Anglo-German Literary Encounters from 1910 to 1960
Building upon his earlier book The Death of the German Cousin (1986), renowned author Peter Edgerly Firchow focuses Strange Meetings on major modern British writers from Eliot to Auden and explores the development of British conceptions and misconceptions of Germany and Germans from 1910 to 1960.
While the book does not aim to be inclusive, it casts light on representative places, which will sensitize readers when they encounter similar phenomena in other contexts. The individual chapters highlight particularly significant moments in the problematic relationship between Britain and Germany during the first half of the last century. Firchow focuses on the personal encounter with Germany by Eliot, Lawrence, and Brooke in the years immediately preceding the Great War; on the tragic conflict between vocation and national identity faced by German academics specializing in English literature (especially Shakespeare), as well as by British academics specializing in German literature (especially Goethe), during the First World War; on Christopher Isherwood's formative years in Berlin during the final years of the Weimar Republic; on the appeal of Fascism to British intellectuals and literary figures during the 1930s (especially Yeats, Eliot, and Lawrence); and on the partial and ambiguous post-war reconciliation achieved in W.H. Auden's writings about his life in a German-speaking country from 1957 until his death in 1973. The introduction and conclusion of the book place these encounters in the context of current British views of Germans and vice versa.
"Firchow convincingly shows that for the so-called Thirties Generation of British literary intellectuals, Berlin had become for a brief moment in the twilight of the Weimar Republic what Paris had been for the Lost Generation during the Twenties. This is the indisputable merit of the book. It is a significant contribution to a better understanding of the cultural and intellectual interrelations of the years between the wars. Firchow writes clearly and with eloquence, frequently spiced with erudite humor, demonstrating all the more his magisterial command of the subject."—Hans H. Rudnick, Professor Emeritus, Southern Illinois University
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Edgerly Firchow, internationally recognized scholar and author of numerous works including Reluctant Modernists, W. H. Auden: Contexts for Poetry, Envisioning Africa: Racism and Imperialism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," The End of Utopia, and most recently Modern Utopian Fictions from H. G. Wells to Iris Murdoch, is professor of English at the University of Minnesota.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
"[T]he prolific Firchow gives a compelling account of the cultural tensions and strained literary relations between Germany and England during the first half of the 20th century. . . . Firchow's thorough research into literary, cultural, and political misconceptions of Germany on the part of England offers valuable new insights into an otherwise neglected aspect of modernism. . . . Recommended." — A. J. Cuda, Choice
"Each chapter puts forward a refreshingly lucid and engaging essay in the best sense of a broadly informed literary and cultural intelligence, with a strong personal voice, exploring new juxtapositions or constellations of texts and contexts in ways that open surprising, even startling, perspectives. The essays integrate historical and biographical detail into close textual analysis in order to show in exemplary instances the literary imagination at work across these two cultures in both directions. . . . Firchow concludes his probing elucidation of British-German relations with an epilogue on recent eruptions in English politics and the popular media, which leave him little hope that such "strange meetings" will rise above facile retreating on both sides of well-work stereotypes. Firchow's sympathetic but tough-mi
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