Georg Brandes and the History of Emotions

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The “current” constitutes the central concept in Georg Brandes’ grand oeuvre Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature. The concept denotes the major ideas and ideologies that dominated the successive periods Brandes examined, but it also designates a more elusive phenomenon – the whole emotional spectrum of feelings, moods, and sensibilities that suffused the individuals and societies that Brandes’ sought to describe and understand. Turning to literary works rather than political treatises, pamphlets, or other non-fictional documents, Brandes conceived of literature as an archive of both the ideas and the emotions of a given historical period. Indeed, Brandes’ famed “comparative literary perspective” was the prerequisite for discerning and writing a history of emotions. This chapter delves into Main Currents and outlines Brandes’ concept of emotions as he developed it across the six volumes. The chapter thereby seeks to recuperate a surprisingly innovative approach that serves as an important forerunner of Raymond William’s influential notion, in the 20th century, of ‘structures of feeling’ as well as a relevant background for the resurgence of interest in emotions, feelings, and affects in 21st century literary and cultural theory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeorg Brandes : Pioneer of Comparative Literature and Global Public Intellectual
EditorsJens Bjerring-Hansen, Anders Engberg-Pedersen, Lasse Horne Kjældgaard
Place of PublicationLeiden
Publication date2024
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-52603-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-68219-1
Publication statusPublished - 2024
SeriesInternationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft


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