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Becoming Historical
Cultural Reformation and Public Memory in Early Nineteenth-Century Berlin


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  • Date Published: May 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521062985

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the ways in which selfhood and cultural solidarity came to be understood and lived as historical identities during the 1800s. It examines the stages and conflicts in the process of 'becoming historical' through the works of prominent Prussian artists and intellectuals (Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Felix Mendelssohn, Jacob Grimm, Friedrich Karl von Savigny, Leopold von Ranke) who attached their personal visions to the reformist agenda of the Prussian regime that took power in 1840. The historical account of the evolution of analogous and inter-related commitments to a cultural reformation that would create communal solidarity through subjective identification with public memory is framed by the philosophical perspectives on historical selfhood provided by F. W. J. Schelling and his radical critics, Karl Marx and Søren Kierkegaard, thus drawing this story of building selves and communities in early nineteenth-century Berlin into debates about historical determined and contingently constructed identities.

    • Encompasses the languages of architecture, music, philosophy, historiography, linguistics and law - great variety of sources
    • Ties issues of nineteenth-century historicism to current debates about discursive determination and subjective agency in the formation of personal and cultural identity
    • Provides new perspective on significance of the 1840s as a seminal period for the production of new ways of conceiving selfhood as historical identity
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    • Winner, 2004 Hans Rosenberg Book Prize, Central European History Society

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'In Becoming Historical, John Toews provides a challenging and thought-provoking reworking of the cultural and intellectual history of Berlin in the early nineteenth century. The analysis Toews offers is sophisticated, subtle and perceptive, providing new perspectives both on the 'old chestnuts' of German intellectual history and on the cultural politics of nationhood. It will undoubtedly emerge as a key text on the cultural and intellectual history of this period.' English Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521062985
    • length: 492 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.724kg
    • contains: 38 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Philosophical prologue: historical ontology and cultural reformation: Schelling in Berlin, 1841–5
    Part I. Historicism in Power:
    1840 and the Historical Turn in Prussian Cultural Politics:
    1. Nation, church, and the politics of historical identity: Frederick William IV's vision of cultural reformation
    2. 'Redeemed nationality': Christian Bunsen and the transformation of ethnic peoples into ethical communities under the guidance of the historical principle
    Part II. Architectural and Musical Historicism: Aesthetic Education and Cultural Reformation:
    3. Building historical identities in space and stone: Schinkel's search for the shape of ethical community
    4. The generation of ethical community from the spirit of music: Mendelssohn's musical constructions of historical identity
    Part III. Law, Language, and History: Cultural Identity and the Self-Constituting Subject in the Historical School:
    5. The tension between immanent and transcendent subjectivity in the Historical School of Law: from Savigny to Stahl
    6. The past as a foreign home: Jacob Grimm and the relation between language and historical identity
    7. Ranke and the Christian-German state: contested historical identities and the transcendent foundations of the historical subject
    Antiphilosophical Epilogue: historicizing self-identity in Kierkegaard and Marx, 1841–6

  • Author

    John Edward Toews, University of Washington
    John Edward Toews is Professor of History at the University of Washington. He is the author of Hegelianism: The Path Toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805–1841 (Cambridge, 1981) as well as numerous articles in scholarly journals. He also is the editor of The Communist Manifesto: By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels with Related Documents (1999).


    • Winner, 2004 Hans Rosenberg Book Prize, Central European History Society

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