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Kultur ohne Grenzen: Walhalla and Cultural Identity in Nineteenth Century Germany

Summary

In cultural history, the use of case studies is useful, to be able to compare and put the case in a wider historical context. When a particular case is either forgotten or falls out of favour with the modern popular narrative, it becomes the role of the historian to revive analysis and critique in this area, in order to maintain an open and diverse debate. Constructed between 1806 and 1842 upon the banks of the Bavarian Donau, Walhalla is a large neoclassical monument built in homage to the Greek Pantheon that holds busts of the greatest individuals of the German tongue throughout history. The building was started during the Napoleonic War in 1806, and was inaugurated in 1842, six years before the ‘Spring of Nations’ (1848).

Walhalla exemplifies the great cultural changes of nineteenth century German history. Though it remains absent from many major and prestigious volumes on German history, there is no documented reason why Walhalla has been forgotten in modern German historiography. It should remain an essential touchstone for historians, who aspire to decipher the foundations of modern German cultural identity. The case study of Walhalla shall be re-examined from a Barthesian perspective, using a balanced mixture of modern and contemporary sources, in order to achieve an understanding of the political and cultural discourse that defined nineteenth century/modern German cultural identity.

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