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'The West' in German cultural criticism during the long nineteenth century

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter (peer-reviewed)


Publication date30/04/2015
Host publicationGermany and 'the West': the history of a modern concept
EditorsRiccardo Bavaj, Martina Steber
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherBerghahn Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781782385981
ISBN (Print)9781782385974
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Images about the Western nations played an important role in cultural criticism throughout the nineteenth century. This chapter argues, however, that the images of Britain, France and America remained quite distinct until 1914. It took the enmity of the First World War for a polarised dichotomy between Germany and a singular West to become a crucial topic. With the war the alleged ills of modern society came to be associated primarily with the West, while an idealised Germanness emerged as the hope for overcoming the dark side of modernity. With the continued tensions after 1918, this way of thinking continued: not only was the Versailles treaty blamed for the ills of society, but also the Republic as an 'un-German' political structure imposed by the West. Thus the supporters of the Weimar Republic als became associated with an allegedly un-German Western orientation while the Right rallied behind the call for a German re-awakening.