Emigrant Literature

by Torben Jelsbak

An introduction to the background, genesis, themes and reception of the book.

1. Introduction

“A book for me is an act,” says Brandes in the afterword to The Romantic School in Germany (Brandes 1873:379). No other book in his authorship manages to live up to this declaration as thoroughly as The Emigrant Literature, the first in the series of lectures that constitute Main Currents in 19th Century Literature, which Brandes delivered as a 29-year-old, newly appointed ldoctor at Copenhagen University in November and December of 1871 and published a month later, on February 3rd, 1872. Emigrant Literature was, as the literary scholar Paul V. Rubow has put it, “the bravest action” taken by Brandes in his life as a public figure (Rubow 1976:21), but for the same reason the single work that for better or worse came to seal his fate and his ensuing career as literary scholar, critic and intellectual.

Main Currents is an ambitiously designed comparative history of the major lines of development in 19th century European literature and identity. It chronicles the history of how the worldly ideals of freedom of the French Revolution of 1789 turned into their opposites, thus leading to European Romanticism, Catholic renaissance and empire, and ultimately how reason and freethinking overcame this reaction in a new movement leading onward toward the European revolutions of 1848, which function as the historical turning point. Emigrant Literature is the first movement – the first act – in this historical drama, which played out among the French émigré authors driven into exile by the repercussions of the French Revolution.

The Emigrant Literature concerns the connections and the exchanges between literature and social development, and as such was innovative and provocative in that it introduced a modern and scientific vision of human beings and of history, inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution. But in order to understand the “bravery” and the consequences of the act, it is necessary to view the book in the local Danish context in which it was conceived.

Emigrant Literature was not only literary history, but also a cultural-political intervention, an act of rebellion directed at contemporary Danish literature, which according to Brandes had become mired in Romanticism and thus now found itself in a state of lethargy – forty years behind Europe. But at the same time it was also an attack on the dominant national self-understanding of Denmark itself, more closely defined as the national liberal cultural ideology with its peculiar synthesis of Christianity, conservative sexual morality and love of fatherland. The program of comparative literary study is meant to “correct” established national orientations by promoting an international outlook (Brandes 1872a:15), and its famous battle cry that literature should “provoke debate” (Brandes 1872a:15) made Brandes himself the standard bearer of a process of historical development that concerned not only literature, but the entirety of the social order and the modernization of the culture in a broad sense. The overarching plot of Main Currents is the narrative of the individual’s emancipation from the traditional institutions of society and its authorities, such as Christianity, marriage and the nation. This narrative acquired an especially volcanic character by being forwarded in Denmark – a small, culturally homogeneous national state on the cultural and political periphery of Europe, which after its defeat by Prussia in the Schleswig War of 1864 found itself in a kind of spiritual state of shock.

The story of Emigrant Literature is at the same time the story of an academic career plan that went awry. The lecture series was conceived as a part of a plan that would make the brilliant Dr. Georg Brandes a professor at University of Copenhagen, but instead it ended up provoking a public scandal that effectively foreclosed a promising academic career. The public lectures became a hot ticket that filled up university auditoria, yet also gave Brandes the reputation of rabble rouser and blasphemer, which was the very reason that a majority of conservative, High Church professors in the faculty of philosophy opposed the appointment of Brandes to the vacant professorship in aesthetics, for which he had otherwise been the obvious candidate (compare Larsen 2016).

Brandes thus had to bid farewell to a secure and respectively bourgeois livelihood as a state-appointed professor. The affair was a decisive factor in his career in that it compelled him to stake his living as an independent journalist in the German press, from his base in Berlin, for the period between 1877 and 1883. But through the German language literary market, he was however able to secure, over the following decades, the status of a leading European literary critic and cosmopolitan mediator between European literatures – a “guter Europäer und Cultur-Missionär” [a good European and cultural missionary], as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called him in a private letter of 1887 (Brandes 1966:441). Emigrant Literature is thus also the gateway to an expansive contribution to criticism that encompasses not only the six volumes of Main Currents but also a long series of portraits of modern European and Scandinavian authors, politicians and cultural personalities, written for an international readership.

That Emigrant Literature acquired its peculiar fate is also attributable to the fact that the man who led the relentless assault on Danish national self-understanding was himself of a mixed cultural background as an assimilated Danish Jew. The Jewish component of Georg Brandes’ thinking has traditionally played a lesser role in interpretations of Emigrant Literature, even though it is certain that the double identity of the author manifests itself in various ways – in both his cosmopolitan perspective on literary history and his profound empathy for the emigrant experience of homelessness and alienation. This openness to the alien is at the same time a part of what makes Brandes’ method of literary and cultural criticism relevant – and controversial – to this day.

2. Background and Genesis

In the years prior to Emigrant Literature, Brandes had established himself as the new young hope of the academic and literary scene in Denmark. Already as a student, in 1863, he had received the university’s gold medal for a treatise on the idea of fate in Greek tragedy, and a year later he concluded his MA examinations with a thesis on “The Reciprocal Relation Between the Pathetic and the Symbolic” in Shakespeare’s tragedies and Dante’s Divina Commedia. As suggested by these themes and titles, Brandes was versed in the philosophical tradition of German Idealism, which at that point was prevalent in Danish aesthetics and criticism. According to this orientation, works of poetry were viewed as manifestations of eternally valid abstract ideas and principles of form, and it was the task of the critic to evaluate the work of poetry according to how well it was in agreement with these concepts. After acquiring his MA, Brandes intended to depart from his academic exercises within this tradition with a dissertation on “The Theory of the Comic,” but after some years of study he gave up this plan – because among other reasons he made acquaintance with French philosophy and the literary historian Hippolyte Taine (1828-93). The encounter with Taine resulted in a decisive change of course in Brandes’ critical work, and the Frenchman ended up as the subject of his dissertation on French Aesthetics in our Age (1870).

From the bird’s eye perspective of the history of literary theory, Brandes’ education as critic can thus be viewed as a struggle between idealist-metaphysical aesthetics and Taine’s more cultural-historical and secularly grounded literary criticism. In his chief work, Histoire de la littérature anglaise (3 vols., 1863-6), Taine had identified the principles of a new understanding of literature inspired by positivism, which sought to explain literary phenomena from their historical contexts, the life of the author and the composition of the public. For Taine it was not enough to ascertain that a tragedy was a tragedy and that it lived up to the eternal laws of such; he was more interested in getting to know the human being who stood behind the work, and the culture and civilization that rounded it out. Taine thus accentuated the existence of the human factor in literature, while at the same time asserting that the creative abilities of the human being were conditioned by a series of external cultural, climactic, social, and historical factors. In his introduction to his history of English literature he summarized these as three fundamental forces (“forces primordiales”) of history, “le race, le milieu, le moment” (Taine 1866:XXIII), which can be translated as the nation, the surroundings and the age.”

In his dissertation Brandes faithfully subscribed to the principle elements of Taine’s methodology – and thus also the idea and the ideal of the literary critic as a “natural scientist of the soul” (Brandes 1870a:72), who just as much as in natural science should explain the causal relation between the emergence of the work of poetry and the aforementioned fundamental forces – or “main forces,” as they might be designated with a term that points directly forward to the “main currents.” At the same time, however, Brandes also took the opportunity to register some objections against the deterministic and reductive character of his mentor’s explanatory models, which he argued had a tendency to reduce poets and poetical works to a summation of the spirit of an age or of a people. In his criticism of Taine, Brandes found considerable support from another French critic, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-69), specifically his more personalized psychological and historical form of literary criticism. Sainte-Beuve’s portraits of the French Romantic authors, collected in his Critiques et portraits, thus also functioned as a model for Brandes – thus after completing his dissertation he published a series of his reviews and authorial portraits in a volume entitled Criticism and Portraits.

The essence of Brandes’ critique of Taine can be boiled down to a sense that Taine’s theory does not to a sufficient degree contain space for the individual and the creative genius, and thereby not at all for the kind of hero worship that over time became a steadily more prominent component of Brandes’ critical method. But this disagreement also points to a second important difference between Brandes and Taine, regarding their respective conceptions of history itself. Whereas Taine is especially interested in the long, almost unchanging lines of the development of nation and identity, Brandes’ more combative temperament oriented him toward the radical break and renewal in history. If the key words in Taine were nation and civilization, in Brandes they were rupture and revolution.

On this point Brandes remained a disciple of G.W.F. Hegel’s dialectical philosophy of history, developed in the German philosopher’s lectures on the subject (Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie, 1819-32, published 1833-6). Hegel had imagined world history as a forward moving narrative of progress, in which human reason and freedom gradually manifest in the world through the continual movement of ideas (theses), which encounter their opposites (antitheses) that then are sublated into a higher synthesis. It is this dialectic and scheme of the philosophy of history that forms the foundation of the literary historical drama of Main Currents, which is staged as a struggle between principles of revolution and reaction.

Thus we have outlined the theoretical and academic background of Emigrant Literature, but in order to understand the rebellious and provocative form of the lectures, it is necessary to supplement this description with certain biographical factors. After the defense of his dissertation, Brandes departed in April 1870 on a European grand tour that came to last sixteen months, bringing him to France, England, Switzerland, and Italy. The tour was a landmark in Brandes’ development, in that along the way he made the acquaintance of a series of personalities each of which in his own manner came to influence, inspire and stir up the young doctor toward his immense confrontation with Danish national liberal culture in November 1871. Brandes was, as Henning Fenger puts it, “a brilliant traveler,” who by virtue of his social skills and talent for conversation quickly established networks of personal contacts in the places he visited (Fenger 1957:169). Through his expansive, almost daily correspondence with associates back home, which functions like a kind of combined intellectual diary and archive of impressions for his later literary reworking, we can follow his doings during the journey and also locate the first sketches of that which after his return would become Emigrant Literature.

