The Roots of Romanticism at last makes available in printed form Isaiah Berlin's most celebrated lecture series, the Mellon lectures, delivered in Washington in 1965, recorded by the BBC, and broadcast several times. A published version has been keenly awaited ever since the lectures were given, and Berlin had always hoped to complete a book based on them. But despite extensive further work this hope was not fulfilled, and the present volume is an edited transcript of his spoken words.
For Berlin, the Romantics set in motion a vast, unparalleled revolution in humanity's view of itself. They destroyed the traditional notions of objective truth and validity in ethics with incalculable, all-pervasive results. As he said of the Romantics elsewhere: "The world has never been the same since, and our politics and morals have been deeply transformed by them. Certainly this has been the most radical, and indeed dramatic, not to say terrifying, change in men's outlook in modern times."
In these brilliant lectures Berlin surveys the myriad attempts to define Romanticism, distills its essence, traces its developments from its first stirrings to its apotheosis, and shows how its lasting legacy permeates our own outlook. Combining the freshness and immediacy of the spoken word with Berlin's inimitable eloquence and wit, the lectures range over a cast of the greatest thinkers and artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Kant, Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Schlegel, Novalis, Goethe, Blake, Byron, and Beethoven. Berlin argues that the ideas and attitudes held by these and other figures helped to shape twentieth-century nationalism, existentialism, democracy, totalitarianism, and our ideas about heroic individuals, individual self-fulfillment, and the exalted place of art. This is the record of an intellectual bravura performance--of one of the century's most influential philosophers dissecting and assessing a movement that changed the course of history.
Isaiah Berlin was, until his death in 1997, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was renowned as an essayist and as the author of many books, among them Karl Marx, Four Essays on Liberty, Russian Thinkers, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind, and from Princeton, Concepts and Categories, Personal Impressions, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas, and Three Critics of the Enlightenment. Henry Hardy, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin's literary trustees. He has edited several other volumes by Berlin, and is currently preparing Berlin's letters and remaining unpublished writings for publication.
"Exhilaratingly thought-provoking. . . ."--The Times (London)
"A fascinating intellectual history. . . . Berlin partakes in a kind of victory celebration, an often breathless study of the movement that ended the hegemony of the rationalist tradition."--Douglas A. Sylva, New York Times Book Review
"Berlin at his best: quick-minded, erudite, witty and profound, and, above all, exciting. To read this book is to feel the force of living thought coming white-hot from the forge of a superb mind."--John Banville, The Irish Times
"Thoroughly brilliant, often thrilling and yet always accessible."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Here is Berlin doing what everyone said he did best: talk. . . . Berlin remains the tactful guest, discerning liberalism, toleration, decency and the appreciation of the imperfections of life also among the romantic movement's legacies. . . . Berlin liked to remind people that when they most believe they know where they are going, that is when they are likeliest to be wrong."--Colin Walters, The Washington Times
"A superlatively readable and absorbing primer. . . . As Berlin unfolds [Romanticism's] development, politics and art as we know them become more comprehensible than ever before."--Booklist
"The lecture pace of this volume makes it an excellent resource for both beginning researcher and seasoned scholar."--Library Journal
"[A] supremely intelligent and illuminating little book. . . . [A] marvelous example of Berlin doing what he did best--the judiciously poised and open-minded elucidation of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. . . . In an era where humane intellectual discourse has been deconstructed, intertextualised, phallicised and generally kicked senseless, Berlin's writing shines like a beacon."--Rupert Christiansen, The Spectator
Table of Contents:
|1||In Search of a Definition||1|
|2||The First Attack on Enlightenment||21|
|3||The True Fathers of Romanticism||46|
|4||The Restrained Romantics||68|
|6||The Lasting Effects||118|
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Isaiah Berlin:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Henry Hardy:
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