Friday, February 14, 2014

Kohn finally delivers on promise of folklore

At long last the chapter called "Folklore of the Past" talks of folklore. After spending nearly the whole chapter writing of trends and thinkers in German nationalism, Kohn spends the last 24 pages on Johann Gottfried Herder.

Herder's major contribution to the discussion about German nationalism is the notion that each peoples' nationalism is the way that they express humanity. All peoples express humanity in their own way, and so that method of expression reflects their national character. Folklore comes into this formulation since it is, to Herder, the essential expression of a national character.

All of this discussion of folklore is well and good. But it really could have stood on its own.

The pages upon pages of jumping around in time and across different thinkers and theories could have been organized in a more direct way. Or it could have been dropped all together. Cutting everything from this chapter but the discussion of Herder's ideas and work would have made it a mere 24 pages among chapters that are at least double that length, but still.

At least it would have only been about what it was advertised as being about.

Given where "Folklore of the Past" went, I'm confident that "Toward the Great Awakening" will continue to concentrate on Germany and its struggle with nationalism. Also, given Kohn's ending "Folklore of the Past" with a clear reference to Germany's assertion of its national pride, I'm confident that the World Wars will come up within the book's last chapter.

The Idea of Nationalism should then continue to be an interesting, if over lengthy, read.

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