The first destination was Paris, in which Brandes was received like a son by the Taine family, but where he was also disappointed by the political conservatism then prominent in French intellectual circles. Also in Paris, Brandes made contact with the elderly literary historian, librarian and professor of English and German at the Collège de France, Philarète Chasles (1798-1873), who enchanted Brandes with his anecdotes and stories of scandal of the French Romantics. But his time with the affable Chasles was also decisive for Brandes in that it turned him on to the idea of viewing the main lines of 19th century French literature as an interplay between the regimes of reason and feeling, between the spirit of Voltaire and the spirit of Rousseau. Thus it was also after a visit with Chasles that Brandes, in a letter to his family dated June 20th, 1870, first committed to paper an outline of a literary historical presentation of “the great currents in recent French literature” (Brandes 1978,I:249), which in raw form contains the fundamental idea and plan for the three “French” volumes of Main Currents.

Yet most important for Brandes’ intellectual development was without a doubt his encounter with the English philosopher, economist and liberal politician John Stuart Mill (1806-73), whom Brandes met in Paris and later visited in London in July of 1870. In 1869, Brandes had produced a Danish translation of Mill’s The Subjection of Women, which argued for the emancipation of women and the equality of the sexes, but the personal meeting between the two led to an intense philosophical exchange that pushed Brandes further away from the philosophical schooling of his youth. In a letter of July 16th, 1870, Brandes proclaims that his conversations with Mill amount to “a kind of turning point in my inner intellectual history” (Brandes 1978, I:275). As a thinker Mill was a modern representative of the empiricist tradition in English philosophy and social science, which takes its point of departure in the idea that all knowledge and perception must be built upon observation. On this basis, Mill had developed a modern social and moral philosophy, so-called utilitarianism, which proceeded from the principle that every human action must be evaluated based on its sum usefulness to society – and not according to the degree to which it accorded with preordained principles, whether derived from religion or natural rights. Mill’s utilitarianism was critical to Brandes in that it revealed the foundation of a modern ethics founded not in religious but in worldly principles, but at the same time he was also drawn to the practical and pragmatic dimension of Mill’s philosophy, which brought together liberal ideas of freedom and the social and political reform movements of the age.

Ultimately through his conversations with Mill, Brandes came to a third important realization that concerned the surprising ignorance of the various European nations of each other’s cultures and intellectual traditions. Just as he had been surprised in Paris by Taine’s ignorance of Germany, in England he was able to discern Mill’s equally striking lack of knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy. This experience made it clear to Brandes that there was a need for a cosmopolitan mediator between the European traditions and intellectual orientations, e.g. the role he would make his own with Main Currents.

At the end of July – just as the Franco-Prussian war broke out – Brandes continued his travels southward over the Alps to Geneva and from there on to Italy. The natural descriptions of the areas around Rousseau’s birthplace and the equally ecstatic descriptions of Italian landscapes, art and architecture that constitute some of the literary highpoints of Emigrant Literature (chapters I and XVI) can be traced to this part of the journey. Brandes’ enthusiasm for Italy was first and foremost the result of his encounter with the architectural and artistic treasures of Florence, Rome, Naples, and Pompey. But his fascination was also possessed of a more concrete political dimension, tied to the modern Italian democratic movements for freedom and independence and to the recent dissolution of the Papal States in central Italy – an event that awakened Brandes’ revolutionary instincts.

During his stay in Italy, Brandes’ thoughts on these themes were stimulated by his acquaintance and interaction with two quite distinctive personalities: the law professor and later politician Giuseppe Saredo (1832-1902) of Rome, ten years his elder, and the 24-year-old French art connoisseur and aesthete Georges Noufflard (1846-1897).

Saredo was an impassioned patriot, a supporter of the young independent Italy and a dedicated advocate of J.S. Mill’s philosophical and political thought. When, in November of 1870, Brandes was taken with a typhus infection, which nearly cost him his life and consequently confined him to four months of bedrest, it was Saredo who was his daily conversation partner through the winter, helping to keeping his nose to the grindstone with hours long exegeses on liberal progress in the modern world.

Noufflard was Saredo’s diametrical opposite; a distinguished aesthete who settled in Rome in 1871 to begin studies for a never realized book on the monuments and artworks of the city. Brandes and Noufflard met at the Scandinavian Club in Rome at the beginning of April 1871, just as Brandes had risen from the sickbed, and the two spent a few intense months together, with excursions to art museums and churches in Rome, Sorrento and Naples that became decisive in the development of his understanding of art.

If it was Noufflard who taught Brandes something important about the aesthetic perception of art, then it could be said that it was Saredo who taught Brandes to politicize and to polemicize art. For Saredo the future of Italy and Europe was to be determined by politics, and to the degree he was interested in aesthetic questions, he was in the pattern of Mill in favor of a firm utilitarian point of view, which both provoked and incited Brandes the aesthete:

He endorses and adores all tendentiousness. He says: for you a book is a work, or rather a work of art; for me it is an act. The idea of literary immortality no longer has any meaning, a book only sticks around until a better one comes along, no measure of artistic perfection will save it from being swallowed up by what comes after. Let it be an act, a weapon. In all worthy books there is a hidden polemic, and it is the polemic that makes them worthy. (Brandes 1978, II:182-3)

That Brandes in 1873, in the afterword to The Romantic School in Germany, could summarize his understanding of the literary work as an act points directly back to Saredo, and it is tempting to see the Italian ideologue as the last stop on the process of intellectual radicalization that was his European Bildungsreise. In summarizing the various impulses Brandes absorbed during the journey, it can be said that they had more to do with his Weltanschauung and “the education of the heart” than with academic learning. “I cannot take pride in a direct scientific output,” he confesses in a May 23rd, 1871 letter to his academic mentor, the philosophy professor Hans Brøchner (Brandes, Georg and Edvard 1939-42, I:148). But his encounter with Italian art and folk culture, which for Brandes amounted to a continuation of the heathen and natural ideal of humanity of antiquity, had in combination with Saredo’s political reform ideas implanted a rebellious and anti-clerical attitude in the young doctor, which came to expression in the famous and oft-cited letter to his family written upon his departure from Italy on July 9th, 1871:

What is generally not expressed too loudly, I express here: the liveliest hatred of Christianity; from my very heart I shall always strike up Voltaire’s “Écrasons l’infâme.” I hate Christianity in my gut and in my bones. (Brandes 1978, II:431).

The grand tour was brought to an end in July of 1871, as Brandes was to return home and find his place within the society and culture that, because of his impressions of Italy, he found utterly barren, hostile to art and humanity. After his return and in consultation with Brøchner, he planned the series of lectures that was meant to position him for the soon to be vacant professorship in aesthetics at Copenhagen University. Brandes initially thought that the lecture series should concern modern French drama – a theme he knew thoroughly and on which he could have lectured without problems. Yet here a second surprising and fateful incident took place in Brandes’ intellectual biography, for it was actually Brøchner who recommended that Brandes embark on the grand project of six related series of lectures on the three major European literatures of the first half of the 19th century (Fenger 1957:211-12). It was also on Brøchner’s recommendation that the project was titled “Main Currents.”

3. Emigrant Literature

a. An Expedited Work

When evaluating the result of his labors, Emigrant Literature (1872), it must first be kept in mind that the work process itself was expedited. And when we account for how little Brandes knew about the literature that should constitute the theme of the first lecture series, its choice can perhaps best be described as a hazardous experiment. The aspiring professor’s knowledge of early 19th century French so-called emigrant literature was in reality limited to a quite small handful of books, the majority of which he knew only second hand or in any case did not have time to reread before the twelve lectures that were delivered twice weekly between November 3rd and December 16th, 1871.

As a kind of literary and intellectual historical prologue to the theme, Brandes treated J.J. Rousseau’s epistolary novel Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761) and Goethe’s debut novel Die Leiden jungen Werthers (1774). Thereafter the literature of the French émigrés is illuminated by reducing it to five works: Chateaubriand’s little autobiographical novel René (1802), Senancour’s related hermetic novel Obermann (1804), Constant’s love novel Adolphe (1816), and two novels of Madame de Staël, Delphine (1802) and Corinne ou l’Italie (1807). As laconically noted by Henning Fenger, this was “by no means an impressive list for a seeker of a university chair in the scientific study of poetic art” (Fenger 1955:390). Added to this is the fact that time did not at all permit Brandes to conduct a deeper or independent reading of the five works, which is why his characterizations rely heavily on observations from other, namely Sainte-Beuve’s, literary portraits of the French Romantics.

b. A Hegelian Drama

But Brandes compensated for his lack of knowledge of his theme through his grandiose oratorical framing of the project. The introductory lecture itself is a rhetorical demonstration of power – a hybrid of political manifesto and theatrical stage setting that demanded attention not only because of its impertinent and flagrantly unnuanced attack on Danish Romanticism and Golden Age literature, but also because of its self-confident presentation of the revolutionary main current in 19th century European literature as an inescapably Hegelian process that sooner or later would reach and overwhelm the sleepy little peripheral nation. Without a quiver in his voice, Brandes cast his plan for the coming six lecture series as a “grand drama” in six acts (Brandes 1872a:12-13) about the realization of human freethinking and its ultimate triumph in history – with 1848, the year of revolutions, as the historical turning point.

The introductory lecture, like Emigrant Literature as a whole, is speckled with pregnant images and emphatic assertions – such as for example Brandes’ comparison of Danish literature to a small chapel in a grand church that has its main alter elsewhere (Brandes 1872a:10), or his employment of Aesop’s fable of the fox and the stork, who respectively serve each other delicacies on a flat plate and in a tall, narrow-necked vase (Brandes 1872a:8-9), as an image of the lack of communication between European literatures and thus the need for the comparative approach that constitutes the literary critical program of the lectures.

The starting point for this is the Taine-inspired view of literature as a historical-psychological document: “when a people’s literature is fully developed, it represents the entire history of that population’s thoughts and feelings” (Brandes 1872a:9). Thus Brandes introduces his task in Emigrant Literature as an investigation of the historical types in literature that incarnate the great intellectual and literary historical epochal change from Voltaire and the rational philosophy of the Enlightenment toward the breakthrough of feeling and passion in Rousseau and his descendants in European Early Romanticism. “What I seek to portray for you is the spiritual state, at once powerful yet unhealthy, the peculiar upsurge and the peculiar sickness of soul that characterized the beginning of our century” (Brandes 1872a:74).

