In seminar, the idea of manufacturing a history first came up a few weeks ago — during the discussions on Rousseau. It appeared that Herder was among the first to express ideas for German cultural nationalism; it seemed that this was an example of reconstructing stories and using nostalgia for strategic purposes similar to what Rousseau had done in his second discourse. As the week progressed, the word ‘nostalgia’ seemed less and less appropriate in the German context — especially as ‘Sehnsucht’ was introduced. Although similar to nostalgia in the definition for longing, Sehnsucht seems to refer to more than simply a past setting. Sehnsucht appears to evade accurate translation, it only loosely describes a longing for elsewhere. Often referred to as an insatiable desire, the construction of a cultural identity in order to provoke sehnsucht must have been incredibly powerful.
Knowing how powerful Sehnsucht can be, Professor Lieblang’s warning to not compartmentalize what we learn in Arts 1 and to try and understand the applications and presence of ideas across time becomes much more clear. As he briefly mentioned at the end of his lecture, the role that manufacturing pride played during the rise of Nazi rule is a testament to the re-emergence of ideas and how they can be manipulated to serve different purposes. A tool that was once used to culturally unify a nation could be used as propaganda promoting racial superiority — used carefully, Sehnsucht can be used to accomplish great and terrifying things.