Jakob Norberg

Jan 21, 2024

The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism

Cambridge University Press 2022

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are probably history’s most famous folklorists. Their collection of folk tales – the Children’s and Household Tales – is one of the world’s most translated literary works. Living in a time of upheaval and war, the Grimm brothers were also passionate German nationalists. They insisted that Germans must reject alien regimes and only accept rulers who spoke their language and cherished their traditions. 

The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism (Cambridge UP, 2022) is the first book-length study of the Grimms’ political attitudes and ideas. It shows how the Grimms believed that their groundbreaking philological knowledge of grammar and folk narratives allowed them to disentangle cultural and linguistic groups from each other, criticize imperial rule, and even counsel kings and princes. The brothers sought to revive a neglected Germanic culture for a contemporary audience, but they also wished to provide the traditional political elite with an understanding of the resurgent national collective. Through detailed analysis, Norberg reconstructs how the Grimms wished to mediate between culture and politics as well as between sovereigns and peoples.

Jakob Norberg is a Professor of German at Duke University. He is the author of Sociability and Its Enemies (Northwestern University Press, 2014), The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and Schopenhauer’s Politics (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). His articles have appeared in venues such as PMLA, Arcadia, Cultural Critique, New German Critique, Textual Practice, Telos, and the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought. His book on the Grimms won the 2023 Best Book award of the Brothers Grimm Society of North America and a recent article, “Schopenhauer and the Injustice of Slavery,” won the 2023 essay prize of the Schopenhauer Society.

Amir Engel is currently a visiting professor at the faculty of theology at the Humboldt University in berlin. He is also the chair at the German department at the Hebrew University. Engel studied philosophy, literature, and culture studies at the Hebrew University and completed his PhD. in the German Studies department at Stanford University. He is the author of Grshom Scholem: an Intellectual biography that came out in Chicago in 2017. He also published works on, among others, Jacob Taubes, Hannah Arendt, and Hans Jonas. He is currently working on a book titled "The German Spirit from its Jewish Sources: The History of Jewish-German Occultism". The project proposes a new approach to German intellectual history by highlighting marginalized connections between German Occultism, its Christian sources notwithstanding, and Jewish sources, especially the Jewish mystical tradition.

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Amir Engel

Amir Engel is currently a visiting professor at the faculty of theology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He is also the chair at the German department at the Hebrew University.

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