The main event or the Hegelian “action” that sets in motion this development is the “great revolution in the human spirit” (Brandes 1872a:74), which Brandes views as a two-pronged movement: “the individual is emancipated . . . and thought is liberated” (Brandes 1872a:74, 76). Brandes conceives of the revolution as the psychological and emotional process that came into being as the human being freed himself from traditional societal authorities and seized the power that previously had been the preserve of gods and kings. Yet in the same manner that the French Revolution resulted first in the Terror and then in the reconsolidation of the empire, the emancipation of the individual led to new sicknesses of soul and anomalies. The individual asserted himself and the right to freethinking, yet the new sense of possibility and consciousness of the self was not coupled with a corresponding power, such that the result became disappointment, melancholy and – in the most extreme cases like Werther – suicide.

Yet the fact that it is Werther who functions as the first figure in the literary and intellectual historical typology renders it clear that the revolution and the emancipation under discussion relate not so much to revolution as a social, political and historical phenomenon. It is the emotional aspects of the revolution and the modernization of European society during this period that interests Brandes. The story of Werther’s unhappy love for Lotte is in his view not just the story of the passion of one individual, but the expression of “the passions, longings and agonies of a whole epoch,” more explicitly of “the misrelation between the infinity of the heart and the strictures of society” (Brandes 1872a:51, 55).

In order to analyze this problematic, Brandes relies on a typology of figures from 19th century French emigrant literature. In the first place this involves disillusioned young men such as Chateaubriand’s René, Senancour’s Obermann and Constant’s Adolphe, who as disciples of Rousseau and Werther are governed by an excess of dreams, feelings and passions that cannot be realized, which is why they must take flight from the demands of society – out in nature, away from civilization or completely outside this world. In the second place this involves a series of modern and otherwise vigorous female figures in the form of Constant’s Eleonore and Madame de Staël’s Corinne. The story of emancipation that unfolds in Emigrant Literature, in other words, also concerns gender. The French Revolution and the human conception of freedom constitute the overarching historical frame of investigation, but an important secondary motif is the emancipation of women in intellectual and literary history.

c. A Love Story

Thus we are at the same time on the track of the story that constitutes the almost melodramatic plot of the lecture series. As scrupulous as Main Currents is as a whole, Emigrant Literature is also constructed as a drama with a reversal at the midpoint of the story. And just as Brandes in the introductory lecture could point to the hero of freedom Lord Byron as “the one man [who] brings about the reversal in the great drama” (Brandes 1872a:13), so is Emigrant Literature equipped with a hero, here in the form of a heroine, namely Madame de Staël. De Staël appears here in the role of the author who through her modern female figures and her own life example brings forth the epochal change in French and European literature, by introducing a new perspective on love as passion and marriage as social institution.

The reversal in Emigrant Literature is heralded by the long and detailed treatment of Benjamin Constant’s autobiographical novella Adolphe (chapters 8-10), based on the unequal and unhappy love relation between the author and Madame de Staël. For Brandes, Adolphe constitutes a revolutionary experiment and new departure in conceptions of love and passion by virtue of its unconventional staging of a love story between a young man and a mature, married woman. Brandes’ reading focuses on the female main character Eleonore, who sacrifices everything in the novel – her home, fortune and bourgeois standing – in favor of her impassioned yet impossible love for Adolphe.

What is especially interesting to Brandes is the historical novelty and norm-defying elements of this arrangement. Whereas the traditional portrayal of love relationships in literature presumed the man to be older than the woman, in that the portrayal of the women was tied to the portrayal of the young girl who was herself the incarnation of innocence and chastity, Constant’s experiment proceeds from a new, natural scientific understanding of woman as complex, as a “mixed composition” of variegated feelings and passions (Brandes 1872a:98-9).

What Brandes finds to be so historically groundbreaking and so profoundly intriguing about Adolphe is that the novel describes a fleeting and out of wedlock love relationship with passion as its driving force and with the woman as the active instigator. In this reversal of the traditional assignment of roles between the sexes itself, he sees a critical and revolutionary potential that opens up a new mode of thinking about love and passion – outside of bourgeois conventions and free of the traditional literary understanding of womanhood as the incarnation of virtue and innocence.

By staging this non-traditional love story, Adolphe, in Brandes’ view, does not just open up a new and more objective understanding of the complex psychology of love. The novel was at the same time epochal in that it anticipated a new type in literature: the mature and experienced women – “the women of thirty” (“la femme de trente ans”), who is first mentioned in Balzac’s novel of the same name, written between 1829 and 1842. But it was equally important that the novel appealed to Brandes’ taste for gossip and personal stories, in so far as the fascinating modern female type of Eleonore was based on a real model in the form of Madame de Staël, “that woman who fought the greatest battle ever fought by a woman in all world history using purely intellectual weapons” (Brandes 1872a:125).

d. Madame de Staël

The analysis of Adolphe serves as the bridge to the ensuing lectures, which are devoted to the heroine de Staël. First Brandes offers a focused discussion of the epistolary novel Delphine (1801), which continues the theme of Adolphe by addressing the contradiction between the individual and society and between passionate love and marriage as an institution. The novel concerns two lovers, Delphine and Léonce, who cannot be together because the latter has been tricked into an unhappy and disharmonious marriage with another (of a wholly alien nature) woman, and because the law in a Catholic country like the France in which the novel is set forbids divorce. The book, which was published a year before the later Emperor Napoleon entered into the Concordant with the Pope in Rome, can be read as an attack on indissoluble marriage as a religiously and juridically founded social institution – a theme that fits Brandes’ emancipatory agenda like a glove. But the novel furthermore provides Brandes with the occasion to insert a longer excursus on the status of marriage in the northern European and Protestant societies in which divorce was not forbidden by law but where, according to Brandes, societal morality, public opinion and fear of judgement functions as a guarantee of the inviolability of marriage.

It is within this context that Brandes flings his famous grenade in the form of his Taine-inspired analysis of the Danish and Nordic concept of “the home” and its implicit ideal of women as creatures of it. This moral doctrine, he argues, can be traced back to “one singular, cruelly simple, cruelly base climactic necessity,” namely the frigid Nordic climate and “the necessity of artificial heating” (Brandes 1872a:151). Thus the newly returned Italian tourist plays his trump card: “without artificial heating, in the full magnificence of sunlight, all the beautiful ideals, duties and virtues reveal themselves to be – not untrue but relative” (Ibid). This bold statement constituted one of the provocative incendiaries in the lecture series and was one of the reasons why it gave so much offense when the book came out in 1872, which is also why in later editions Brandes chose to remove it.

The excursus on the home within the lecture, however, also functions as a part of the argumentation for and demonstration of Brandes’ grand idea, that the comparative view of literature as a manner of reading can lead to national self-critique and to emancipation from national prejudices. This theme is at the same time at the center of the following lecture, which concerns Madame de Staël in her role as critic and cosmopolitan mediator between European cultures – an effort that manifests itself especially in her main work De l’Allemagne (On Germany, 1810, published in London in 1813). In this book de Staël made the case for the bold point of view that France could learn from the recent literary renewal in Germany. While French literature and intellectual life had according to de Staël hardened into barren rationalist philosophy and classicist enslavement to rules, she saw in soulful German “Sturm-und-Drang” poetry and the idealist philosophy of Immanuel Kant a more fruitful model for literary renewal. In Paris, however, de Staël’s effort to import the spirit of German Romanticism was viewed as an attack on the hegemony of French literature in Europe, and the book called down the wrath and the censorship of Napoleon, the very reason why its author had to go into exile at the family château, Coppet, located by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Brandes here compares de Staël’s role as critical exile author with Voltaire’s struggle for freedom and tolerance from exile in Ferney during the previous century.

There is also an element of self-identification on the part of Brandes in the profoundly sympathetic and valorizing description of de Staël as critic and cosmopolitan exile author. In a variation of the basic formula of his reading of Delphine, he summarizes her efforts as “rendering the national poetry of the French relative to the nation” (Brandes 1872a:167-8) – in other words, the same operation Brandes had taken on himself with respect to the relation between Danish literature and national identity.

e.Corinne ou l’Italie – or the Conquest of the Autonomy of Art

The high point of Emigrant Literature is Brandes’ gripping commentary on de Staël’s novel Corinne ou l’Italie (1807). Again the starting point is a love novel about to two lovers who cannot be together, because moral and cultural norms raise obstacles between them. It is the story of the young poetess Corinne, a modern type of mixed nationality, half Italian and half English. She loves the young Englishman Oswald, and this love is reciprocated, but in the end the connection cannot come to anything, because Oswald cannot fit the independent and impassioned Italian into his image of womanhood. Brandes calls Corinne “a poem on national prejudices” (Brandes 1872a:199), first and foremost here Oswald’s protestant sexual morality and patriarchal view of womanhood. But Oswald’s attitude to life also reveals itself in another manner that acquires a decisive significance in the novel, namely his total lack of receptiveness to art and the role of the aesthetic in existence, which makes him unable to understand Corinne.

The novel takes place in Rome, where Corinne tries in vain to open Oswald’s eyes to the joys of the senses and the aesthetic experience of art. Brandes’ reading of the novel proceeds like a pleasure walk around the cultural and architectural sites of the city, which he supplements with memories of his own Italian travels. The lecture is not only noteworthy for its personal and subjective quality, but also and perhaps especially by virtue of its surprising embrace and celebration of “the liberal relationship between Catholicism and art” (Brandes 1872a:219), which Brandes sees manifested in Italian Renaissance art and architecture. With this inclination toward Catholicism, Brandes almost seems to set aside his anti-clerical agenda in the service of a higher cause. But of what cause?

