FREUD, JEWS, AND OTHER GERMANS: Master and Victims in Modernist Culture by Peter Gay

FREUD, JEWS, AND OTHER GERMANS: Master and Victims in Modernist Culture

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Peter Gay is that rarity among historians: one who writes exceedingly well, abundantly, with thorough erudition, while never letting an accepted truth lie (in both meanings of the word). In fact, he seldom lifts his pen if not to revise prevailing views of a subject--the Enlightenment, Weimar Germany, modem art. Now he has taken on the dual subject of Imperial Germany and modernism in the arts. The essays collected here, preliminary to a projected three-volume cultural history of Imperial Germany, balance these two themes to upset standard views of them. The opening essay sets the tone by chiding historians for perceiving German history only in the light of Nazi horrors, and modernism only under the aegis of angry revolutionary outsiders. He believes this twin bias turns German history into the story of a mutant, self-destructive society, and modernism into the adventures of a wholly adversary culture. Hence Gay dwells on Freud as proud German, conforming bourgeois, and intellectual pioneer; two other essays examine the place of Jews in Germany, stressing their joyful identification with German culture, especially with Berlin, rather than any anguish of assimilation. And another explains the curious career of Hermann Levi, self-hating Jewish disciple of the megalomaniac, anti-Semitic Richard Wagner. There are also sensitive revisionist essays on the relation to modernism of Brahms and the music critic Eduard Hanslick (burlesqued by Wagner as Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger). Everything here is rich in both substance and style, informing while prompting reconsideration of the history of artists, critics, Jews, and ideas in late 19th-century Germany.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press