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A most dangerous book : Tacitus's Germania…
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A most dangerous book : Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the… (2011 original; edició 2011)

de Christopher B. Krebs

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1576133,292 (3.65)11
Traces the five-hundred year history and wide-ranging influence of the Roman historian's unflattering book about the ancient Germans that was eventually extolled by the Nazis as a bible.
Membre:lemurtrek
Títol:A most dangerous book : Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich
Autors:Christopher B. Krebs
Informació:New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2011.
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania From the Roman Empire to the Third Reich de Christopher B. Krebs (2011)

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» Mira també 11 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 6 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Informative and well-written, but it felt a bit padded -- I think it might have made a better Kindle Single than a book. Worth reading if you are interested in Germany under Hitler or in intellectual history. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Christopher Krebs' book takes a look at the way another has been used and misused over time: Tacitus' Germania, from the period of its composition during the first century CE to its apotheosis as a text naturalising Nazi claims to German racial superiority during the Third Reich. I thought it a useful and informative piece, which gives the general reader a sense of how and why scholars are interested in the history of a text's reception over time. I could see it being useful paired with Tacitus in an undergraduate history course, or the last chapter—on the ways in which the Germania was selectively edited, translated and framed for schoolchildren in 1930s and 40s Germany—used to hone in on the ways in which fascists regimes twist history to suit their own ends.

That said, A Most Dangerous Book felt padded at points (the process by which some early modern humanists Latinicised their surnames is rehearsed several times) and yet presumes a little too much at others (I think parts won't be very clear to you if you've not read the Germania first). Krebs was, I suspect, pushed by his publisher to make the book "sexier" by having the book open with Heinrich Himmler's search for the oldest-known manuscript of the Germania at the height of WWII, but that's not really what most of the book is about. It also has the unfortunate effect of making it seem like the book's main historical import is because it somehow sets Germans on a path that ends with a kind of race-based psychosis and genocide, which is just teleology-as-history and the Sonderweg thesis under another name.

There were also a number of points at which the prose was clunky or even difficult to parse—perhaps a function of the fact that Krebs is not a native English speaker, though a good editor should have caught most of them. But then there are some declarations which seem to point to a failure on Krebs' part to define the terms that he was using and to apply them consistently. For instance, when talking about Johann Friedrich Blumenbach as representative of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racial pan-Germanism, Krebs writes:

“Blumenbach was not a racist. A monogenist, he believed in the unity of human kind; a clearsighted scientist, he saw through allegedly impermeable lines between races and vociferously spoke out against the supposedly innate intellectual deficits of “Negroes.” And yet he regarded the Caucasian race—eponymously named after Mount Caucasus, thought to be its original habitat—not only as the original form of humankind, but also as “the most handsome and becoming.” Elevating Caucasians to aesthetic superiority, Blumenbach implicitly suggested that degeneration was decline and difference deficiency. ” (259, Kindle ed.)

That's racism, sir. It doesn't matter if Blumenbach was the benevolent, paternalist kind of racist or if he critiqued stronger proponents of scientific racism: he was still racist. ( )
  siriaeve | Feb 8, 2017 |
Informative and well-written, but it felt a bit padded -- I think it might have made a better Kindle Single than a book. Worth reading if you are interested in Germany under Hitler or in intellectual history. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
An excellent treatment of the use and abuse of Tacitus' Germania from the time of its composition through the Nazi era. Krebs ably recounts the various ways the text was shaped, adapted, and interpreted at various points (by such disparate figures as Montesquieu, Herder, and Gobineau), each for his own particular ends. Krebs also explores the "biography" of a particular Tacitean manuscript, which of course is of particular interest to me.

Really well done, overall. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 29, 2015 |
The ancients lived in different worlds and thought in different words. And they wrote with cuttlefish ink.

Krebs describes the development of a particular version of German identity, with origins in the various interpretations given to the Germania of Tacitus. It was those interpretations, not the text, that made the Germania “dangerous,” according to Krebs. He has written a fascinating study in the history of ideas.

Krebs begins with what we can know about Cornelius Tacitus, his times, and his book, written in 98 CE. An ethnography of fewer than 30 pages, the Germania was not a report; Tacitus was not an eyewitness but a reader, and likely never went north of the Alps. The geographical designation (Germanien) and the ethnic designation (Germanen) were inventions of Julius Caesar, to distinguish between those people who had been conquered and subsequently made citizens and those people who in their stubborn resistance remained beyond the frontiers of civilization (in this case, the Rhine). The Germania is not about the German past: it was written by a Roman in Rome for Romans.

A century and a half after his death, the works of Tacitus had all but vanished, only to reappear during the reign of Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, when Charlemagne directed the recovery and transcription of all known classical texts. (Much of what survives today of classical works dates from Charlemagne’s time). The only extant codex of the Germania was (re)discovered in the 15th c. at the monastery of Fulda in Hesse, preserved in the distinctive Caroline miniscule. A few adventurous monks and agents of the curia overcame years of subterfuge, treachery, false leads, and near-calamity to bring the codex to Rome, where reports of its recovery appeared in 1455.