For Brandes, the great artistic and architectural works of the Italian Renaissance such as Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Church in Rome and St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, are monuments to an aesthetic sensibility and emancipated humanity that constitute a total contrast to Nordic asceticism, which is inherently hostile to art. Yet at the same time he attempts to argue for a connection or a historical parallel between the 15th and 16th century Italian Renaissance and German Romanticism at the dawn of the 19th century, which turned away from the strict faith in reason of the Enlightenment and once again reoriented itself toward Catholicism. In de Staël’s novel it is Corinne who promotes this Catholic orientation for its generosity, moral tolerance and aesthetic liberality. Brandes sees this openness to the aesthetic culture of Catholicism as an expression of the influences on de Staël of the brothers Schlegel and of Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics, which conceived of art as an independent and self-contained domain of human cognition that should not be subordinated to moral or social demands. His reading of Corinne thus at the same time develops into an object lesson in the aesthetic observation of art.

In the novel, de Staël has Oswald express moral outrage over the physical nakedness and sensuality in Michelangelo’s images of god and the prophets in the Sistine Chapel, just as it incenses the protestant northerner that the Italian Renaissance artists could attempt to adorn Christian buildings with figures from the heathen pantheon of antiquity. Yet Brandes sees a significant sign of the dawning of modernity precisely in the free painterly treatment of religious motifs and the liberal intercourse with different pictorial traditions. At another place in the novel Corinne leads Oswald into the Colosseum, in which the moralistic Englishman can feel nothing other than indignation at the thought of all the Christian blood that has been spilled upon the place. This scene is also construed by Brandes as an example of how Protestantism lacks a sensibility for art. He paraphrases Kant’s division of human cognition into three separate spheres or domains, the practical-moral, the theoretical and the aesthetic, and can thus conclude that Oswald is a man who lacks an aesthetic disposition: “he has no eyes, his reason and his morality has deprived his senses of vitality. Thus he cannot manage to forget content in favor of form” (Brandes 1872a:209).

The forgetting of content in favor of form becomes in this manner the surprising farewell salute of Emigrant Literature – surprising not the least in light of the opening lecture’s demand to submit content and “problems” to debate. Brandes’ enthusiasm for the aesthetic culture of Catholicism can be seen as a facet of his revolt against the Protestantism of his homeland, which had been nourished by the impressions gathered from his stay in Italy. Even the idol of Brandes’ youth, Søren Kierkegaard, must now account for his lack of “artistic cultivation” (Brandes 1872a:212). Yet the aesthetic disposition and the ability to evaluate art as art becomes for Brandes at the same time a litmus test of modernity. When at the end he shall illustrate his idea of Catholic liberality in relation to art, he relies on his own observations of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which is depicted as a veritable bombardment of the senses, a “painterly” architecture in colored marble and gilded ornaments. Playing his trump card by emphasizing the point about how artistic form has here freed itself from religious content and the function of the building, he compares the church to a woman of a harem, “a lovely, harem beauty in repose, heavily loaded with gold, pearls and shimmering diamonds, with the richest brocade covering her Moorish sofa” (Brandes 1872a:221). And he finds support for this interpretation by citing from the Church’s Latin inscription, in which according to Brandes the two architects, Francisco and Valerio Zuccato, challenge us to view the church as a work of art.

Quite surprisingly, Emigrant Literature thus concludes as an apologia for the autonomy of art and for the aesthetic legacy of German Early Romanticism. It amounts to an impassioned defense of a kind of “l’art pour l’art” (Brandes 1872a210) that Brandes believes to have located in the artistic freedom from religious dogma characteristic of Catholic Renaissance art, and which he saw as reemerging on the doorstep of the 19th century in the insistence of Kant and the German Early Romantics of the Athenaeum circle that art and aesthetic taste constitute a distinct domain of human cognition, with its own peculiar laws.

In the big picture it is worth dwelling on the overwhelmingly positive view of Romanticism that marks Emigrant Literature and that stands in stark contrast to the perspective of the following volumes of Main Currents, which adopt a much more combative attitude toward Romanticism in its later manifestations in Germany and France. The literature of the French émigrés was for Brandes the “healthy” part of the reaction to the 18th century, “a form of Romanticism before Romanticism” (Brandes 1872a:227), e.g. before Romanticism subjected itself to the old authorities in the form of the church and the monarchy and before it devolved into hegemonic schools in the various national vintages.

f. Comparatism and the Meeting of Cultures

Emigrant Literature thus interprets Early Romanticism as a cosmopolitan enterprise – a blended European culture that emerged from the meeting of peoples, nationalities and cultures after the French Revolution. Employing a concept from late 20th century postcolonial literary criticism, it can be said that Brandes emphasizes the inherent “hybridity” of the cultural poetics of Romanticism, which comes to expression in the paradox that in France it was viewed as too German and in Germany it was seen overly “French.” It is according to this perspective that Madame de Staël, the cosmopolite and the first lady of the revolution’s intellectuals, can be assigned the role of the great literary historical mediator and reformer, whose historical mission was to foster a dialogue and synthesis between the apparently irreconcilable European cultural and intellectual traditions – between South and North, between Catholicism and Protestantism and between the 18th century faith in reason and the new aesthetic sensibility of the 19th century.

To render national poetics relative to the nation. Brandes summarizes the impact of de Staël with a formulation that could in reality be applied to his own project. With his comparative view of literature and his insistence on treating the major European literatures as a complex whole, Brandes thereby made a pioneering contribution to the establishment of modern comparative literary studies, which in the following decades would develop into an autonomous discipline with its own journals, professorships and scientific standards – free of the national philologies that had contributed to the emergence of 19th century European national states. Yet when Brandes is referred to as the “père du comparatisme” (Madsen 2004:65), it is also important to keep in mind a critical difference between his methodology and that of later comparativists. The form of comparative literature that would be practiced and institutionalized as an academic discipline in the following decades was first and foremost a method of investigating and demonstrating influences between European literatures – a mode of perceiving that plays no role in Brandes, for whom the comparative perspective always serves a different purpose. Lars Peter Rømhild has summarized the distinction in this manner: “He [Brandes] made comparisons to stimulate thinking and sometimes to produce influences, but in most cases not to show former influences and explain them genetically” (Rømhild 1980:286).

In other words, Brandes’ comparatism was subordinated to his essentially extrinsic approach to literary criticism, to his interest in literary texts as psychological documents of the thoughts and feelings of changing epochs. Toward the end of Emigrant Literature he summarizes his programmatic point of view with a polemical address directed at the Hegelian conception of aesthetics: “it was believed that poetic forms and works of poetry grew out of each other like the branches of a tree, instead of studying their connection to culture, to the whole of life” (Brandes 1872a:269). Brandes’ conception of the comparative view of literature was possessed of a vision that literature and literary criticism could function as a kind of medium for cultural diplomacy and for the exchange of ideas between peoples and nations. But as we shall see, the focus of the reception of the work by the Danish public in 1872 was not on that of a peaceful and reconciliatory message. On the contrary, it was the most polemical, most negative and most combative aspects of Brandes’ gambit that the Danish public would seize upon.

4. Reception and Afterlife

a. Contemporary Reception

The twelve public lectures in November and December 1871 became a hot ticket that filled up the auditorium of Copenhagen University, making Brandes the leading subject of conversation around the city. In a November 17th letter to Georges Noufflard he is able to report triumphantly on the tumultuous scenes at the fourth lecture, at which nearly 400 people – according to Brandes around 150 of them women – had to press themselves in close, many finding a place on the stairs or in the snow on Vor Frue Plads outside the auditorium during the waiting period before they were allowed inside (Brandes 1952:39). Rumors swirled in the press about the young rebel who from his perch at the university lectern launched his volcanic attacks on the social order, the nation, Christianity, and marriage.

As Brandes rather more humbly writes in the brief foreword to the first edition of Emigrant Literature, it was in order to avoid “the misunderstandings, distortions and exaggerations” (Brandes 1872a:5) then in circulation that he chose to publish the lectures. But if he had desired to dampen the mood and thus put a lid on the scandal by publishing them, he had to think again. The publication of the lectures instead became a media event that mobilized the tone-setting segment of the Danish intelligentsia to engage in a purposeful campaign against Brandes, who was subjected to charges of indecency, unscientific practice and socialism. The campaign destroyed his chances of appointment to the expected professorship in aesthetics and further resulted in a years-long virtual Berufsverbot in a majority of Copenhagen newspapers and journals, in which he had previously earned a living as literary critic and theater reviewer.

As Beth Juncker has demonstrated, the critique of and debates about Emigrant Literature can be categorized into three internally related themes: the literary, the moral-religious and the social (Juncker 1980). The first concerned Emigrant Literature as a work of scholarship, e.g. the scientific quality (or lack thereof) of Brandes’ methodology. The moral-religious critique took up Brandes’ atheism and agitation for “freethinking” as well as his rejection of Christianity as the ultimate authority of existence. The social critique concerned especially the socially destructive element in Brandes’ program as well as its affinities to contemporary socialism.

That a literary treatise by a liberal freethinker such as Brandes could at all be likened to socialism says a little about the nervous and perplexed attitude predominate in Denmark in the aftermath of the Paris Commune of May 1871. In the summer of 1871, Copenhagen had witnessed its first tender suggestion of socialism with Louis Pio’s founding of Denmark’s first worker’s newspaper, Socialisten, and with the organization of the country’s first strike, on the Burmeister & Wain shipyard in September. Fate would also have it that the Danish chapter of the First International would come into being only the month before Brandes began his lecture series. The proximity of these events explains why socialism became the political context in which Emigrant Literature was read – though the deliberate efforts of Brandes’ opponents to lead the public astray should not be underestimated.

The campaign was led by the two national liberal newspapers, Fædrelandet and Dagbladet, as well as by the Grundtvigian organ Hejmdal. Fædrelandet, the flagship of national liberalism, devoted no less than nine long articles (of which seven were on the front page) to the matter, while Hejmdal issued a series of five front page articles, indicating the seriousness of the Brandes “problem.”

The first reaction came from Fædrelandet, and it is conspicuous that the national liberal camp viewed Brandes as a turncoat who had gone to war with the national liberal education that had fostered him. It is likewise clear that the debate over Emigrant Literature was to a high degree a political debate, which is also evident in the fact that two of the most articulate voices of the critique belonged to two of the period’s highest-profile national liberal politicians and personalities, the poet and Fædrelandet editor Carl Ploug (1813-94) and the theologian, Bishop D.G. Monrad (1811-87), who as Council President in 1863 and 1864 had borne the chief responsibility for Danish politics during the war of 1864.

