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The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Centuryby Peter Watson
Synopses & Reviews
Peter Watson's virtuoso sweep through modern German thought and culture, from 1750 to the present day, will challenge and confound both the stereotypes the world has of Germany and those that Germany has of itself.
From the end of the Baroque era and the death of Bach to the rise of Hitler in 1933, Germany was transformed from a poor relation among Western nations into a dominant intellectual and cultural force—more creative and influential than France, Britain, Italy, Holland, and the United States. In the early decades of the twentieth century, German artists, writers, scholars, philosophers, scientists, and engineers were leading their freshly unified country to new and unimagined heights. By 1933, Germans had won more Nobel Prizes than any other nationals, and more than the British and Americans combined. Yet this remarkable genius was cut down in its prime by Adolf Hitler and his disastrous Third Reich—a brutal legacy that has overshadowed the nation's achievements ever since.
How did the Germans transform their country so as to achieve such pre-eminence? In this absorbing cultural and intellectual history, Peter Watson goes back through time to explore the origins of the German genius, and he explains how and why it flourished, how it shaped our lives, and, most important, how it continues to influence our world. As he convincingly demonstrates, it was German thinking—from Beethoven and Kant to Diesel and Nietzsche, from Goethe and Wagner to Mendel and Planck, from Hegel and Marx to Freud and Schoenberg—that was paramount in the creation of the modern West. Moreover, despite World War II, figures such as Joseph Beuys, JÜrgen Habermas, and Joseph Ratzinger ensure that the German genius still resonates intellectually today.
Philosemitism, as Alan T. Levenson explains, is and#8220;any pro-Jewish or pro-Judaic utterance or act.and#8221; The German term for this phenomenon appeared in the language at roughly the same time as its more famous counterpart, antisemitism, and its emergence signifies an important, often neglected aspect of German-Jewish encounters. Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism is the first assessment of the non-Jewish defense of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness from the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 until the ascent of the Nazis in 1932, when befriending Jews became a crime.
Levenson takes an interdisciplinary look at fiction, private correspondence, and published works defending Jews and Judaism in early twentieth-century Germany. He reappraises the missionary Protestant defense of Judaism and advocacy of Jewry by members of the German peace movement. Literary analysis of popular novels with positive Jewish characters and exploration of the reception of Herzlian Zionism further illuminate this often overlooked aspect of German-Jewish history.
Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism reveals the dynamic process by which a generally despised minority attracts defenders and supporters. It demonstrates that there was sympathy for Jews and Judaism in Imperial and Weimar Germany, although its effectiveness was limited by the values of a bygone era and scattered across the political and social spectrum.
Levensonand#8217;s new afterword vividly surveys the past decade of philosemitism studies, and in a reading of Die Weltband#252;hne, Weimar Germanyand#8217;s most celebrated leftwing intellectual journal, he justifies the widely contested term of philosemitism.and#160;
The German Genius is a virtuoso cultural history of German ideas and influence, from 1750 to the present day, by acclaimed historian Peter Watson (Making of the Modern Mind, Ideas). From Bach, Goethe, and Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein, from the arts and humanities to science and philosophy, The German Genius is a lively and accessible review of over 250 years of German intellectual history. In the process, it explains the devastating effects of World War II, which transformed a vibrant and brilliantly artistic culture into a vehicle of warfare and destruction, and it shows how the German culture advanced in the wars aftermath.
About the Author
Peter Watson has been a senioreditor at the London Sunday Times, a New York correspondentof the London Times, a columnist for theLondon Observer, and a contributor to the New YorkTimes. He has published three exposés on the world ofart and antiquities, and is the author of several booksof cultural and intellectual history. From 1997 to 2007he was a research associate at the McDonald Institutefor Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.He lives in London.
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