Brandes After Main Currents: Political Journalism. Human Rights Advocacy

by William Banks

As is evidenced in the new introductions to the six volumes of Main Currents -- as well as in the books themselves -- Brandes gradually drifted away from the sharply ideological and politically focused literary criticism of the early volumes toward a rising preoccupation with the individual "great personalities" of European literary history, among them, of course, Goethe and Heine. In some sense it is thus fair to say that Main Currents became somewhat less politically charged as the nearly two decades long project unfolded. Yet it would be a mistake to presume from this that Brandes after the completion of his master work somehow abandoned political engagement. Indeed, from the mid 1890s until the end of his life, the very opposite is the case. This essay briefly summarizes Brandes' activity as international human rights advocate in the final three decades of his long life in letters.

The essay draws upon the author's forthcoming volume, Georg Brandes. Human Rights and Oppressed Peoples. Collected Essays and Speeches, which will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring of 2020.

In process