Carl Ploug set the tone in a February 17th editorial in which he discussed Brandes as an “ill-mannered fool” and as a “petroleuse” – the term employed during the Paris Commune for the female terrorists who used petroleum as a means of setting fires. The accusation that Brandes was in league with socialism came in the form of the following chain of associations: first Ploug took exception to Brandes’ imprudent discussion of suicide (in the case of Senancourt’s Obermann) as the ultimate form of the emancipation of the self from Christian ethics; then he turned on Brandes’ irreverent dissection of the concept of “home,” which he saw as disdainful of family life and thereby of one of the loadbearing pillars of the national liberal cultural synthesis. Hereafter Ploug discusses Brandes’ recurring figure of the individual’s struggle against society, which he asserted acquires a peculiar meaning when it is proclaimed “in cold blood” from the university lectern “to a mass of impressionable and easily roused young people” and “at a point in time when disruptive forces had begun to stir.” It is clear from this that it was the timing itself of Brandes’ lectures that made them controversial. The fact itself that a group, especially of young people, had been gathered to hear a series of lectures with the character of an agitation was enough to associate Brandes with socialism. Ploug concluded his intervention by calling the young firebrand to order with a reminder of his Jewish ancestry, challenging him to proceed with greater gratitude toward “the society that had provided his forefathers with hospitable shelter.”

Brandes attempted to respond to Ploug’s accusations and anti-Semitic attack on his right to express himself, but was now subjected to the bitter experience that the newspapers and journals in which he had earlier published his literary criticism and theater reviews were now closed to him, such that it was necessary for him to publish his response to Ploug as a paid insert in Dagbladet (Feb 22). In the meantime, Fædrelandet continued its campaign, as the author and critic Rudolf Schmidt raked him over the coals in two front page articles (Mar 9 & 11), which criticized his subjectivity and lack of scholarly originality as well as, once again, repeating the accusations of socialism. “Behind Hr. Brandes’ showcasing of aesthetic bric-a-brac,” concludes Schmidt, “there lurks a fundamental dismay with societal organization as a whole, a fanatical desire to reorder it from the ground up” (Fædrelandet Mar 11).

Another important point of attack in the national liberal critique was Brandes’ critical methodology itself, which consisted of asserting that Emigrant Literature was neither aesthetics nor science, but on the contrary agitation – “a socially tendentious intervention.” The critic Peter Hansen registered this objection in his Dagbladet review (Mar 27), and D.G. Monrad repeated it in a series of articles on “Freethinking and Dr. Georg Brandes’ Lectures” (Fædrelandet April 4-6). Monrad rejects Brandes’ call for a literature that debates social problems by virtue of a principle of the autonomy of art: “naturally art has its own problems, but they are purely artistic” (Fædrelandet Apr 4). Like Peter Hansen and Rudolf Schmidt he calls for aesthetic evaluations of the works treated by Brandes. In other words, Emigrant Literature is evaluated according to the speculative Hegelian aesthetics Brandes had abandoned in favor of Taine’s positivism.

The Grundtvigian opposition to Brandes was registered by the author and lawyer Carl Rosenberg, who in a series of articles entitled “’Freethinking’ and Danish Intellectual Life in the 19th Century” (Hejmdal Mar 11-15) responded to Brandes’ assertion of the decline of Danish literature. This was not the case, argued Rosenberg, who instead set himself to showing how Danish literature in the 19th century had experienced a productive period of flourishing on the basis of the Grundtvigian trinity of the Nordic, the popular and the Christian. Danish literature had no need of seeking “foreign” nourishment from Europe. For the same reason Rosenberg found it not at all necessary to provide a closer description of the theme of Emigrant Literature, “the insane asylum into which the author leads us” (Hejmdal Mar 11).

Den nationalliberale-grundtvigianske koalition mod Brandes blotlagde på den måde en vis xenofobi i datidens danske kulturelite, som Brandes også sidenhen i sin karriere skulle få at føle. Henry J. Gibbons har opsummeret elementerne i den nationale modstand mod Brandes på følgende måde: ”Brandesianism was Jewish, udansk, foreign, European, Asiatic, oriental, or – perhaps worst of all – French.” (Gibbons 1980:64). Mest direkte kom den antisemitiske tendens til syne i den nationalliberale kritik, hos Ploug og Rudolf Schmidt, som ikke vidste pænere at sige om Brandes’ veltalenhed og stilistiske brillans som skribent, end at denne egenskab ”snarest er at betragte som en Arvelod, der overalt følger den semitiske Stamme” (Fædrelandet 9.3.1872). I en anonymt udgivet pjece om Den ny sensualistiske Lære og Dr. Brandes mente Dr. Schleisner tilsvarende, at Brandes’ æstetiske vurderinger ubevidst bar med sig et ”Stænk af Orientalisme” (Schleisner 1872:16), som gjorde ham ude af stand til at forstå den nationale danske kunst og litteratur.

By more or less vulgar means the campaign against Emigrant Literature thus managed to create an image of Brandes as persona non grata, an enemy of established society who for the same reason was unsuited to hold an office as a servant of the state.

b. Reception in Germany

The opposition that marked the Danish reception of Emigrant Literature is set in relief when it is compared to the reception of the work in neighboring countries. Swedish and Norwegian reviewers were otherwise positively inclined toward the work, which was praised for its originality and its lively and engaged manner of presentation. The contrast is still stronger when we look at the reception of Emigrant Literature in Germany, where the book was published in September in 1872. Here Brandes had a fine advocate in the translator Adolf Strodtmann, who in his favorably disposed introduction to the German edition and his somewhat valorizing discussion of Brandes in his book Das geistige Leben in Dänemark (1873) insured that Brandes received the best possible entré to the German literary market (compare Bruns 1977). Brandes was therefore received in Germany as the daring young freethinker who had challenged Danish orthodoxy and had been cut down by reactionary public opinion. The German reception was in a sense no less political than the Danish, but the tendency and the evaluation of the work was the opposite, in that Brandes was received with open arms by liberal German critics and reviewers.

It is clearly evident, from the quite positive and receptive reviews and discussions of Emigrant Literature in the German media, that the German reviewers were well informed of the work’s fate in Denmark. In Das Magazin für die Literatur des Auslandes (no. 49, 1872:640), Theodor Storm loyally refers to Brandes’ revolt against “die Versumpfung” [quagmire] of Scandinavian intellectual life, and foresees that Emigrant Literature will acquire an epochal significance for the diffusion of European ideas of freedom and progress in the Nordic Countries – “Eine bittere Medizin zwar, aber hoffentlich von heilsamen Folgen” [a bitter medicine, but hopefully with healing effects] (Ibid). At the same time, the reviewer notes with satisfaction that Brandes’ literary historical drama will reach its climax in the young, liberal Germany.

The anonymous reviewer in Literarisches Centralblatt similarly lauds Brandes for his uncompromising attack on Danish self-absorption and self-satisfaction. The review focuses especially on Brandes as rhetorician and agitator – “Ein literarischer Gambetta proclamiert Brandes darin die geistige Revolution” [Like a literary Gambetta, Brandes proclaims the intellectual revolution in Denmark] (Anon. 1873:820). The lectures are praised for their intellectual riches and elegant art of characterization, and Brandes is likened to a physician who enters a closed up and foul smelling sickroom, peeling back the shutters and opening the windows so that air and sunlight can enter. The reviewer takes exception to the reliance on simplified oppositions in Emigrant Literature, yet at the same time praises the work for its penetrating analogies between different cultural traditions. Brandes’ reform program has our fullest sympathies, concludes the review.

Robert Waldmüller (the pseudonym of the author and painter Charles Edouard Duboc), in Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung (Waldmüller 1874:92-3), lauds Brandes as a lone fighter for freedom and modern science in the Scandinavian countries, yet notes also that “Er hat bei diesem Kampfe die liberalen Elemente aller Nationen auf seiner Seite” [in these struggles he has the liberal elements in all nations on his side] (Waldmüller 1874:93). Brandes is again praised for his refreshing and lively form of presentation, and Waldmüller deems Emigrant Literature as a work of interest to all Europe.

These three examples show how unlike in Denmark there were favorable conditions in Germany for a liberal and cosmopolitan critic and mediator like Brandes, and this measure of positive interest was influential in Brandes’ decision to pursue a career in Germany in the years following. Thanks to Strodtmann, the subsequent volumes of Main Currents were published almost simultaneously in German editions (Brandes 1873, 1874, 1876), and in 1874 Brandes was retained as staff writer for Julius Rodenberg’s newly founded liberal journal Deutsche Rundschau, for which over the course of the next fifteen years he produced a series of important treatises on European authors and cultural personalities, culminating with the long treatment of Friedrich Nietzsche in 1890.

The same year that Brandes became affiliated with Deutsche Rundschau, a review of the first three volumes by Friedrich Kreyssig appeared in the October-November issue. Kreyssig also celebrates the cosmopolitan ambition of the work, praising Brandes as a progressive advocate of freedom and modern science, yet additionally points to the disciplinary innovation in Brandes’ methodology. Main Currents is not literary history in the traditional sense, neither biographical-genetic author portraits nor bibliographic annals nor aesthetic art criticism. “Wer also das Buch zur Hand nähme, um etwa auf eine Prüfung über Literaturgeschichte sich vorzubereiten, der ginge gewiss an die falsche Adresse” [Thus he who would take the book in hand to prepare for an exam in literary history would get lost in the trees]. In contrast, what Brandes illuminates is the mental labor of literature and the great transformations in the “psychology” of German and French society during the period (Kreyssig 1874:140). At the same time Kreyssig notes that Brandes does not shrink from slogans and anecdotes, but that this trait also constitutes an example of his originality and degree of his emancipation from the Hegelian school of aesthetics.

