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Abstract

“[W]hoever writes in Finnish, Hungarian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Greek or the like is obviously poorly placed in the universal struggle for world renown” Gerog Brandes noted in his essay on “World Literature” (in German 1899, revised and translated to Danish 1900), an up-date on Goethe’s concept to the dynamic reality of the dawning 20th century. It is the comparative and sociological minded literary scholar speaking, but also the writer, whose writings make an interesting empirical case for the study of transnational literary dynamics. In the last decades of the 19th century, both as promotor and as a representative of a Scandinavian ‘wave’, Brandes had gained a reputation as a leading figure in the intellectual life of Continental Europe, through travels, network activities, translations and writings in French and, especially, German. This chapter of the book will address the reorientation towards the English and American literary world, which characterized Brandes’ literary strategies around 1900, where an increasing globalization, with the English language as a primary driver, meant that the ‘world’ in concepts like ‘world literature’ or ‘world renown’ no longer merely was a synecdoche for Europe. On the basis of what Gisele Sapiro has called ‘the sociology of translation’, the first part of the contribution focusses on the agents and institutions involved in Brandes’ and others attempts to arrange a translation of Main Currents in 19th Literature. The latter part discusses how the case of Brandes relates to modern reflections on literature in global transit.

In: Georg Brandes
In: Georg Brandes
Georg Brandes (1842-1927) was one of the leading literary critics in Europe of his time. His Main Currents of Nineteenth Century Literature (1872-1890) was a foundational text to the field of comparative literature and extolled by Thomas Mann as the “Bible of the young intellectual Europe at the turn of the century.” Georg Brandes eventually developed into a truly global public intellectual, living by his pen and public lectures. On the eve of World War I, he was one of the most sought-after commentators, vigorously opposing all conflicting factions. This book seeks to understand Brandes’ trajectory, to evaluate Brandes’ significance for current discussions of literary criticism and public engagement, and to introduce Brandes to an international audience. It consists of 15 original chapters commissioned from experts in the field.