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Description de l’éditeur
"This is cultural history of the first order, and it is liberal and humane history at its very best."—David Cannadine
An essential work for anyone who wishes to understand the social history of the nineteenth century, Schnitzler's Century is the culmination of Peter Gay's thirty-five years of scholarship on bourgeois culture and society. Using Arthur Schnitzler, the sexually emboldened Viennese playwright, as his master of ceremonies, Gay offers a brilliant reexamination of the hundred-year period that began with the defeat of Napoleon and concluded with the conflagration of 1914. This is a defining work by one of America's greatest historians.
Though distinguished historian Gay declares in the preface that his new work is not "merely a Reader's Digest condensation of the bulky texts that preceded it," readers of his five-volume study, The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, will find most of the material decidedly familiar. As in the series' first book, Education of the Senses, he argues here that the Victorian middle classes were much less inhibited about sex than modern stereotypes suggest. As in the last, Pleasure Wars, he finds that bourgeois philistinism has been vastly overstated and that there were plenty of respectable patrons for avant-garde art and music. Indeed, as Gay admits, some of the actual examples here are drawn from his former work. So what's new? Interweaving incidents from the life of Austrian playwright and novelist Arthur Schnitzler, "sometimes briefly as an impetus to broader investigations, sometimes as a participant," Gay begins his main text with Schnitzler's father breaking into the 16-year-old's locked desk to find, and vehemently reproach Arthur for, a diary indiscreetly recording the boy's erotic exploits; he closes with the diary's August 5, 1914, entry about the "dreadful and monstrous news" of WWI's outbreak. In between, the incident with Schnitzler's diary turns up several more times: as a demonstration of conflicted bourgeois notions about privacy, as an illustration of more lenient treatment of children (Dr. Schnitzler lectured his son, but didn't beat him). As is always the case with Gay, the prose is graceful, the insights solid, the specific examples vivid and illuminating. Fellow historians and longtime readers will feel (correctly) that the author really isn't saying anything he hasn't said before; for those who lack the stamina for The Bourgeois Experience, this is an agreeable one-volume summary with some additional nuance. Illus.