Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen (1842–1927) By Allen, Julie
The Danish literary critic Georg Brandes is known as the force behind the modern breakthrough in Scandinavian literature in the late 19th century. Inspired by French naturalists such as Hippolyte Taine and Émile Zola, Brandes called for the development of a realistic literary style that debates social problems. His treatise Hovedstrømninger I det 19de Aarhundredes Literatur [Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature] (1872) influenced a generation of Scandinavian and European authors, including August Strindberg, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Arthur Schnitzler. Through his extensive journalistic activity, international lecture tours, and voluminous correspondence, Brandes popularized Scandinavian modernist literature throughout continental Europe, in particular the works of Henrik Ibsen and J. P. Jacobsen. He was instrumental in introducing Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche to the public. Brandes later focused on writing biographies of “great men,” such as Goethe, Shakespeare, and Caesar, and speaking out against the oppression of minority populations across Europe. His opposition to European imperialism and the First World War alienated many supporters, including French prime minister Georges Clemenceau and English scholar William Archer, but earned him the respect of his country, which had declared neutrality.