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This book is a well documented eulogy of the literature, art, music and philosophy of the 19th century, which served to free the individual from the constraints of Christianity and the rationalism of the enlightenment. Nietzsche, who rejected the past, ignored the future and hymuel the joy of pure being, was the epitome. Peckham, a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania pays tribute to him in this title to his book. In the opening chapters, which are in the nature of an apology for his sweeping generalizations, Peckham explains how impossible it is for the cultural historian of today to aspire true ""knowledge"". He is attempting primarily to show certain strands of 19th century thought. Those he chooses to illustrate his thesis, the radical breaks from a restrictive past to the development of the free conscious self, begin with Goethe and include Byron, tendhal, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Kant: among painters Casper David Friedrish: among musicians, Beethoven and Berlioz. In the later half of the century Delarcroix and Turner, Wagner and Bruckner, Flaubert, Balzac, Baudelaire, Browning, Tennyson, Swinburne, Wilde and Mallarme, and finally Cezanne, Gauguin and Debussy are the artists who ""created an aesthetic world which the Philistine cannot enter without ceasing to be a Philistine."" There are brilliant pen pictures of these men and the author has presented a strong, provocative argument, but one which at times seems a little dated. Who in the world now speaks of Philistines? This is the era of the quest for discipline, whether Catholic or Zen, and Nietzsche's anarchic world passed away with the two world wars. If not a complete cultural picture, it is an interesting synthesis of the past century.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1962
Publisher: Braziller