The Prophet and the Petroleuse: Georg Brandes and the Making of an Intellectual

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The publication of Emigrant Literature, the first series of lectures on Main Currents in 19th Century Literature, delivered at the University of Copenhagen in 1871, constitutes a pivotal moment in Georg Brandes’ life and career. In fact, the series of lecture may be regarded as the turning point and the formative event in Brandes’ transformation from academic scholar into the role as public intellectual. Brandes’ lecture series made a public scandal not only because of its radical ideas of secularism and sexual emancipation, but also – and perhaps foremost – because of the peculiar rhetorical style used by Brandes to stage his endeavour. Rather than a traditional academic lecture Brandes’ introductory lecture was framed as a political manifesto in the tradition of Karl Marx’ and Friedrich Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto. By using a powerful rhetoric of rupture and revolution, Brandes staged himself as an advocate of an irreversible Hegelian logic and telos in the history of ideas and as an apostle for a future modernization of Scandinavian culture. Drawing on concepts from Max Weber, Pierre Bourdieu and Gisèle Sapiro this article examines how this revolutionary discourse shaped the conceptual framework of Main Currents and discusses its performative role in the making of Brandes as a public intellectual.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeorg Brandes : Pioneer of Comparative Literature and Global Public Intellectual
EditorsJens Bjerring-Hansen, Lasse Horne Kjældgaard, Anders Engberg-Pedersen
Place of PublicationAmsterdam/London
Publication date2024
ISBN (Print) 9789004526037
Publication statusPublished - 2024
SeriesInternationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft Online

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