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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age Paperback – September 14, 2000

ISBN-13: 004-6442937580 ISBN-10: 0395937582 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (September 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395937582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395937587
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"In a trailblazing, iconoclastic work of cultural history, Eksteins links the modern avant-garde's penchant for primitivism, abstraction and myth-making to the protofascist ideology and militarism unleashed by WW I," reported PW . "This provocative and disturbing reappraisal of modernism rings with authority." Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A brilliantly conceived and wonderfully written book of cultural and intellectual history that considers the impact of World War I on the 20th century. Ekstein (history, Toronto) begins by arguing that the ballet The Rite of Spring prefigured the mass psychology that was necessary to the waging of the war. He then carefully elucidates how the soldiers who fought experienced and internalized the horrors of the trenches. The last third of the book deals with the postwar era, considering Lindbergh's flight and its effect on Europe, the best seller All Quiet on the Western Front , and the Hitler phenomenon. Like Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory (LJ 7/75), this will likely become required reading for anyone who seeks to understand the central importance of the Great War to the decades that followed. For both public and college libraries.
- Ann H. Sullivan, Tompkins Cortland Community Coll. Lib., Dryden, N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Eksteins' masterful book is a representation of how History should be written.
Professor Ecksteins' book is, on one level, a history that places the Great War in the context of the popular cultural zeitgeist that produced it.
The Dilettante
The book reads more like a novel than a history book, because it is admittedly a subjective viewpoint.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 20, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read several books dealing with the First World War before, but none except for Paul Fussell's THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY can match this brilliant book for its scope and brilliance. Other books deal with the nuts and bolts of history, but Eksteins is concerned with zeitgeist, both that which animated the birth of war and the way it was altered by that war. More than anything, Eksteins is concerned with the metaphysics of the war, or the metaphysics of the world that it transformed.

The book is structured, like any good play, into three broad acts. The first deals with the world on the eve of the war, examining attitudes, especially aesthetic attitudes, in France, Germany, and England, before the onset of the war. The sections on the controversial debut of Diaghilev's production of Stravinsky's THE RITES OF SPRING (which obviously provides the book with its title), which deals in dance with a ritual blood sacrifice, are especially hypnotic. Act Two focuses on the war itself, and even if one has read previous and equally nightmarish accounts of that insane and pointless conflict, Eksteins will bring the war alive for the reader. One is especially impressed by the senselessness of the entire affair, so senseless that nonsense seemed to be at home there. World War Two at least seemed to make sense for the participants. Hitler and Tojo made the stakes all too clear, but the Great War was above all an affair of moral ambiguity, and Eksteins is brilliant at bringing this out, something that a purer historian like Martin Gilbert or John Keegan is ultimately unable to do, because he or she is limited by the task of the historian to deal with ethical and aesthetic categories. The final act deals with the world remade by the events of 1914-18.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a profoundly conservative critique of modern culture that takes Germany as its starting point. The author's contention is that, during the twentieth-century, Germany was the most modern nation. Modernity, in turn, is understood as "emancipation:" sexual, political, legal, and artistic. The author contrasts German modernity, with its emphasis on subjective experience and the gradual trend of this into narcisism, with the ethos of Great Britain. In the latter country, the normative 19th c. state, discipline and the subordination of the ego were paramount. Law, a social construct in which all share, took precedence over personal affirmation. The 20th c. came to regard such self-restraint as "bourgeois," and sought to replace it with a cult of self based on experience and sensation.
This "liberation" took several forms. For the author, the "Ballet russes" is a good starting point, especially its rendition of Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps." The essential figures are Diagilev and Nijinsky. The homosexual milieu that informed the entire "corps" is, in effect, another major character. With its celebration of sacrificial death, its unconventional form, and -- to the ears of the time -- its outlandish music, the ballet separated it from European tradition. It was brilliant and innovative. It was also death-obsessed and both sexually and socially amoral.
The relative stolidity of British life is contrasted with the turgid self-expression that emerged in German "kultur" early in the century. The author is in no doubt as to which was the more "modern.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By seydlitz89 on August 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
An Anatomy of the Great Suicide of the European Middle Classes
I found Professor Eksteins' book interesting in a number of ways. Unlike perhaps all other accounts of the start of the Great War, Eksteins' emphasises the actions of the crowds, "the fine days of that July and August encouraged Europeans to venture out of their homes and to display their emotions and prejudices in public, in the streets and squares of their cities and towns. The massive exhibitions of public sentiment played a crucial role in determining the fate of Europe that summer. Had it been a wet and cold summer, like that of the previous year of the next one, would a fairground atmosphere conductive to soapbox oratory and mass hysteria have developed? Would leaders then have been prepared to declare war so readily? There is evidence that the jingoistic crowd scenes in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris and London, in the last days of July and in the early days of August, pushed the political and military leadership of Europe toward confrontation. That was certainly the case in Germany. And Germany was the matrix of the storm. . ." pp55-56.
So instead of Pan-Germanism, or Pan-Slavism, or "Germany's Grab for World Power", or the clueless Kaiser signing a blank check to a conniving Hapsburg Empire, or a coldly calculating German General Staff knowing that time is against them, or a French-Russian-Serbian plot, that is all plays of grand power politics from on high, we see the old world leadership attempting to stay ahead of their respective raging publics, attempting to keep the frenzy from turning against them. . . interesting, and doubtlessly part of the story.
The influence of artistic currents are interesting, but hardly new.
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