Magnificent rebels The first Romantics and the invention of the self

Andrea Wulf

Book - 2022

"From the best-selling author of The Invention of Nature comes an exhilarating story about a remarkable group of young rebels-poets, novelists, philosophers-who, through their epic quarrels, passionate love stories, heartbreaking grief, and radical ideas launched Romanticism onto the world stage, inspiring some of the greatest thinkers of the time. When did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did we ...first ask the question, How can I be free? It all began in a quiet university town in Germany in the 1790s, when a group of playwrights, poets, and writers put the self at center stage in their thinking, their writing, and their lives. This brilliant circle included the famous poets Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; the contentious Schlegel brothers; and, in a wonderful cameo, Alexander von Humboldt. And at the heart of this group was the formidable Caroline Schlegel, who sparked their dazzling conversations about the self, nature, identity, and freedom. The French revolutionaries may have changed the political landscape of Europe, but the young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that transformed our world forever. We are still empowered by their daring leap into the self, and by their radical notions of the creative potential of the individual, the highest aspirations of art and science, the unity of nature, and the true meaning of freedom. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfillment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our responsibilities toward our community and future generations. At the heart of this inspiring book is the extremely modern tension between the dangers of selfishness and the thrilling possibilities of free will"--

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830.9006/Wulf
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2nd Floor New Shelf 830.9006/Wulf (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 13, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2022.
Edition
First American edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi book"
Physical Description
xi, 494 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 453-471) and index.
ISBN
9780525657118
0525657118
9781984897992
1984897993
Main Author
Andrea Wulf (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Wulf's quest "to understand why we are who we are" inspired her highly awarded, best-selling The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World (2015), which led her to the small German university town of Jena. There, in the 1790s, in the shuddering aftermath of the French Revolution as France and Germany were at war, an extraordinary group of radical thinkers and poets questioned the Enlightenment's emphasis on reason and considered the significance of the individual. Philosopher Fichte's emphasis on the primacy of the self inspired the Jena Set to elevate the imagination, define nature as a living "interconnected whole," assert that art is as important for navigating life as science, transform literature, and claim personal freedom. Wulf anchors every evolving aspect of this new paradigm to exceptionally well-informed and vital profiles of the "First Romantics," including the protean Goethe, poets Schiller and Novalis, the literary-critic Schlegel brothers, the von Humboldt brothers (Wilhelm a linguist and diplomat), and philosopher Schelling, chronicling their complex personalities, accomplishments, "intellectual symbiosis," and often-contentious relationships within remarkably detailed settings and social and cultural contexts. Wulf is particularly attuned to Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, a "writer, translator, literary critic and muse" of exceptional magnetism and intellectual power. An extensively researched, gorgeously written, vibrant, multifaceted, and richly elucidative portrait of a group that "changed our world." Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Author of The Invention of Nature, a New York Times best seller that grabbed 15 literary awards worldwide, Wulf looks back at the German poets, philosophers, and intellectuals who launched Romanticism (think Goethe, Schiller, and Hegel, not to mention the influential Caroline Schlegel) to understand our absorption with the self today. Not just for the philosophizing set. Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Historian Wulf (The Invention of Nature) delivers an engrossing group biography of the late-18th-century German intellectuals whose "obsession with the free self" initiated the Romantic movement and led to the modern conception of self-determination. The group, which came together in the German university town of Jena, included poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who promulgated the idea of the Ich, or self, as the center of free will; Friedrich Schiller, whose breakout play, The Robbers, "showed how a good person could become a criminal as a result of experiencing injustice"; and philosopher Friedrich Schelling, who promoted "being in nature" as a means to self-discovery. Known as the Young Romantics, their lives and work embodied the "wild, raw, mysterious, chaotic, and alive," according to group member August Wilhelm Schelling. Wulf pays particular attention to the cohort's oft-overlooked female members, including Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, a free-spirited intellectual with a "core of steel" whose "refus to be restricted by the role that society had intended for women" landed her in prison, among other controversies. Wulf also delves into the influence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars on the group and explains heady philosophical concepts in clear prose ("Is the tree that I'm seeing in my garden the tree-as-it-appears-to-us or the tree-in-itself?"). The result is a colorful and page-turning intellectual history. (Sept.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

In 1790s Germany, an extraordinary group of young rebels—poets, novelists and philosophers—incited a revolution of the mind that launched Romanticism, transforming our world forever, in this inspiring book that explores the extremely modern tension between the dangers of selfishness and the thrilling possibilities of free will. Illustrations. Maps.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"From the best-selling author of The Invention of Nature comes an exhilarating story about a remarkable group of young rebels-poets, novelists, philosophers-who, through their epic quarrels, passionate love stories, heartbreaking grief, and radical ideaslaunched Romanticism onto the world stage, inspiring some of the greatest thinkers of the time. When did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did we first ask the question, How can I be free? It all began in a quiet university town in Germany in the 1790s, when a group of playwrights, poets, and writers put the self at center stage in their thinking, their writing, and their lives. This brilliant circle included the famous poets Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; the contentious Schlegel brothers; and, in a wonderful cameo, Alexander von Humboldt. And at the heart of this group was the formidable Caroline Schlegel, who sparked their dazzling conversations about the self, nature, identity, and freedom. The French revolutionaries may have changed the political landscape of Europe, but the young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that transformed our world forever. We are still empowered by their daring leap into the self, and by their radical notions of the creative potential of the individual, the highest aspirations of art and science, the unity of nature, and the true meaning of freedom. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfillment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our responsibilities toward our community and future generations. At the heart of this inspiring book is the extremely modern tension between the dangers of selfishness and the thrilling possibilities of free will"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From the best-selling author of The Invention of Nature comes an exhilarating story about a remarkable group of young rebels—poets, novelists, philosophers—who, through their epic quarrels, passionate love stories, heartbreaking grief, and radical ideas launched Romanticism onto the world stage, inspiring some of the greatest thinkers of the time."Make[s] the reader feel as if they were in the room with the great personalities of the age, bearing witness to their insights and their vanities and rages.” —Lauren Groff, New York Times best-selling author of MatrixWhen did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did we first ask the question, How can I be free? It all began in a quiet university town in Germany in the 1790s, when a group of playwrights, poets, and writers put the self at center stage in their thinking, their writing, and their lives. This brilliant circle included the famous poets Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; the contentious Schlegel brothers; and, in a wonderful cameo, Alexander von Humboldt. And at the heart of this group was the formidable Caroline Schlegel, who sparked their dazzling conversations about the self, nature, identity, and freedom. The French revolutionaries may have changed the political landscape of Europe, but the young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that transformed our world forever. We are still empowered by their daring leap into the self, and by their radical notions of the creative potential of the individual, the highest aspirations of art and science, the unity of nature, and the true meaning of freedom. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfillment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our responsibilities toward our community and future generations. At the heart of this inspiring book is the extremely modern tension between the dangers of selfishness and the thrilling possibilities of free will.