[Skip to Content]

Georg Brandes

1842-1927, critic, writer on culture, literary and cultural historian.

With his literary criticism (in book form including Æsthetiske Studier (1868, Aesthetic Studies) and Kritiker og Portraiter (1870, Criticisms and Portraits), and with the lectures delivered at Copenhagen University from 1871 to 1883 (with some interruptions) on the subject of Hovedstrømninger i det nittende Aarhundredes Litteratur (Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature) he renewed both the concept of literature and literary criticism in Denmark.

He interacted closely with the profound changes in the society and culture of the day and placed himself in a leading position in relation to young literature, as was clear from Det moderne Gennembruds Mænd (1883, The Men of the Modern Breakthrough).

His original demand for progressive, realistic literature debating problems gradually to some extent gave way to a cult of the great individual as the "source of culture". This occurred partly under the impression of the opposition he encountered in official Denmark, desertions by some of his own literary disciples, and was further developed by his voluntary exile in Berlin 1877-83.

This change in attitudes coincided with his discovery of Nietzsche and led to the great biographies of Goethe, Voltaire, Caesar and others. Together with his brother, the drama critic, dramatist and politician Edvard Brandes, and the politician Viggo Hørup, Georg Brandes represented the start of the Danish cultural trend which later became known as cultural radicalism, and which is still a noticeable feature of the Danish cultural scene.

Throughout his life, Georg Brandes maintained a powerful commitment to individual and political freedom, one effect of which was to persuade him to translate Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women and to speak out on behalf of oppressed peoples.

Georg Brandes became a leading cultural figure throughout Scandinavia and similarly prominent in the European arena.

Johan de Mylius, Gyldendal Leksikon

other great danes

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages. Read more about The Great Danes