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Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics [Hardcover]

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Item Number 114858  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   420
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10.96" Width: 7.74" Height: 1.51"
Weight:   2.06 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 6, 2003
Publisher   Overlook Hardcover
Age  18
ISBN  1585673455  
EAN  9781585673452  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
A reassessment of Hitler's goals and motivations demonstrates how he thought of himself more as an artist than a politician, noting his ability to promote German national pride and devotion to him as a leader, and citing his influence on the period's artistic development. 25,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
In "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics," acclaimed historian Frederic Spotts presents a startling reassessment of Hitler's aims and motivations. Spotts, whose "Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival" received rave reviews on both sides of the ocean-"The New York Times" said "Spotts is sane, trustworthy and continuously absorbing"-convincingly demonstrates that Hitler did not think of himself as a politician, but as an artist, and that he essentially bewitched the German public with his rhetoric, ceremonies, and rallies, instilling in them a sense of national pride and unity, as well as a fanatical devotion to himself. At the same time, Spotts argues, Hitler's obsession with the arts led him to impose his personal taste and standards on music, painting, architecture, and even stage design.
Unlike the traditional biographical view that Hitler was an "unperson," who had no life outside of politics, Spotts shows that Hitler's interest in the arts was as intense as his racism and his argument is punctuated with photographs and illustrations, including reproductions of Hitler's watercolors and drawings from his 1925 sketchbook. The book offers the first full analysis of Hitler's own work as a painter, as well as of his art collection. It also treats the entire range of his personal interests: from architecture, painting, symphony, opera, and sculpture, to the German autobahn system and the development of the Volkswagen.
A riveting and highly original work, "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" provides a key to an understanding of the Third Reich which has, until now, been missing from biographies and studies of the arts in the Third Reich, as well as from political and military studies of Hitler.

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More About Frederic Spotts

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Frederic Spotts has written four other books on European political and cultural affairs. His study of Bayreuth is acknowledged as the standard work on the subject. "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" was written while Spotts was a visiting scholar at the Institute for International Affairs at Berkeley.

Frederic Spotts was born in 1956.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An Important and Compelling Book  Aug 3, 2008
In "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics," Frederic Spotts takes the pop-culture theme of "Hitler-as-frustrated-artist" and turns it into a learned and compelling narrative that goes a long way towards illuminating the intellectual background of many recurring themes in Hitler's thinking and in the growth of Nazism as a movement in general. Given that most works on Hitler understandably focus on political and military history, the importance of Hitler's background as an artist is often forgotten. For instance, as Spotts points out, Hitler dedicated an entire chapter of "Mein Kampf" to excoriating modernist trends in the visual arts and music, tying them in with what he perceived as an international conspiracy of cosmopolitan Jewish leftists. Spotts expertly traces out the ramifications of these preoccupations for Hitler's years in power, not just narrating such well-known incidents as the exhibitions of "degenerate art" staged by Joseph Goebels, in which modernist pictures were held up to public ridicule, but also detailing the politico-aesthetic ideals that Hitler proposed in opposition to modernism - in particular, an ultra-nationalist, "Aryan" art, whose main themes were the glorification of Germany, Germanic culture, and the so-called Thousand Year Reich. Showing the importance of these ideas to phenomena as diverse as Albert Speer's architecture, Leni Riefenstahl's films, and the carefully choreographed Nuremburg rallies, as well as the work of specific Nazi artists, photographers, and sculptors, Spotts makes a forceful and intelligent case for seeing the rise of Nazi ideology through the lens of aesthetics. This is a useful, well-written, and compelling book that could be read with interest by scholars and laypeople alike.
exceptional  Oct 24, 2007
This is perhaps the best and most relevant book about aesthetics, and their potential to influence people and history.
Aesthetic Beauty  Oct 9, 2007
One of the hardest things as historians is to try and get into someone's head. The Book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics do this but in away that other people have not tried. The book looks at Hitler from artist view point and sees Hitler from a different view which people has not looked at before. The person who decides to read this book will also learn how Aesthesis and be a powerful tool used by man. The book is now being sold at a very good price and I give it my personal seal of approval!
What references?  Jun 18, 2006
There is an incomplete list of sources for photographs and sketches based on page numbers in the Acknowledgements section of this book. The photographs and sketches are not individually numbered. I also think the references are unsatisfactory. For example, the author makes a number of assertions about a boyhood friend of Hitler in the Introduction but there is no background material to support these 'facts'. The book is interesting for its shift in focus (aesthetics) but there is an impression of sloppiness that affects credibility in my opinion.
Brilliant, necessary, disturbing, and unique  Sep 8, 2005
If there is any justice in the world, Spotts' book will go a long way toward eradicating from popular consciousness the facile descriptions of Hitler as not much more than a cross between a risible, Chaplin-esque, comic book character and an insane, incarnate demon.

