The Roots of Romanticism by Isaiah Berlin

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Isaiah Berlin

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Philosopher, political theorist, and essayist, Isaiah Berlin was born in 1909 to Russian-speaking Jewish parents in Latvia. Reared in Latvia and later in Russia, Berlin developed a strong Russian-Jewish identity, having witnessed both the Social-Democratic and the Bolshevik Revolutions. At the age of 12, Berlin moved with his family to England, where he attended prep school and then St. Paul's. In 1928, he went up as a scholar to Corpus Christi College in Oxford. After an unsuccessful attempt at the Manchester Guardian, Berlin was offered a position as lecturer in philosophy at New College. Almost immediately, he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls. During this time at All Souls, Berlin wrote his brilliant biographical study of Marx, titled Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (1939), for the Home University Library. Berlin continued to teach through early World War II, and was then sent to New York by the Ministry of Information, and subsequently to the Foreign Office in Washington, D.C. It was during these years that he drafted several fine works regarding the changing political mood of the United States, collected in Washington Despatches 1941-1945 (1981). By the end of the war, Berlin had shifted his focus from philosophy to the history of ideas, and in 1950 he returned to All Souls. In 1957, he was elected to the Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory, delivering his influential and best-known inaugural lecture, Two Concepts of Liberty. Some of his works include Liberty, The Soviet Mind: Russian Culture under Communism, Flourishing: Selected Letters 1928 - 1946, Political Ideas in the Romantic Age: Their Rise and Influence on Modern Thought, and Unfinished Dialogue, Prometheus. Berlin died in Oxford on November 5, 1997. Dr. Henry Hardy, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is one of Isaiah Berlin's literary trustees. He has edited several other books by Berlin and is currently preparing his remaining unpublished writings and letters for publication.
 
Published February 8, 1999 by Princeton University Press. 192 pages
Genres: History, Law & Philosophy, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Roots of Romanticism

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In this posthumous volume, the British philosopher and historian of ideas quickly establishes his theory that Germany--not England or France--was the birthplace of the romantic movement. A sense of pr

Feb 01 1999 | Read Full Review of The Roots of Romanticism

Publishers Weekly

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In this posthumous volume, the British philosopher and historian of ideas quickly establishes his theory that Germany--not England or France--was the birthplace of the romantic movement. A sense of pr

Feb 01 1999 | Read Full Review of The Roots of Romanticism

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