When Emigrant Literature was issued in 1882 as a revised German second edition (Brandes 1882), there followed still another quite favorable review in Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung by Otto Weddingen, who focuses on Brandes’ work as a pioneering contribution to comparative literary studies. Weddingen further identifies Brandes’ cultural historical and psychological view of literature as the great merit of the work: “Es ist kein Buch in dem gewöhnlichen Sinne unserer Literaturgeschichten, es ist kein Sammelsurium von Namen und Daten, sondern ein Erzeugnis, welches die Literaturen vom psychologischen Standpunkt aus betrachtet” [it is not a literary history in the conventional sense, not a medley of names and dates, but in contrast a product of the psychological observation of the literatures] (Weddingen 1882:750).

These last reviews give witness to Brandes’ rising reputation in Germany as literary critic and cosmopolitan mediator – a good European and cultural missionary, as Friedrich Nietzsche summarized his role in the aforementioned private letter of 1887 (Brandes 1966:441). During this same period Brandes also came to play a main role in the introduction of modern Scandinavian literature, for example Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, to Germany. The status and prestige enjoyed by Brandes in the young radical literary milieu of Germany is apparent in the following character sketch by the theater critic, dramatist and founder of the Berlin-based Naturalist theater Freie Bühne, Otto Brahm, published in Frankfurter Zeitung on March 3rd, 1884, on the occasion of a staging of Ibsen’s Ghosts:

We Germans cannot look on the development of Nordic poetry without envy . . . a cohesive literary movement . . . which aims at the liberation of the mind from the depths of darkness . . . It is with a “golden recklessness” that Ibsen and Bjørnson and the youth of Scandinavia, who have a leader in Georg Brandes, fight against the medieval oppression that burdens the minds of these bishop ruled countries . . . When Georg Brandes some fifteen years ago awakened his countrymen by telling of the “main currents” of modern literature, a new epoch broke out; just as the classical period in our literature emanated from Lessing and Herder, this breakthrough occurred at the urging of a purely critical intellect (Brahm 1913:74).

Riding the Scandinavian wave and the fame of Brandes in Germany, a series of new collected editions of Main Currents were published in the 1890s, and thus a new round of reviews followed, in which the continued acknowledgment of Brandes as the leading figure of the Modern Breakthrough in Scandinavian literatures was blended with new critical voices. An example of the new engagement is Franz Mehring’s review of the collected edition of Main Currents in Die neue Zeit, in which Brandes meets with criticism for his bourgeois and idealistic conception of history: “Als bürgerlicher Schriftsteller bewegt sich Brandes immer auf idealistischem Boden; er behauptet zwar gelegentlich überall ins Leben zurückzugreifen, aber die Erkenntnis, dass sich die literarische Bewegung in letzter Instanz aus der ökonomischen Entwicklung erklärt, ist ihm fremd” [As a bourgeois author Brandes treads always upon idealistic ground; sure enough he occasionally asserts that he reaches back toward life in all areas, yet the awareness that the literary movement in the end is a mirroring of economic development is alien to him]. Yet Mehring concludes by praising Brandes for his lively and intellectually abundant style, which “schmeckt wie feuriger Wein, verglichen mit der faden Limonade der preussischen Literaturgeschichte” [tastes like a fiery wine when compared to the flavorless lemonade of Prussian literary history” (Mehring 1893-4:311).

c. Reception in France

The favorable German reception of Emigrant Literature can be compared to the book’s fate in France. That such a comparison is of particular interest is due not only to the fact that the book was about French literature, but also because France at the time enjoyed status as the first nation of the world literary republic. Paris was the cultural center for artistic and literary innovation in Europe and the world – the place from which new literary and artistic movements emanated and in which the respective criteria of literary quality and modernity were set. For these reasons the French market, for Brandes and successive generations of Scandinavian authors, constituted the promised land, the place where more than any other it was desired to have one’s texts published and evaluated. Yet as we shall see, France was the place in Europe in which Brandes had the greatest difficulty in establishing a name for himself, because national arrogance and resistance to literary influence from abroad was so much stronger there than elsewhere.

Emigrant Literature was otherwise substantially introduced already in 1873, in the form of a more than thirty-page article by Henri Blaze de Bury in the November issue of the leading cosmopolitan journal of the age, Revue des deux mondes. The article contains no critical evaluation of the work, instead consisting of a congenial and gripping summary of the main ideas of Emigrant Literature (based on the Strodtmann’s German translation from 1872), supplemented by a series of original French citations from Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël. The Francophone world thus had an early opportunity to become acquainted with Brandes’ comparative understanding of literature and his principal literary historical thesis on the main current in 19th century European literature as an interplay between the spirit of Voltaire and the spirit of Rousseau.

Nevertheless, ten years would pass before the French public would again here of Brandes, this time in the form of a critical profile by Arvède Barine (the pseudonym of Madame Charles Vincens) in La Revue Blanche (Barine 1883). This article is of particular interest in that it contains a morally and ideologically grounded critique of Brandes’ vision of humanity and society in Emigrant Literature. Barine characterizes Brandes as a “sectarian” disciple of Rousseau, asserting that his temperament was carried away by his passionate struggle for natural rights and individual freedom at the expense of “civilization” and social morality. As a counter argument, she argues that the laws of society and moral rules of conduct in a modern civilized society also and especially serve the function of protecting people against infringement. Barine thus contests the democratic starting point of Brandes’ radicalism, in that she suggests that the consequence of his struggle for the emancipation of the individual in reality would lead to a legitimization of the right of the stronger.

Despite these and other more literary historical objections, Barine concludes however by expressing her fervent acknowledgment of Brandes’ bold attempt to present a synthesis of this chaotic chapter in French literary history from the opposition between Voltaire and Rousseau, predicting a grand career for Brandes in the future. At the conclusion of the review it is evident that Brandes’ work appeals to a certain form of national sentiment among French critics, which is underscored by their gratitude toward the Dane’s immense service in having demonstrated how the main currents of 19th century European literature originated in France. “We are no longer pampered by these kinds of complements,” the review concludes (Barine 1883:764).

This concluding formulation provides a little glimpse of the national attitude of defeatism that marked the cultural climate of France after defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This defeatist attitude is at the same time an important aspect of the relative insularity of the French literary market of the time – in comparison to developments in the contemporary German book market, which among other things was characterized by a burst of translation activity, not only of Scandinavian literature. There were thus also historical and structural reasons that the diffusion of Main Currents proceeded sluggishly in France, where only one of the six volumes, namely the fifth, The Romantic School in France, managed to be published in French translation at the time.

Just as Brandes during his Berlin exile (1877-83) had established for himself a position as a European literary critic in Germany, it was his great disappointment that there was minimal interest for his works in France. His disappointment palpably comes to expression in a letter to his friend Noufflard, dated January 26th, 1888. The concrete background for this was the ironic twist that two English journals, The Spectator and Saturday Review, had discussed the German Georg Brandes as “the greatest living critic,” which provided Brandes the opportunity to offer a few observations regarding power relations in the world literary republic:

Je lis toujours beaucoup de Français. J’aime votre littérature plus que toute autre. J’ai écrit plus de livres sur la France que sur tout autre pays et pourtant je suis parfaitement inconnu en France. Quand j’avais écrit un seul article sur les Flamands on était prêt à m’ériger des statues en Flandre; tout les poètes m’envoyaient leurs œuvres, tous les journaux parlaient de moi. Quand j’ai écrit deux petits articles sur les écrivains Russes sans même savoir leur langue, on a été tellement touché de mes connaissances qu’on m’a loué, m’a traduit, m’a fait venir. Sur la France j’ai écrit plus de volumes que je n’ai écrit d’articles sur la Russie, et on sait à peine que j’existe. Un certain Charles Simond veut me traduire; depuis deux ans il cherche en vain un éditeur, bien que Paul Bourget m’ait offert d’écrire une introduction. Cela m’attriste un peu, car une réputation n’est pas consacrée aussi longtemps que la France n’a pas dit son mot.
[I constantly read French. I love your literature more than any other. I have written more books about France than any other country, and still I am altogether unknown in France. When I had written a single article on Flemish literature, they were ready to erect a statue of me; all their poets sent me their works, all their newspapers talked about me. When I had written two short articles on Russian poets, without even knowing the language, they were so moved by knowledge of them that I was praised, translated and invited to visit. I have written more books on France than I have articles on Russia, and still the French hardly know I exist. A certain Charles Simond wants to translate me; for two years he has searched in vain for a publisher, even though Paul Bourget has for a long time promised to write an introduction. It irritates me, for the measure of an author has not been established as long as France has withheld its judgement]. (Brandes 1952:131-2).

In the meantime the judgement of France arrived in 1893 in the form of a new twenty page critical article in Revue de deux mondes, in which the critic Jean Thorel critically examined the Main Currents on the occasion of the newly published, collected German edition of Die Litteratur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts in ihren Hauptströmningen, issued by the Leipzig house Veit & Co. (1882-92).

Thorel begins by affirming Brandes’ rising reputation as European literary critic in Germany and by contesting the view of German critics that French national chauvinism is a reason that his work has been ignored in France. According to Thorel, this lack of acknowledgement in France is due more to the fact that Brandes is not a literary critic at all, but first and foremost a polemicist whose chief cause from the beginning had been to fight against and ultimately destroy every form of religion. Brandes’ anti-clerical agenda was however of less relevance in the French context, and what the Danish critic had to say about French literature in Emigrant Literature did not impress the French critic. Brandes’ tiny selection of authors and works from the period was “wholly insufficient” and all too selective to fulfill the ambition of portraying the main currents of 19th psychology (Thorel 1893:343). Thorel further opposed the abstract Hegelian scheme itself that undergirded Brandes’ dramatic arrangement of 19th century European literary history as an interplay and a synthesis between the spirit of Voltaire and the spirit of Rousseau, in that he could not comprehend what kind of common “liberal” spirit could be attributed to the intellectual essences of Voltaire, Rousseau, Lessing, and Schiller.