Part of the first notion of Hitler includes the idea that he ought to be dismissed as a failed, lousy artist. As Spott points out, the truth is that Nazism, like all self-styled utopianisms, was something like a gigantic project in aesthetics using people rather than pigments or plastics, and control and murder rather than downstrokes and glazing - and Hitler was the artist behind that (very popular for some years in Germany) project; he therefore must be taken seriously as an artist in this sense (obviously a grotesque, genocidal one).

As Spotts notes, even his hatred of Jews emerges from this context: the Jews are "ruining all art" by embracing atonalism, cubism, jazz, dadaism, etc., as well as ruining all life by embracing "Bolshevism". But in his mind, there doesn't seem to be much difference there: Picasso, Marx, Alban Berg - all the same. Since, in Hitler's view, art can't be separated from culture, and culture can't be separated from the state, and the state can't be separated from life itself, the eradication of the Jews becomes, in Hitler's mind, nothing less than a matter of national survival, or, strangely, to say the same thing, the artistically appropriate choice.

Spotts does a good job of underscoring another aspect of all this by calling attention to the seeming homoeroticism in Hitler's taste, particularly as it expresses itself toward the human being: at bottom (pun intended), Hitler preferred, aesthetically, buff blond males with blue eyes, i.e., "Nordic" types. The Jews, in addition to being greedy, "Bolsheviks", destroyers of art/culture/life, etc., just...looked "wrong". And so in this sense, in Hitler's mind, ridding the proper-looking race of these improper-looking portions of it was as obviously a necessary decision as would be getting rid of a "wrong" piece of furniture cluttering up an otherwise beautiful living room. (Spotts even includes a contemporary German cartoon caricaturing the physical features of a "typical" Jew).

But what I started out to say was this. Spotts surveys how Hitler very consciously used colour, shape, rhetoric, size, proportion, angle, material, sound, light, symbol, rhythm, story, pageantry, texture, surprise, music, fire, sculpture, formation, etc., to, quite literally, achieve a truly terrifying degree of control over the minds of his subjects, even as a conversion tool over those who had resisted him. (Spotts describes how awed even American visitors were by the Nuremberg rallies.)

And page by page, one begins increasingly to get a sense of what it would have been like, to be a human being, subject to all the mental and emotional strengths and weaknesses we are, living in a country (our world, for all purposes) which only a year or two before had been totally chaotic and depressed...and then to be stirred, roused, when that world around us begins to change, prompted to feel different, pleasurable things, think different, exciting thoughts, and in the end, perform different - and ultimately - indescribably horrific actions. In every way, we are preyed upon by the mesmeric, sick genius of a man who was rejected by the art school in Vienna, and who sought his revenge for this affront by dominating human psychology through all those elements I mentioned above more totally than perhaps any other "artist" of the 20th century.

I saw a BBC documentary a couple of weeks ago, in which several elderly Germans candidly recalled with fondness Hitler's early years. What they said they missed most were the euphoric feelings they had, going to the pageants and rallies, seeing the flags, hearing the speeches and the music, those feelings of belonging, meaning, "specialness". And for the first time, reading Spotts' book, in a really disturbing way, I could imagine what that might have been like, imagine that I might have been just as susceptible to the manipulator as millions of Germans had been. For the first time, how the whole thing could have happened seemed imaginable. Scary.

Bravo to Spotts for his brilliant and disturbing book. I would love to see him now do a documentary on this, using real footage.

Highly recommended.


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