This event is in partnership with the Washington Literacy Center.
When did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did we first ask the question, How can I be free? It all began in a quiet university town in Germany in the 1790s, when a group of playwrights, poets, and writers put the self at center stage in their thinking, their writing, and their lives. This brilliant circle included the famous poets Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; the contentious Schlegel brothers; and, in a wonderful cameo, Alexander von Humboldt. And at the heart of this group was the formidable Caroline Schlegel, who sparked their dazzling conversations about the self, nature, identity, and freedom.
The French revolutionaries may have changed the political landscape of Europe, but the young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that transformed our world forever. We are still empowered by their daring leap into the self, and by their radical notions of the creative potential of the individual, the highest aspirations of art and science, the unity of nature, and the true meaning of freedom. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfillment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our responsibilities toward our community and future generations. At the heart of this inspiring book is the extremely modern tension between the dangers of selfishness and the thrilling possibilities of free will.
Andrea Wulf is an award–winning author of seven acclaimed books, including the Founding Gardeners and The Invention of Nature which were both on the New York Times Best Seller List. She has written for New York Times, the Atlantic, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian and many others. She has lectured across the world – from the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Society in London to Monticello and the New York Public Library in the US, as well as literary festivals across the world. She is a Miller Scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, a three-time fellow of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence 2013. She's a member of PEN American Center and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Andrea is a regular on radio and TV in the US, the UK and in Germany. The ZDF / Smithsonian Humboldt documentary won the Discovery Award 2019 / Science Film Festival. In 2019, she was part of the delegation that accompanied Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on his trip to Ecuador and Colombian ... following Humboldt's footsteps.