Italian humanists, the vanguard in Renaissance culture, looked with disdain at the people north of the Alps and east of the Rhine, much as the classical Romans had, but a rapprochement of sorts began after Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. When Sultan Mehmet II captured Negroponte in 1470, Pope Paul II asked German Emperor Frederick III to convene the Imperial Diet in Regensburg, then sent a papal delegation led by Cardinal Giannantonio Campano to convince the Germans to join a crusade against the Turks for the defense of Christian Europe. It was a portentous moment, according to Krebs. Campano, drawing on Tacitus’ Germania, celebrated the Germans for their military prowess, their freedom and fortitude, and their religious piety. The Regensburg address in written form circulated widely north of the Alps, and opened the way for a different reading of Tacitus, for claims to an exemplary German past, and a fuller appreciation of German values.

German humanists embraced the Germania, since no account of that exemplary past existed from an indigenous hand. Gaps in the German tradition were filled with Nordic myths, biblical revisionism, or forgeries of lost antiquities. The origins of the German people were traced back to Tuisto, who was either an hermaphroditic earth-god or the unknown fourth son of Noah. The Germania became a form of propaganda for Hapsburg poet laureates and Bavarian court historians. The breach between classically-minded Italian humanists and nationalist-oriented German humanists reappeared, to be rent further by the Protestant Reformation. The first German translation of the Germania appeared in 1526, coinciding with the development of a German vernacular, which in turn led to the early-17th c. invention of German poetics and the establishment of ethnically-conscious literary societies.

I was struck by how the development of the concept of “Germanness” counted on the work of Germans and non-Germans alike. Montesquieu wrote in The Spirit of the Laws (1748) of the Germania as a blueprint for a free society. Herder (1744-1803) found in Tacitus confirmation that the Germans constituted their own archetype; he brought spirit, climate, language, and culture together as Folklore. By defining the German nation culturally, Herder found its mystical spirit alive in the past and preserved in the present through the language and traditions of the Volk. Themes divined from Tacitus—the purity of German language and culture, history as panacea, German predestination—took on a racial cast during the 19th c. with the influence of craniometric studies, phrenology, and the discovery of a Caucasian typology. For Germanic thinkers, science seemed to support a racial theory of history, though ironically it was the French writer Arthur de Gobineau who observed that the Aryan-Germanic part of the white race was responsible for the highlights of human civilization. Gobineau was part of the Bayreuth Circle gathered around Richard Wagner, as was the English ex-pat Houston Stewart Chamberlein, who popularized the racist, anti-Semitic, pan-Germanic themes of the völkisch movement.

It’s easy to see where all of this has been going. The Nazi movement took up the völkisch belief in the racial specificity of psyche and physiognomy (conveniently ignoring the contradiction between doctrine and the actual appearance of the likes of Himmler, Goebbels, Göring, and Hitler). Of the movement leaders, Reichsführer SS Himmler was the true believer in the Germanic mythology constructed around the text of Tacitus. In 1943, soon after the fall of Mussolini, Himmler dispatched a special SS unit to Italy to retrieve the Codex Aesinas, the hand-copied 15th-c. manuscript of the Germania. The mission failed but, writes Krebs, the damage had already been done.

Not that Krebs would lay the crimes of the Nazis on Tacitus. The meaning of a text is mediated by its readers. “The Germania is a most dangerous book,” writes Krebs, “not because it fitted the frame but because it helped form it.” A text called upon to define the German national character was “a Roman’s imaginative reflection on human values and a political statement.” Eduard Norden in the 1920s had traced many of the allegedly Germanic characteristics noted by Tacitus—their indigenousness, their ethnic purity, their physiognomic features—back to Greek and Roman descriptions of various other peoples like the Egyptians and the Scythians. One man’s barbarian is another man’s noble ancestor.

This was a good read, and valuable as an illustration of an important historiographical truth: when we see ourselves in the distant past, it is merely a trick of the historical light. ( )
1 vota HectorSwell | Apr 6, 2013 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 6 (següent | mostra-les totes)
"In every way, “A Most Dangerous Book” is a most brilliant achievement."
 
"This is an inventive analysis of, and warning against, an irresistible human yearning to find written proof of one's ideology."
afegit per bookfitz | editaPublishers Weekly (Feb 28, 2011)
 
This is an inventive analysis of, and warning against, an irresistible human yearning to find written proof of one's ideology.
afegit per Shortride | editaPublishers Weekly (Feb 28, 2011)
 
"A deeply chilling, enlightening story of the long, inexorable buildup to National Socialism."
afegit per bookfitz | editaKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2011)
 

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Traces the five-hundred year history and wide-ranging influence of the Roman historian's unflattering book about the ancient Germans that was eventually extolled by the Nazis as a bible.

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