Image - Andrea Wulf
Past Event

The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self

Forget Paris . . . the real revolution in the 1790s happened in Jena, a quiet German university town where the unlikely revolutionaries were not soldiers or politicians but poets and playwrights (Goethe, Schiller and Novalis), philosophers (Fichte, Schelling and Hegel), literary critics (the contentious Schlegel brothers) and scientists (Alexander von Humboldt). And at their heart was the formidable and free-spirited Caroline Schlegel. This remarkable group of rebels changed the way we think about ourselves and the world.

The Jena Set were the first Romantics. And their unconventional lives were laboratories for their radical ideas—about the creative power of the self, the aspirations of art and science, nature and the true meaning of freedom. Magnificent Rebels author Andrea Wulf takes us on a vivid journey through their adventures and misadventures, passionate love affairs and epic quarrels, successes and heartbreak.

She says we are still empowered by their daring leap into the self today. The French revolutionaries might have changed the political landscape, but these young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that shaped our modern world.

MLF Organizer
George Hammond

A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums

October 3, 2022

The Commonwealth Club of California
United States

Image - Andrea Wulf

Andrea Wulf

Author, Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self

Image - George Hammond

George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates—Moderator