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Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

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This is a wide-ranging intellectual history of how, in the 18th century, Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe". The author argues that this conceptual reorientation from the previously accepted "Northern" and "Southern" was a work of cultural construction and intellectual artifice created by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. This is a wide-ranging intellectual history of how, in the 18th century, Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe". The author argues that this conceptual reorientation from the previously accepted "Northern" and "Southern" was a work of cultural construction and intellectual artifice created by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. He shows how the philosophers viewed the continent from the perspective of Paris and deliberately cultivated an idea of the backwardness of "Eastern Europe" the more readily to affirm the importance of "Western Europe".


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This is a wide-ranging intellectual history of how, in the 18th century, Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe". The author argues that this conceptual reorientation from the previously accepted "Northern" and "Southern" was a work of cultural construction and intellectual artifice created by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. This is a wide-ranging intellectual history of how, in the 18th century, Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe". The author argues that this conceptual reorientation from the previously accepted "Northern" and "Southern" was a work of cultural construction and intellectual artifice created by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. He shows how the philosophers viewed the continent from the perspective of Paris and deliberately cultivated an idea of the backwardness of "Eastern Europe" the more readily to affirm the importance of "Western Europe".

30 review for Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nastya Podhorna

    Книга з великою концентрацією думок на сторінку, що у майбутньому може спричинити "шкідливу звичку" критично аналізувати будь-яку інформацію))) А ще надзвичайно цікава і майстерно написана. У книзі розглядається уявлення про Східну Європу, витворене спільними зусиллями філософів, політиків і мандрівників епохи Просвітництва. Східна Європа у цьому випадку відігравала роль того "іншого", відносно якого творила себе і Європа Західна. Цікаво, що початковий набір характеристик Східної Європи створювал Книга з великою концентрацією думок на сторінку, що у майбутньому може спричинити "шкідливу звичку" критично аналізувати будь-яку інформацію))) А ще надзвичайно цікава і майстерно написана. У книзі розглядається уявлення про Східну Європу, витворене спільними зусиллями філософів, політиків і мандрівників епохи Просвітництва. Східна Європа у цьому випадку відігравала роль того "іншого", відносно якого творила себе і Європа Західна. Цікаво, що початковий набір характеристик Східної Європи створювали філософи (зокрема і Вольтер), що цю частину світу лише уявляли, а вже потім освічені мандрівники бачили на власні очі те, що готові були побачити. Східна Європа творилася протягом усього XVIII ст., мірою того, як зростали контакти з країнами цього регіону та знання про них. Східна Європа була територією контрастів, дикості, варварства, бідності, бруду, рабства і деспотизму, де змішувалися століття, мешкали стародавні варварські народи (скіфи, сармати, готи), де можна було погратися з власною ідентичністю і різними сценаріями політичного та економічного майбутнього цих земель. Простір уяви й фантазії, з яким краще було не стикатися реально. Автор доводить, що кордон ХХ ст. між Сходом і Заходом Європи, соц. табором і НАТО, утворився не на порожньому місці - він був сконструйований ще у XVIII ст, коли мислителі Заходу винайшли Не-таку-цивілізовану, іншу Європу.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ekul

    In Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Larry Wolff argues that the Enlightenment saw philosophers and explorers move the boundaries of civilization from a north-south boundary—as was the case from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance—to an east-west boundary that continues to this day. Wolff draws on the work of Edward Said, claiming that the invention of Eastern Europe was part of the process of constructing an “orient” in Asia. Indeed, Eastern Eur In Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Larry Wolff argues that the Enlightenment saw philosophers and explorers move the boundaries of civilization from a north-south boundary—as was the case from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance—to an east-west boundary that continues to this day. Wolff draws on the work of Edward Said, claiming that the invention of Eastern Europe was part of the process of constructing an “orient” in Asia. Indeed, Eastern Europe was commonly referred to as “the orient of Europe” (l’orient de l’Europe), producing it into a liminal space between the Occident and the Orient. Drawing on the work of thinkers, rulers, and explorers, Wolff succeeds in making his argument that Eastern Europe is not something that exists, or has existed, naturally. Instead, it was produced by people living in Western Europe as a space in which Western Europeans could compare themselves against. As such, this work is well worth reading for those interested in Eastern European history, Enlightenment history, European geography, and the production of identity.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hanna

