The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century (英語) ペーパーバック – 2011/7/26
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The German Genius is a virtuoso cultural history of German ideas and influence, from 1750 to the present day, by acclaimed historian Peter Watson (Making of the Modern Mind, Ideas). From Bach, Goethe, and Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein, from the arts and humanities to science and philosophy, The German Genius is a lively and accessible review of over 250 years of German intellectual history. In the process, it explains the devastating effects of World War II, which transformed a vibrant and brilliantly artistic culture into a vehicle of warfare and destruction, and it shows how the German culture advanced in the war’s aftermath.
“A compilation of essential German contributions to philosophy, theology, mathematics, natural and social science and the arts since 1750. Watson enshrines a vast pantheon of creative thinkers... [including] compressed summaries of some exceedingly difficult ideas. The range of subjects is impressive, from painters to physicists.” (New York Times Book Review)
“[The German Genius is] Watson’s eight-hundred-and-fifty-page love letter to the all-stars of the Teutonic intellect…his élan generates its own momentum… The book’s breadth is part of the point.” (The New Yorker)
“[An] engrossing, vast chronicle. . . . English now dominates the arts and sciences, but Watson writes an absorbing account of a time not so long ago when German ruled.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Reveals several surprises. . . . A remarkable book on many levels. The research is first-rate and it is surprisingly accessible.” (Tucson Citizen)
“A tour de force. . . . It is impossible not to be impressed by his range and versatility as he bounds across the disciplines. . . . This intelligent book presents a breathtaking panorama.” (Sunday Times (London))
“[A] colossal encyclopaedia. . . . Heroic. . . . Watson derives the German genius from deep springs.” (The Guardian)
“Watson’s book is intended to subvert the negative German stereotypes. Though it checks in at just short of 1,000 pages, it is a usefully concise introduction to the principal themes and personalities of German scientific, philosophical, social, literary and artistic culture since 1750.” (The Times (London))
“Few wasted words—a welcome resource for students of modern history, literature and cultural studies.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Watson tells how the Nazis’ first artistic blacklist appeared just six weeks after Hitler assumed power in 1933 - and how his catastrophic handling of his intellectual inheritance has unfairly overshadowed the country ever since. This exhaustive and virtuoso sweep through history goes some way to restoring the balance.” (Press Association)
“The German Genius present a huge corpus of scholarship in easily digestible form, and its range is astonishing. No professor, least of all a German one, would have dared to essay such a synthesis; so much the worse for the professors.” (Standpoint)
Watson, as he notes, wrote the book because of the profound ignorance among most Brits about German history, except for the German history of the Hitler era – an ignorance certainly shared by most Americans. If that ignorance was occasionally reduced – perhaps by a lecture on the German inflation, or on the late emergence of the German state -- the reason for doing so was basically to find out what caused Hitler. This may have been largely unavoidable in the second half of the 20th century. Hitler was hard to look around, and “other” German history did not seem very relevant to Anglo American culture in which English speakers operate. Since English speakers tend to assume that Anglo American culture has now become world culture, this implied that German history really didn’t matter – except, of course, for the question of Hitler.
But German history – German history for hundreds of years, not just from 1933 to 1945 -- is highly relevant to today’s culture. Watson shows this by focussing not on political history, but on cultural history, and it is here that the German contribution is astonishing. Germany did not have one political history until 1870, but it had a cultural history that, Watson would argue, is in many ways the basis of “modernity”. He goes through intellectual area after intellectual area – philosophy, mathematics, sociology, psychology, physics, chemistry, etc. etc. etc – and shows how Germans dominated their development in the 19th and early 20th century. He also looks at the arts; Germans dominated music, of course, but had a much wider impact on literature and the visual arts than I had realized.
The German influence goes beyond what we think, to weigh on how we think. Philosophy is of course an example, but there is a much less obvious and more concrete one. Watson shows how the research-based university developed in Germany, forming a model for the American academic system. This approach required young scholars to develop new knowledge, rather than simply passing on what was already known. It has, Watson argues, a great deal to do with the explosion of knowledge in the past 150 years.
At the end of the book, Watson does look at the question of what caused Hitler: he presents some compelling suggestions, though not a definitive answer – as he is the first to emphasize. But , the importance of this book isn’t in what it tells us about Hitler, but in what it tells us about the rest of Germany’s impact on our world.
You can answer that question yourself.