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Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (1968)

Tekijä: Peter Gay

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

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652534,983 (3.52)8
First published in 1968, Weimar Culture is one of the masterworks of Peter Gay's distinguished career. A study of German culture between the two wars, the book brilliantly traces the rise of the artistic, literary, and musical culture that bloomed ever so briefly in the 1920s amid the chaos of Germany's tenuous post-World War I democracy, and crashed violently in the wake of Hitler's rise to power. Despite the ephemeral nature of the Weimar democracy, the influence of its culture was profound and far-reaching, ushering in a modern sensibility in the arts that dominated Western culture for most of the twentieth century. Vivid and eminently readable, Weimar Culture is the finest introduction for the casual reader and historian alike.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 5/5
The Weimar Republic was born from the collapse of one empire and was murdered in the rise of another. In the span between, however, it was the site of one of the most extraordinarily fruitful cultural movements in Western history, one that would spread far beyond the borders of interwar Germany to shape the cultural aesthetics of a century. Peter Gay’s book is an extended essay about this development. Over the course of a half-dozen chapters, he offers a perceptive analysis of German culture in the 1920s, one that assesses the shapes it took and how it reflected the tumultuous events surrounding it.

What Gay describes amounts to an explosion of cultural exploration in the aftermath of the demise of the German empire in 1918. Freed from its oppressive cultural conservatism, many German artists, writers, and designers pushed the avant-garde to new levels of innovation. These efforts were fueled by their criticisms of a society still dominated by much of the Wilhelmine old order, which provided them with subject material to portray and critique. Yet Gay makes it clear that to think of Weimar culture exclusively in terms of Expressionism and the Bauhaus school is false, as he shows the equally important contribution made by conservative intellectuals who sought to come to terms with Germany’s circumstances in their own works. In the short term their contributions proved more relevant, as the rightward turn of German youth in the early 1930s that Gay describes fueled the rapid growth of the Nazi-led right, the triumph of which brought an end to the cultural experimentation of the Weimar era.

As one of the 20th century’s foremost cultural historians Gay left behind an impressive body of insightful works. Yet his short book stands out from them thanks to a personal tone that inflects much of the work. As a refugee from Nazi Germany, Gay was a personal witness to the aftermath of the era he describes, one that gives his book an almost elegiac tone in its description of a culture doomed to extinction. Writing as he does with an assumption of his readers’ familiarity with the era, this is not a book that should serve as someone’s introduction to the period. Yet it is one that anyone seeking to understand interwar German history must come to terms with, thanks to Gay’s graceful prose and his penetrating judgments of his subject. ( )
  MacDad | Jan 3, 2021 |
Peter Gay is careful to position Weimar Culture as an essay and nothing more: "I have not written the complete history of the Weimar Renaissance, though one day I plan to write it." [xiv] Still he packs so much into so brief a space, a clear theme is quickly lost or else threatens to become banal: outsider as insider, yes, or sons against fathers (countered with: revenge of the fathers), or the to-be-fatal alienation of youth, or finally, the Vernunftrepublikaner, those supporters of the Republic who chose with their reasoning heads but never could muster any devotion, condemning Weimar to an anemic polity which succumbed to its inner divisions.

Gay divides his essay into six chapters. The first is a straightforward review of the sociopolitical contours and pressures, "The Trauma of Birth", and pairs well with the "short political history" appended to the book. The concept and role of Vernunftrepublikaner are addressed in the second chapter, "The Community of Reason." Gay focuses on the cultural hold of poetry and especially the Stefan George Circle in "The Secret Germany," and offers a corrolary for Expressionism in "The Revolt of the Son". Vaguest and least persuasive, seemingly an erudite catalogue of personalities and cultural trends, are the fourth and last chapters: "The Hunger for Wholeness" intended as a review of modernity as influence over culture and politics, and "The Revenge of the Father", which read as a rushed coda collecting the remaining years (1927 - 1930 or 1935, depending on when you mark the end) into a loose discussion of how all themes previously discussed coalesced and dissolved under the pressure of ... what? The death of Stresener, and global economic depression, and an unconvincingly-argued position that the stability under Hindenberg was false, was in fact a shell over a diseased body?