    WELL THAT BLEW ME AWAY. This is an amazing work. In a nutshell, it challenges everything we think we know about Eastern Europe--challenges the very idea of there BEING an Eastern Europe, actually. It goes back to the Enlightenment to explore the ways in which Westerner writers, travelers, and intellectuals used the concept of "the East of Europe" as something to define their own culture against . . . in a "~we~ are civilized and ~they~ are barbarians" type fashion. (I'm not making up the word "b WELL THAT BLEW ME AWAY. This is an amazing work. In a nutshell, it challenges everything we think we know about Eastern Europe--challenges the very idea of there BEING an Eastern Europe, actually. It goes back to the Enlightenment to explore the ways in which Westerner writers, travelers, and intellectuals used the concept of "the East of Europe" as something to define their own culture against . . . in a "~we~ are civilized and ~they~ are barbarians" type fashion. (I'm not making up the word "barbarian" either; Western travelers explicitly referred to the inhabitants of Poland and Russia as barbarians. Also as "savages." AND called for their colonization/exploitation by the Western powers. Sound familiar?) He even goes further and connects this conscious/unconscious prejudice against Eastern Europe with Churchill's "Iron Curtain" metaphor and his willingness (well, the entire West's willingness, actually) to abandon Eastern Europe to Soviet domination . . . Basically, it's a great, great book and I highly recommend it. WITH the caveat, however, that it does contain some extremely disturbing accounts of child sex slavery in Eastern Europe during the Enlightenment era (view spoiler)[we read part of this Italian guy's memoirs where he goes to Russia and purchases a 13-year-old girl as his sex slave and uses her as such (hide spoiler)] ; it's powerful, important stuff and I'm glad I read it; but still, if you think you might not be able to handle it, maybe you'd be better off with some other book. Reader discretion advised, essentially.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I don't know the author and I'm not an expert on this subject. But my impression is that he copied Edward Said's thinking and applied it to Western European attitudes to Eastern Europe. Again I'm not an expert but I do not think that Western attitudes to Eastern Europe are analogous to Western Attitudes to "the Orient." The history of Western and Eastern Europe diverged. It was not simply that a sudden philosphical pose struck in the West created Eastern Europe. Western Europe became capitalist. I don't know the author and I'm not an expert on this subject. But my impression is that he copied Edward Said's thinking and applied it to Western European attitudes to Eastern Europe. Again I'm not an expert but I do not think that Western attitudes to Eastern Europe are analogous to Western Attitudes to "the Orient." The history of Western and Eastern Europe diverged. It was not simply that a sudden philosphical pose struck in the West created Eastern Europe. Western Europe became capitalist. And Eastern Europe remained feudal. The descriptions of life in a feudal system were at times shocking. It was extremely interesting and surprising to read about but very hard to read because the enslavement of women was very debasing to read about and I did not want to continue with pages of it. But clearly from Wolff's own research there were basic comparisons of apples and oranges to be made with factual knowledge of both Eastern and Western Europe. So it seems to me that exactly for that reason he misses completely the point of what Said is saying. Edward Said was in ways a brilliant thinker. What he was talking about was how the West saw an unknown and vast expanse of many different cultures with different histories and romanticised and theorised about them in ignorance; wrapping them up into one thing and pedastelizing their romantic ideas and theories about it into a field of study, complete with experts. So what Said is talking about is Western imagination. But Wolff's book is about the reality of Eastern Europe. His research is exhaustive and I think valuable. I think he would have had a much better book had he not attempted to falsely piggyback his research on Edward Said. Aspects of Said's work are of enormous value. And much in this book is of value also. But from the little I know I think they are not actually analogous.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    Building on Edward Saids analysis of orientalism, Larry Wolff applies the concept to the way Western European scholars and travelers talk(ed) about Eastern Europe. As issues of slavophobia don't get a lot of attention in the way modern dialogues about xenophobia/racism are framed, I feel like this book really complements Saids ideas on orientalism in the way that it complicates it. As with 'Orientalism', if you don't want to invest too much time in the book, it's absolutely sufficient to just read Building on Edward Saids analysis of orientalism, Larry Wolff applies the concept to the way Western European scholars and travelers talk(ed) about Eastern Europe. As issues of slavophobia don't get a lot of attention in the way modern dialogues about xenophobia/racism are framed, I feel like this book really complements Saids ideas on orientalism in the way that it complicates it. As with 'Orientalism', if you don't want to invest too much time in the book, it's absolutely sufficient to just read the introduction & the conclusion since everything inbetween is the literary analysis to undermine the thesis. The reason I won't give this book 5 stars is that the comparison to Said shows some deficiencies in this book. My major struggle was the unclear structure (in comparison) that sometimes diluted the main argument.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Buster McNamara

    The stories of the Prussian and Polish villages are interesting and sad. It appears that tales from ambassadors are filled with preconceptions but it's been a worthwhile read so far.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    A really well-written and interesting read. Fascinating for anyone interested in Eastern Europe.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Дмитрий Филоненко