At the same time Thorel pointed out an internal contradiction in Brandes’ methodology and program for the comparative view of literature, which consisted on the one hand of affirming the prior lack of exchange between European national literatures, and on the other, the assertion that the literary works and types in the different literatures were casually connected and determinative of one another. If one was really to study the deeper and lasting influences between the literatures, then according to Thorel one must abandon the politicizing contemporary perspective on literature, instead going to the sources themselves. Evident in this objection is the influence of contemporary comparative literary studies, which had set new scientific standards for literary criticism according to which a positivistic interest in influences between works and authors had supplanted the older literary historical romantic-idealistic doctrine of a universal spirit in history. From this perspective Thorel also criticizes the construction of the six volumes of Main Currents, arguing that the book on German Romanticism should have come before the volume on French emigrant literature. De Staël continued the work of the German Romantics, not vice versa. Again the problem was the politicizing Hegelian scheme that placed the abstract main currents and the oppositions between action and reaction over and above literary historical fact and chronology, thus leading to an artificial division on the literature of the period.

At the conclusion of the review the French critic marshals all of his weapons in order to deprive Brandes of any claim to legitimacy or originality as literary historian. Brandes’ work was nothing other than “a long, confused and indirect defense [plaidoyer]” of political ideas that were alien to literature and as such would have demanded a wholly different approach than that pursued in the work. From the point of view of literary history, Brandes’ efforts amounted to nothing other than ephemeral compilation:

[…] quelque bruit qui ait été fait autour de son nom et de ses livres, on s’aperçoit, le premier moment d’étonnement passé, qu’il n’y a là rien qui mérite d’arrêter l’attention plus qu’il ne convient de le faire pour une compilation, momentanement utile à cause de la masse des materiaux qui y sont rassemblés, mais que demain le premier compilateur venu pourra refaire avec plus de méthode et de clarté, ce qui rendra tout de suite inutile, – même comme compilation, – toute l’œuvre de M. Brandes.
[regardless of all the hubbub surrounding his name and his books, as soon as the initial bemusement has passed, one discovers that there is nothing in his work that deserves attention other than that it is passable as a kind of compilation, which at the moment is useful because of the great mass of material collected within it, but which tomorrow will be able to be reworked with more methodological skill and greater clarity than the initial compiler has exhibited, which will immediately render Mr. Brandes’ entire work obsolete, even as a compilation]. (Thorel 1893:358)

Thorel’s violent dismissal of Brandes is part of a debate in 1890s literary France that revolved around how one should relate to the new and foreign literary expressions and influences that had been introduced to the country during the period. Just as in Germany, France was also witness to a Scandinavian wave that manifested itself in translations and in Paris productions of modern Scandinavian dramatists such as Ibsen, Bjørnson and Strindberg. Yet at the same time the French literary public was also capable of exhibiting an equally fervent opposition to the present “Scandophilia” or “Nordomania,” articulated by nationally oriented literati and theater critics who desired to protect France’s national poetics and its hegemony in the world literary republic against foreign influence. Thorel’s attempt to deprive Brandes of his status as leading European literary critic also follows this pattern.

In relation to the positive reception of Brandes in Germany, it is interesting that it was in republican and secular France that Brandes’ work encountered the most engaged moral and ideological opposing voices. It is further interesting to note that a majority of the objections to Brandes in French criticism (such as the charges of politicizing art and disavowing religion) were the same as those he had encountered in the national liberal Danish public of 1872 – but with the important difference that French critics understood the difference between liberalism and socialism. In the same manner as in Denmark after the defeat of 1864, France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 had rendered political and literary opinion in the country more national and thereby less receptive to a cosmopolitan critic like Brandes.

Taken together these examples demonstrate how political conditions both at home and abroad impacted the reception of Emigrant Literature.

d. Later Scholarship

Paul V. Rubow is correctly viewed as the founder of scientific Brandes scholarship, by virtue of his treatise “Georg Brandes’ Forhold til Hippolyte Taine og C.A. Sainte Beuve” (published in Edda VI 1916 and Litterære Studier, 1928), which outlines how Brandes’ earliest practice as literary critic took form under the influence of the two French models. Rubow thereby set the direction for early Brandes scholarship, which was first and foremost comparatively oriented, e.g. seeking to show the decisive literary, philosophical and theoretical influences that shaped Brandes as critic. In Georg Brandes’ Briller (1928), Rubow accentuates his relationship to the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard as critical to the development of Brandes’ combative personality.

A necessary supplement to Rubow is Gunnar Ahlström’s dissertation Georg Brandes’ Hovedstrømninger (1937), which examines the influence of Hegel and German post-Hegelianism as the essential ideological and historical philosophical inspiration for Main Currents.

Henning Fenger’s dissertation Georg Brandes’ Læreår (1955) outlines the entirety of Brandes’ literary and scientific education up to the breakthrough with Emigrant Literature, with special emphasis on the inspiration he took from French Romanticism. A main point in the dissertation is expressed in the pregnant characterization of Brandes as “a Romantic who spent his life fighting against Romanticism” (Fenger 1955:407).

In Den unge Brandes. Miljø. Venner. Rejser. Kriser. (1957) – the follow up to his dissertation – Fenger proposes an alternative background for Emigrant Literature, which blew up the comparative approach by seeking the cause of Brandes’ combativeness and critique of marriage in biographical circumstances: Brandes’ impossible, yet no less impassioned love affair with the (unhappily) married Caroline David, twelve years his senior. “We cannot understand much of Brandes in the years 1867-72 if we are not aware of this relationship, which functions as the secret code of his critical writings, not the least the lectures of 1871 and 1872” (Fenger 1957:119-20).

The biographical approach to Brandes is followed to its fullest extent by Jørgen Knudsen in Georg Brandes. Frigørelsens vej. 1842-77 (1985), which constitutes the first of the eight volumes of his grand Brandes biography (1985-2004).

Bertil Nolin’s monograph Den gode europén (1965), subtitled Studier i Georg Brandes’ idéutvekling. 1871-1893, follows up where Rubow and Fenger leave off, in that it analyzes Brandes’ activity and development as critic during the twenty-year period in which Main Currents was produced. The treatise takes its title from Nietzsche’s previously mentioned famous characterization of Brandes as “the good European and cultural missionary,” and outlines how Brandes wrote his to way to this status through his broad orientation in contemporary German, English, Slavic, and French literature. Nolin is also the author of the best all-around guide to Brandes’ authorship in the form of the English-language introduction Georg Brandes (1976), which includes a short and precise analysis of the course of the affair of Emigrant Literature.

In continuation of the comparative tradition within Brandes scholarship, which had focused on Brandes as literary critic, a central direction within scholarship since the 1970s has focused on the political and activist dimension of Brandes’ work. On the hundredth anniversary of Brandes’ lectures on emigrant literature, Copenhagen University hosted a series of lectures published in 1973 under the title Den politiske Georg Brandes, edited by Hans Hertel and Sven Møller Kristensen. In 1978, Hertel and Kristensen further organized an international symposium with around thirty participants from eleven countries, which in 1980 resulted in The Activist Critic. A Symposium on the Political Ideas, Literary Methods and International Reception of Georg Brandes, which constitutes a milestone in modern Brandes scholarship, both by analyzing Brandes’ efforts as a liberal and activist critic and by tracing the reception of his works across Europe and the rest of the world.

The role, status and reach of Brandes as international literary critic and intellectual was again in 2008 the object of an international conference, held in Nancy in France. The conference resulted in the 2010 publication of the book Grands courants d’échanges Intellectuels: Georg Brandes et la France, L’Allemagne, L’Angleterre (Bourguignon et al., eds., 2010), which likewise contains a series of interesting contributions illuminating the international historical impact of Brandes.

Three doctoral dissertations containing analyses of Emigrant Literature have been published in Denmark in the last decade. Svend Skriver’s Europæere i 1800-tallets danske litteratur: Om Jens Baggesen, P.L. Møller og Georg Brandes (2007) contains a literary historiographical analysis of the narrative devices and “strategies of internationalization” in Emigrant Literature, without however addressing Brandes’ strategies of international publication and the transmission of the work abroad.

Pelle Oliver Larsen’s Professorat. Kampen om Det Filosofiske Facultet 1870-1920 (2016) provides a detailed sociological investigation of the course of events surrounding the denial of the professorship in aesthetics at Copenhagen University to Brandes after 1872. The dissertation outlines how moral and religious concerns, rather than scientific arguments, were the reason that a majority of the professors on the faculty opposed Brandes..

Finally, Georg Brandes’ conflicted relation to Judaism has been made the object of an independent investigation by Søren Blak Hjortshøj, Georg Brandes’ Representation of Jewishness (2017). His thesis is that even though Brandes often distanced himself Judaism, it can at the same time be observed how throughout his whole authorship he is interested in the role of the Jew in history and the Jewish contribution to the development of Western civilization. Hjortshøj thus argues for a point of view that has also been expressed above, that there is a connection between Brandes’ cosmopolitan vision of literary history and his own particular experiences as a Jew. Through an analysis of the topos of exile in Brandes’ early authorship, Hjortshøj demonstrates how Brandes saw the modern European Jew as a historical type that, precisely by virtue of his homelessness and lack of anchoring in a national tradition, was especially disposed to play the role of cosmopolitan bridge builder and pioneer of Europe’s cultural and political modernization (Hjortshøj 2017:43-77).

e. Concluding Perspective

Thus we arrive back at the question of Brandes relevance to the 21st century. As suggested many times along the way, both Brandes’ cosmopolitan vision of European literature and his profound sympathy with emigrant experience can be brought into dialogue with the views of late 20th and early 20th century postcolonial literary criticism, which shares an interest in the connection between Western modernity, mobility and migration. A fundamental idea in postcolonial literary criticism is that modern Western identity is decisively shaped by European nations’ past as colonial powers and the various long term effects of such. Thus postcolonial criticism accentuates European and Western culture and identity as a phenomenon that has come into being through the encounter with the alien and which has the experience and the homelessness and foreignness of emigrants built into it – which is simultaneously a traumatic yet necessary and unavoidable experience and a part of itself.

