the Symbolists were divided into “senior” and “junior”.