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Speaker: Maike Oergel (Nottingham)

Looking at Brandes’ Politische Betrachtungen über die französische Revolution (1790) and Hendrich’s Freymütige Gedanken über die allerwichtigste Angelegenheit Deutschlands (1794), the paper discusses these two writers as examples of political and cultural commentators who were widely read and well respected at the time but are now either completely forgotten (Hendrich) or only a historical footnote (Brandes). The aim is less to resurrect them as lost ‘greats’ than to illuminate, through reading their book-length comments, the complex and shifting reactions to the Revolution in Germany and to ask why their considerable contemporary fame evaporated so quickly. Both were early supporters of the original aims of the Revolution, which does not quite fit the picture of the limited reception Brandes has had as a political conservative, nor the expectation one might have of Hendrich, given his life-long high-level involvement in the administration of Saxe-Meiningen. This approach of investigating ‘temporary canonicity’ yields twofold gains: writers who are widely read by their contemporaries provide insights into aspects of the contemporary context that may have become obscured, while their marginalisation may provide clues, or even evidence, for subtle historical shifts.

This lecture will be held in person (Room G37, Senate House) and will be streamed live via Zoom. 

Attendance is free. Advance registration is essential.