As the Palestinian-American professor of literature Edward W. Said has emphasized, modern Western culture is to a wide extent a product of the exiled, the emigrant, the refugee. In the same place Said stresses how exile and emigrant literature can articulate “a contrapuntal consciousness” (Said 2008:148), e.g. an awareness of difference and openness to the alien that renders us able to consort with people and cultural forms of expression that are different from our own. Another central voice of postcolonial theory, the Indian-English scholar Homi K. Bhabha, has with his concept of “hybridity” identified the mixing of races and the meeting of cultures as the very space of creativity and innovation in a globalized culture (Bhabha 1994).

Such ways of thinking can almost sound like the Romantic music of the past in light of our age of the global movement of refugees and migrants and reawakened nationalism, but they also provide the opportunity to reassess the contemporary relevance of Brandes’ comparative and cultural critical methodology.

5. Bibliography

  • Ahlström, Gunnar (1937): Georg Brandes’ Hovedstrømninger. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup.
  • Allen, Julie K. (2010): Brandes as a German Journalist: Shaping Cultural Identity through the Mass Media, i: Anne Bourguignon m.fl. 2010, 227-42.
  • Bhabha, Homi K. (2007): ’Race’, tid og revision af moderniteten” [1994], i: Hauge, Hans (red.): Postkolonialisme, Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.
  • Bohnen, Klaus (2005): Georg Brandes in seiner deutschen Korrespondenz. København/München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.
  • Bourguignon, Anne, Harrer, Konrad Clausen, Jørgen Stender (red.) (2010): Grands courants d’échanges intellectuels: Georg Brandes et La France, L’Allemagne, L’Angleterre. Actes de la deuxième conference internationale Georg Brandes, Nancy, 13-15 Novembre 2008, Bern: Peter Lang.
  • Brahm, Otto (1913): Kritische Schriften über Drama und Theater, Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag. Brandes, Georg (1866): Dualismen i vor nyeste Philosophie, Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandel.
  • Brandes, Georg (1870a): Den franske Æsthetik i vore Dage. En Afhandling om H. Taine, Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandel.
  • Brandes, Georg (1870b): Kritiker og Portraiter, Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandel.
  • Brandes, Georg (1872a): Emigrantlitteraturen. Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandel.
  • Brandes, Georg (1872b): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i: Die Emigrantenliteratur, Berlin: Duncker.
  • Brandes, Georg (1873): Den romantiske Skole i Tydskland. Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendalske Boghandel.
  • Brandes, Georg (1882): Die Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts in ihren Hauptströmungen dargestellt, i: Die Emigrantenliteratur, 2. udg., Leipzig: Veit & Co.
  • Brandes, Georg (1886): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i: Die Emigrantenliteratur, 3. udg., Leipzig: Barsdorf.
  • Brandes, Georg (1894): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i: Die Emigrantenliteratur, 4. udvidede udg., Leipzig: Barsdorf.
  • Brandes, Georg (1897): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i: Die Emigrantenliteratur, 5. omarbejdede og udvidede jubilæums-udg. Leipzig: Barsdorf.
  • Brandes, Georg (1952): Correspondance de Georg Brandes, I: La France et l’Italie, København: Rosenkilde og Bagger.
  • Brandes, Georg (1956): Correspondance de Georg Brandes, II: L’Angleterre et la Russie, København: Rosenkilde og Bagger.
  • Brandes, Georg (1966): Correspondance de Georg Brandes, III: L’Allemagne, København: Rosenkilde og Bagger.
  • Brandes, Georg (1978): Breve til forældrene 1859-71, udgivet af Morten Borup, I-III, C.A. Reitzel.
  • Brandes, Georg og Brandes, Edvard (1939-42): Brevveksling med nordiske Forfattere og Videnskabsmænd, I-VIII, København: C.A. Reitzel.
  • Braudel, Fernand (1997): Ecrits sur l'histoire II, Paris: Flammarion.
  • Bruns, Alken (1977): Strodtmanns Brandes-Rezeption, in: Bruns: Übersetzung als Rezeption. Deutsche Übersetzer skandinavischer Literatur von 1860 bis 1900 [Skandinavische Studien 8], Neumünster 1977: 106-120.
  • Casanova, Pascale (1999): La republique mondiale des lettres, Paris: Éditions du Seuil Dahl, Per (1998): Georg Brandes-tidstavle 1842–1927 [Arbejdspapirer 18-1998. Institut for Litteraturhistorie, Aarhus Universitet], Aarhus.
  • Dahlerup, Pil (1983): Det moderne gennembruds kvinder, København: Gyldendal.
  • Fenger, Henning (1955): Georg Brandes' Læreår. Læsning, ideer, smag, kritik 1857-1872, København: Gyldendalske Boghandel – Nordisk Forlag.
  • Fenger, Henning (1957): Den unge Brandes. Miljø, venner, rejser, kriser. København: Gyldendalske Boghandel – Nordisk Forlag.
  • Gibbons, Henry J. (1980): Georg Brandes. The reluctant Jew, i: Hertel og Kristensen 1980, 55-89. Hertel, Hans og Kristensen, Sven Møller (red.) (1973): Den politiske Georg Brandes, København: Hans Reitzel.
  • Hertel, Hans og Kristensen, Sven Møller (red.) (1980): The Activist Critic. A symposium on the political ideas, literary methods and international reception of Georg Brandes [Orbis Litterarum. Supplement 5], København: Munksgaard, 1980.
  • Hjortshøj, Søren Blak (2017): Georg Brandes’ Representations of Jewishness: Between Grand Recreations of the Past and Transformative Visions of the Future, ph.d.-afhandling, Roskilde University.
  • Juncker, Beth (1973): Debatten omkring Emigrantlitteraturen, i: Hertel og Kristensen 1973, 27-66.
  • Knudsen, Jørgen (1985): Georg Brandes. Frigørelsens vej 1842-77, København: Gyldendal.
  • Kristensen, Sven Møller (1980): Georg Brandes. Kritikeren, liberalisten, humanisten, Gyldendal, København.
  • Larsen, Pelle Oliver (2016): Professoratet. Kampen om Det Filosofiske Fakultet 1870-1920, København: Museum Tusculanum.
  • Madsen, Peter (2004): World Literature and World Thoughts, i: Christopher Prendergast (red.): Debating World Literature. London: Verso, 54-75.
  • Nolin, Bertil (1965): Den gode europén. Studier i Georg Brandes' idéutveckling 1871-1893 med speciell hänsyn till hans förhållande till tysk, engelsk, slavisk och fransk litteratur, Uppsala: Svenska Bokförlaget/Nordtedts.
  • Nolin, Bertil (1976): Georg Brandes [Twayne’s World Authors Series 390], Boston: Twayne Publishers.
  • Nolin, Bertil (1980): The critic and his paradigm. An analysis of Brandes’ role as a critic 1870-1900 with special reference to the comparatistic aspect, i: Hertel og Kristensen 1980: 21-36.
  • Rubow, Paul V. (1927): Georg Brandes og hans Lærere [Studier fra Sprog- og Oldtidsforskning, 144].
  • Rubow, Paul V. (1928): Litterære Studier, København: Levin.
  • Rubow, Paul V. (1932): Georg Brandes’ Briller, København: Levin & Munksgaard.
  • Rubow, Paul V. (1976): De Franske, København: Gyldendal.
  • Rømhild, Lars Peter (1980): Georg Brandes and Comparative Literature, i: Hertel og Kristensen 1980, 284-302.
  • Said, Edward W. (2000): Reflections on Exile and other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Sørensen, Bengt Algot (1980): Georg Brandes als ”deutscher” Schriftsteller. Skandinavische moderne und deutscher Naturalismus, i: Hertel og Kristensen 1980, 127-145.
  • Taine, Hippolyte (1866): Histoire de la littérature anglaise, 1, 2. rev. udgave, Paris: Libr. Hachette.
  • Taine, Hippolyte (1877): Den engelske Literaturs Historie. Første Deel, København: Gyldendalske Boghandel.

Anmeldelser og modtagelseskritik

  • Anon. (1873): G. Brandes: Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts, i Literarisches Centralblatt, 28. juni, nr. 26, sp. 819-821.
  • Anon. (1876): G. Brandes: Hovedstrømninger i det 19de Aarhundredes Literatur, i Morgenbladet, 10. februar.
  • Anon. (1877): Georg Brandes Hovedstrømninger m.m., i Norsk Tidsskrift for Literatur, 29. juli.
  • Anon. (1893): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts, i Nord und Süd.
  • Anon. (1894): Die Hauptströmungen der Litteratur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i Westermanns Monatshefte.
  • Barine, Arvède (1883): Un critique danois - M. George Brandes, i La Revue Bleue, juni: 759-764.
  • Bury, Henri Blaze de (1873): Les grands courans de la littérature française au dix-neuvième siècle, i La Revue des deux mondes, vol. 108, december: 5-36.
  • Jung, Alexander (1877): Das Literaturwerk von G. Brandes, i Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung 22, 23, 24.
  • Kreyssig, F. (1874): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts i Deutsche Rundschau, oktober: 139-141.
  • Kuh, Emil (1876): Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i Beilage zur Wiener Abendpost, 11., 12., 13., 14., april.
  • Lublinski, Samuel (1900). Albert Geiger, Georg Brandes und ich, i Das Magazin für Litteratur, september.
  • Mehring, Franz (1893-1894): Georg Brandes. Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, i Die neue Zeit: 309-311.
  • Morgenstern, Gustav (1894): Georg Brandes: Die Hauptströmungen der Litteratur des 19. Jahrhunderts, i Die Gesellschaft.
  • Sauer, August (1898): Brandes G. Die Hauptströmungen der Litteratur des 19. Jahrhunderts, i Euphorion.
  • Schleisner, P. (1872): Den ny sensualistiske Lære og Dr. G. Brandes, oplyst fra et naturvidenskabeligt Standpunkt. Kbh.
  • St., Th. [Theodor Storm] 1872: Dänemark, i Das Magazin für die Literatur des Auslandes 49: 640. Thorel, Jean (1893): La Critique internationale. M. George Brandes, i Revue des deux mondes, 15 septembre 1893, vol. 2: 337-358.
  • Weddigen, Otto (1882): Das Literaturwerk von Brandes in neuer Bearbeitung, i Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung, 748-750.