    The most valuable thing in the book is the evidences of Western Europe attitude to the Eastern Europe at the Enlightenment age. Quotes from the ambassadors reports, travelers notes, philosophers essays, political and private correspondence, novels and poems make the bigger part of the book. So even if to omit author's comments on the topic the picture is quite impressive. Author claims that it's Enlightenment philosophers who 'invented' the notion of Western and Eastern Europe. But most probably The most valuable thing in the book is the evidences of Western Europe attitude to the Eastern Europe at the Enlightenment age. Quotes from the ambassadors reports, travelers notes, philosophers essays, political and private correspondence, novels and poems make the bigger part of the book. So even if to omit author's comments on the topic the picture is quite impressive. Author claims that it's Enlightenment philosophers who 'invented' the notion of Western and Eastern Europe. But most probably Enlightenment age is just coincidental time when separate developments of both parts of the continent have finally reached the point when they discovered each other after long recovery from their own Dark ages. This long gap in communication is very clear since even travelers or ambassadors from Western Europe who actually had the opportunity to see the lands of Eastern Europe with their own eyes were still mixing the contemporary nations in these lands with antique history nations like scythians, sarmats, huns, goths, etc. And it's not to say about those philosophers and writers who have never been anywhere to the East of Germany but still assumed it possible to write about lands and people which they didn't know personally. The first impressions of Western Europe after the meet with its Eastern neighbor are quite clear and understandable: feeling of superiority, disdain and not too much aspiration for getting on. The worse thing is that this attitude haven't changed too much so far. The works of XVIII century philosophers gave the ground to Napoleon for his Eastern campaigns, to nazi policies against eastern nations and finally to the Iron Certain. Author assumes that Yalta agreements among Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt were considered by Western allies as more or less self evident, at least acceptable. They were not too much eager to save Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and others in the sphere of Western Europe. Since the notion of otherness of these nations, of their foreignness was deep inside geographical and philosophical perception of the entire Europe by its Western inhabitants. And even in novadays here and there could be found opinions about Western Europe nations superiority, about slow pace of civilizing in postcommunist countries and 'old-good' XVIII century's style attempts to consider Eastern Europe nations as quite similar, even as the single nation with minor variations. Book is divided on the themes aiming to put in order different aspects of inventing the notion of Western/Eastern Europe. In my opinion they are not that much important. Maybe it would be better to place evidences chronologically. Also sometimes I had the feeling that author tries to dig too deep and finds not selfevident and even dubious shades of meaning in the writings of various representatives of the considered epoch.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helene Ryding

    Definitely a tough read even if you know lots about modern Eastern Europe. By the time you get to the chapter on Voltaire, the picture is already clear and a bit repetitive. Eastern Europe was backward and largely unknown, the people barbarian and uncivilised, yet not exotic as 'the orient'. This conveniently helped to define western Europe as 'civilisation as we know it'. Some similarities with the criticisms of The west made by Edward Said. However some good stories and the intrepid women trav Definitely a tough read even if you know lots about modern Eastern Europe. By the time you get to the chapter on Voltaire, the picture is already clear and a bit repetitive. Eastern Europe was backward and largely unknown, the people barbarian and uncivilised, yet not exotic as 'the orient'. This conveniently helped to define western Europe as 'civilisation as we know it'. Some similarities with the criticisms of The west made by Edward Said. However some good stories and the intrepid women travellers were interesting

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Tough read for someone with relatively little background in Eastern European history, but full of interesting stories and makes you want to know more. Wolff is clear with his thesis is showing how the concept of "eastern: Europe is a product of the Enlightenment and also how the geography of the Enlightenment reshaped Europe on W/E boundaries as opposed to N/S. Would like to reread someday.

  11. 4 out of 5

    kasia

    Exhaustive and fascinating. Wolff traces the development of the notion of Eastern Europe, focusing primarily on the Enlightenment (especially Voltaire and Rousseau) but carrying his analysis briefly into the 20th century as well. Quite compelling.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Interesting read on the perception of the West on the East

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Diaz

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alix J

  15. 5 out of 5

    Анатолий Масленников

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leif Hammer

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yuliya Yurchuk

  18. 4 out of 5

    Diana G Rodriguez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Rade

  20. 4 out of 5

    Yaroslav Sukharev

  21. 5 out of 5

    Olga

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nataliya Borys

  23. 4 out of 5

    Андрій Гулкевич

  24. 4 out of 5

    Darth.Lulu

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katharina

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ovidiu Oltean

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blake

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cassionetta

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ana Markovic

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