Statue of the Madonna in the Mountains, by Caspar David Friedrich, 1804. The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Day Blake Collection.
“For most of my adult life, I have been trying to understand why we are who we are,” Andrea Wulf writes at the start of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self. “This is the reason why I write history books. In my previous books, I have looked at the relationship between humankind and nature in order to understand why we’ve destroyed so much of our magnificent blue planet. But I also realize that it is not enough to look at the connections between us and nature. The first step is to look at us as individuals—when did we begin to be as selfish as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did this—us, you, me, or our collective behavior—all come from? When did we first ask the question, how can I be free?”
This week on the podcast, Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Andrea Wulf, author of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self, and takes us to Jena to begin answering these questions by introducing us to a few German Romantics, including Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Novalis, and Friedrich Schiller.
Thanks to our generous donors. Lead support for this podcast has been provided by Elizabeth “Lisette” Prince. Additional support was provided by James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr.