Attempts to assign a particular designation of an era to the work of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff again and again shown themselves to be problematic. The most varied catchwords have been named; talk is of Biedermeier, Restoration, Romanticism, also of Vormärz, Realism or even Naturalism. The difficulty of resolving upon any unequivocal assignment results, on the one hand, from the stratification of the Droste work, on the other, from the dubiousness of definitions of eras. Where Biedermeier, Romanticism and Realism refer primarily to literary history, the term Restoration is understood in the context of historical-political assignment. The case with "Vormärz" is rather more ambivalent. This designation stands both for a literature historical phase and for a political-historical phase. The historical phase between 1815 and 1848 is, generally speaking, designated as the time of Restoration. It does not consist only of restoration aspirations, but is equally marked by liberal and revolutionary tendencies. The structures of the eras will be appropriately worked out only from the convergence and the divergence of all the various forces and schools of thought. The term era is characterised by the dialectics of revolution and restoration. The term "Biedermeier" stands for the cultural historical development which corresponds to the process of restoration. In the literary context, Biedermeier, as a designation for an era between the Classical period and Realism comprises the years from 1815 to 1848. However, it is also seen by some as a development phase of Romanticism. After 1830, the time of the French June Revolution, a pause in the continuum of the era is revealed. The ever more robustly emergent pre-revolutionary tendencies of the subsequent years are designated as "Vormärz" both in the political and also the literary context. During this period, firmly politically articulate literature with liberal and revolutionary conten t was gaining greater influence (Heine, Börne, Gutzkow, Freiligrath, Grabbe, et al) for the writers’ group established in 1830, commonly named "Junges Deutschland".
As ever, uncritical assigning of die Droste to the Biedermeier era is widespread even today, and it also used to be applied to other domains of life, such as dress, furnishing and arts and crafts. The notions of frankness, restfulness and bourgeois narrow-mindeness – apart from that, a tendency towards sentimentality and effusiveness as well as a love of the idyllic are associated with the Biedermeier period.
After the chaos of the Napoleonic wars, people were glad of the restitution of the old conditions into which, tired of fighting, one looked forward to settling. As a slogan for a literature movement during the period 1815 to 1848, Biedermeier stands for poetical works of an a-political, sooner private, closely-bound-to-the-soil, melancholic-contemplative style which leaned towards Nature and the everyday world and turned away from social reality. Like die Droste, who has often been (mis)interpreted as a sentimental vernacular poet, others, such as Eduard Mörike, Adalbert Stifter and Franz Grillparzer have been ranked among this movement, too. However, in the case of die Droste, such a one-sided assignment is more than ever questionable. Today, the "modern" aspects of her work are increasingly being emphasised and intensely realistic, indeed, even naturalistic and expressionistic features in her style of writing pointed out. Not only do backgrounds full of conflict hide behind harmonic surfaces in the foreground, but deep insecurity and threat, breaks and fissures, decay and the morbid in her texts often confront the reader. In many of her texts, often arising from a regional context, die Droste breaks with the literature of her time. Her writing is scarcely that of the one-day-or-another affirmative, Biedermeier-idyllic type that enjoyed a boom in thode days. She is not concerned with glorifying the homeland, or for popular representations of morals and customs – she thematises the endangerment of, the threat to and loss of the homeland. In her portrayals of Nature she brings into view the ambiguous, the immanently evil, the threat to the idyll, the destruction and decomposition. We find no clichés and ready-made judgements, rather, individual observations and experiences which are fed from her poetological programme of a 'true to nature' re-creation of reality. And even when die Droste conjures up the putative safe and sound world of the past, then, above all, she does so to hold up a mirror to the present and never without an understanding of the irreversibilty of historical development.