The accomplishment here is in avoiding outlandish claims or overly-simplistic arguments regarding causality, or tying Weimar's demise to some German political culture wholly dependent on authority or murderous nationalism, even as Gay identifies themes across many social and artistic fields. Necessarily the result is a loose portrait without clear accountability for what was to come. I'm tempted to conclude an analysis of Weimar boils down to the unhappy fact that Germany and Europe were simply unlucky: the constellation of recent war, of international sensibility more aligned with Versailles-thinking and not one closer to Marshall Plan self-preservation through generosity, increasing local and global economic hardship, a German people sharply divided and accepting of murder among their own (the street fighting is perhaps the clearest sign of the levels of violence the German electorate was prepared to accept) ... all this combined to generate a bloody, hellish part of modern history. If true, this portrait highlights the danger of these extreme circumstances, but seemingly provides hope in the thought such a combination isn't likely to occur again. (The uncomfortable response to such analysis, though, is that it is perhaps no more than a dangerous naivete, another manifestation of Vernunftrepublikaner.)

//

Read in preparation for Magida's The Nazi Seance, for which it proved an admirable choice: range of subjects, providing a character sketch of political culture as well as a taste of the popular sentiment leading up to the Nazi assumption of legitimate power. Gay also provides as appendix "A Short Political History of the Weimar Republic", useful as reminder of the standard history book touchpoints.

Brief reference to the Warburg Library and Cassirer's comment about needing to stay away as it's too dangerous to his other work. Of course, he didn't and one result was his essay on mythological symbolism (Vol 2 of Philosophy of Symbolic Thought). This is the sort of detail Gay is skilled at providing, one of the only instances I knew of the reference outside Gay's essay. ( )
1 ääni elenchus | Mar 31, 2013 |
A study of the cultural history of the German Wiemar Republic from 1999 to 1933. Gay is more interested in the literary and art scene than he is with politics, but it's not like the various plots and counter-plots of the era have not been thoroughly covered elsewhere. Gay covers literary figures like Stefan George, Rainer Rilke, Thomas Mann, and art movements like Expressionism and The Bauhaus. He does offer enough details of the political scene to present convincing arguments connecting them to the literary and art scene, making for a portrait of a society that went from hopeful to hopeless. Unfortunately Gay has an odd disinterest in important musical figures like Kurt Weil, Berthold Brecht, Alban Berg, Anton Webern or Arnold Schoenberg and a detailed picture of the Cabaret scene and the introduction of Jazz which is a serious omission.
The author also chooses not to delve into the competing reactionary literary scene of the era with it's focus on a pseudo mystical racism and paganism without which a real understanding of Nazism is not possible. One also wonders if the author's insistence on pointing out the thinly veiled gay subtext of the scene might not be a tad overstated. Still even if this is an opinionated essay, it is also an important study of an important era.
2 ääni DiamondDaibhidJ | May 1, 2012 |
An absolutely tedious book about the culture of Weimar Germany. ( )
  w_bishop | Oct 18, 2009 |
from Amazon: A seminal work as melodious and haunting as the era it chronicles, now reissued with a new introduction. First published in 1968, Weimar Culture is one of the masterworks of Peter Gay's distinguished career. A study of German culture between the two wars, the book brilliantly traces the rise of the artistic, literary, and musical culture that bloomed ever so briefly in the 1920s amid the chaos of Germany's tenuous post-World War I democracy, and crashed violently in the wake of Hitler's rise to power. Despite the ephemeral nature of the Weimar democracy, the influence of its culture was profound and far-reaching, ushering in a modern sensibility in the arts that dominated Western culture for most of the twentieth century. Vivid and eminently readable, Weimar Culture is the finest introduction for the casual reader and historian alike. "[A]n enormously rich, intriguing, and exciting essay.... A major contribution to the study..."―The New York Times 16 black and white illustrations
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  Shonamarie | Sep 29, 2016 |
näyttää 5/5
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» Lisää muita tekijöitä (11 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Peter Gayensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetlaskettu
Cases, CesareAvustajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Merci, MauroKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu

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First published in 1968, Weimar Culture is one of the masterworks of Peter Gay's distinguished career. A study of German culture between the two wars, the book brilliantly traces the rise of the artistic, literary, and musical culture that bloomed ever so briefly in the 1920s amid the chaos of Germany's tenuous post-World War I democracy, and crashed violently in the wake of Hitler's rise to power. Despite the ephemeral nature of the Weimar democracy, the influence of its culture was profound and far-reaching, ushering in a modern sensibility in the arts that dominated Western culture for most of the twentieth century. Vivid and eminently readable, Weimar Culture is the finest introduction for the casual reader and historian alike.

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