Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen

Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen bränˈ dəs [key], 1842–1927, Danish literary critic. His influence brought the wide currents of contemporary European thought to Danish and other Scandinavian literatures. He wrote and lectured in many languages and many believed him to be the greatest critic since Taine. Yet he was refused the chair in aesthetics at the Univ. of Copenhagen in 1870 because he was a Jew, an atheist, and a “radical.” He was granted the same chair in 1902. After finishing Critiques and Portraits (1870), he traveled on the Continent, meeting, among others, Taine and Renan, who influenced his ideas and work. On his return he wrote Main Currents in Nineteenth-Century Literature (6 vol., 1872–90, tr. 1901–5), an attack on provincialism and reaction. An opponent of romanticism, Brandes helped direct the Scandinavian literatures toward realism and concern with social issues. While he took credit for introducing feminism to Denmark with his translation of John Stuart Mill's On the Subjugation of Women into Danish (1869), he completely excluded women authors from his canon-setting work Men of the Modern Breakthrough (1883). His review, the Nittende Aarhundrede, was discontinued after three years. Brandes spent some time in Berlin, where he came under the influence of Nietzsche. He was attacked during the World War I for maintaining total neutrality. Among his later works are William Shakespeare (1895–96, tr. 1898), Goethe (1915, tr. 1924), Voltaire (1916, tr. 1930), and Jesus, a Myth (1925, tr. 1926), a work which gained him many enemies.

See studies by P. Dahlerup (1984), H. Hertel and S. M. Kristensen (1980), and B. Nolin (1976); P. Dahlerup, Women of the Modern Breakthrough (1984).

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