Danish Philosopher and Critic

Georg Brandes

Georg Morris Cohen Brandes was born to a Jewish middle class family on February 4, 1842 in Copenhagen. He was educated in law and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen.

His thinking was influenced by the writings of thinkers such as Søren Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill and the French critics Hippolyte Taine, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, and Ernest Renan.

In the autumn of 1871 he began his famous series of lectures, “Main Currents in Nineteenth-Century Literature,” four volumes of which were published between 1872-1875. His work adopted a broad, cosmopolitan view of literary history, which was new to Scandinavia.

Brandes was denied a position as a university professor of aesthetics because of his Jewish family, his outspoken atheism, and his generally radical views on sexuality, art, literature, and everyday life.

In 1877 Brandes moved to Berlin and spent five years there lecturing. When he returned to Denmark, a group of admirers guaranteed him a yearly stipend as a private professor. Brandes and his brother Edvard helped launch the Social Liberal newspaper Politiken in 1884.

When the Liberal party was elected in 1892, Brandes was awarded a pension from the government and in 1902 he was finally elected professor of aesthetics.

He died on February 19, 1927 at the age of 86.