Thinking With History: Explorations in the Passage to Modernism

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Thinking With History: Explorations in the Passage to Modernism

By Carl E. Schorske
Princeton University Press, 1998
240 pp. $24.95
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Thinking with history, Schorske tells us, means using the past in order "to orient ourselves in the living present"; it also means looking at ourselves as conditioned by the present "as it defines itself out of -- or against -- the past." These essays range far and wide: the idea of the city from Voltaire to Baudelaire and Spengler, the uses of the Middle Ages for modern purposes by Coleridge and Disraeli, the cultural development of Wagner and William Morris, the cosmopolitanism of nineteenth-century Basel. Many of them return to the Vienna Schorske had previously explored: the design of museums in the nineteenth century, generational tensions among fin-de-siecle artists, and the reactions of Freud to the alien cultures of France, England, Rome, Athens, and Egypt. What makes this volume even more valuable is a graceful essay in intellectual autobiography; it is candid, devoid of rancor as well as vanity, and elegant -- a perfect expression of its author's personality.

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