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GEORG MORRIS COHEN BRANDES

GEORG BRANDES was a Danish literary critic and writer, who had an enormous influence on Danish culture, but was never fully accepted by the Danes and never felt at home in Denmark.

Background

  • Morris Cohen was born on February 4, 1842 into an assimilated family in Copenhagen, he was himself ambivalent about his Jewish identity.

  • Education

    • He studied literature and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen and, influenced by the writings of Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill, and Taine, introduced the concept of realism to Danish literature.

    Career

    • His unconventional views branded him as a radical and “an atheist Jew” among conservative Danish circles and he was accordingly denied a professorship at the University of Copenhagen. Disappointed, in 1877, he left Denmark for Berlin and lived there until 1882, where, developing the conviction that individuals were more important than ideas, he began to write about personalities such as Benjamin Disraeli, John Stuart Mill, and Gustave Flaubert. In the interim, Denmark had become open to more liberal ideas and on his return in 1882, he was accepted there with greater enthusiasm.

      In the 1880s he became familiar with Nietzsche’s writings and published a seminal article on the hitherto unknown German philosopher. His subsequent writing reflected a philosophy of hero worship, which manifested itself in works on great figures such as Shakespeare, Goethe, Voltaire, Julius Caesar, and Michelangelo.

      In 1902, he finally received the previously coveted position as professor of aesthetics at Copenhagen.

      One of his latest works was "Jesus, a Myth" (1925; English translation, 1927), in which he attempted to refute the historical basis of Christianity. His collected appeared in Danish and in German.

    Views

    In a series of public lectures inaugurated in 1871, and later published as Alain Currents in Nineteenth-Century Literature, he criticized the abstract idealism of 19th-century Danish writing and demanded that literature deal with real problems and modern issues.

    Connections

    GEORG BRANDES
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    Born February 4, 1842
    Died February 19, 1927
    (aged 85)
    Nationality
    Ethnicity:
    • 1902
      Professor of aesthetics, University of Copenhagen
      Copenhagen, Denmark