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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.

This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

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4. A Prussian Diplomat and Cosmopolitan: Count Harry Kessler’s Cultural Politics during and after the First World War (Dina Gusejnova)


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4   A Prussian Diplomat and Cosmopolitan: Count Harry Kessler’s Cultural Politics during and after the First World War

In May 2016, an exhibition at Berlin’s Max Liebermann House – located next to the Brandenburg Gate – drew international attention to the life of Anglo-Prussian Count Harry Kessler (1868–1937).1 Public interest in the Count, whom the curators portrayed as ‘A Flâneur of Modernity’, had begun two decades earlier with Peter Grupp’s biography of Kessler.2 Grupp’s research was particularly notable in that it shed light on Kessler’s wartime work for the German Foreign Office. However, it is in his previous incarnation as a dandy of the Belle Époque that most readers encountered him. He was closely involved in such projects as introducing the first Impressionist exhibitions to Germany, launching (unsuccessful) attempts to turn Weimar into a site for international Nietzsche worship, as well as founding a bibliophile press devoted to publishing the classics of European literature on hand-crafted paper, produced in Weimar according to Ruskinian principles.3

In 2006, an engagingly written biography portrayed the multiple shades of Kessler’s personality as being both emblematic of the age and ← 87 | 88 → of interest in their own right.4 Two years later, a large conference at the Musée d’Orsay paid homage to Kessler’s role in shaping a European cosmopolitanism that has since been lost.5 In the same period, the German Literary Archive’s Roland Kamzelak and his colleagues completed a magisterial critical edition...

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