This book is an attempt to find the central nerve of nineteenth-century culture, to discover the problem which unifies the most important cultural documents in the century's philosophy, literature, painting and music. The author sketches how, with the collapse of the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century, it became necessary for the individual to derive order, meaning and value from his own identity rather from the objective world. Professor Peckham sees four stages in the nineteenth century's effort to solve the problem of finding a ground for human identity: the period of discovery and analogy from man to nature (sometimes called Romanticism), the period of Transcendentalism, the period of Objectism (sometimes, though less inclusively, called Realism or Naturalism), and the period of Stylism (sometimes inadequately called Aestheticism). At the end of this process, Nietzsche asserted that human identity exists but has no grounds in nature or the divine. This enabled him to do what the nineteenth century above all wished to do: to recognise the reality of human life in the contraries and opposites of human experience without falsifying them by comfortable but illusory reconciliation.
This book is a well documented eulogy of the literature, art, music and philosophy of the 19th century, which served to free the individual from the constraints of Christianity and the rationalism of the enlightenment. Nietzsche, who rejected the past, ignored the future and hymuel?? the joy of pure being, was the epitome. Peckham??, a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania pays tribute to him in this title to his book. In the opening chapters, which are in the nature of an apology for his sweeping generalizations, Peckham explains how impossible it is for the cultural historian of today to aspire?? true "knowledge". He is attempting primarily to show certain strands of 19th century thought. Those he chooses to illustrate his thesis, the radical breaks from a restrictive past to the development of the free conscious self, begin with Goethe?? and include Byron, ??tendhal, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Kant: among painters Casper David Friedrish:?? among musicians, Beethoven and Berlioz. In the later half of the century Delarcroix and Turner, Wagner and Bruckner, Flaubert, Balzac, Baudelaire, Browning, Tennyson, Swinburne, Wilde and Mallarme, and finally Cezanne, Gauguin and Debussy are the artists who "created an aesthetic world which the Philistine cannot enter without ceasing to be a Philistine." There are brilliant pen pictures of these men and the author has presented a strong, provocative argument, but one which at times seems a little dated. Who in the world now speaks of Philistines? This is the era of the quest for discipline, whether Catholic or Zen, and Nietzsche's anarchic world passed away with the two world wars. If not a complete cultural picture, it is an interesting synthesis of the past century. (Kirkus Reviews)