Professor of Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History
Loyola University Chicago

Department Web Page

Email: dennis@luc.edu


  • Modern German History
  • History of Western Humanities
  • Music and History
  • Beethoven Studies
  • History of National Socialism
  • History of Computing


  • BA, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1984
  • MA, UCLA, 1987
  • Ph.D., UCLA, 1991
    • Fields: Modern European Intellectual and Cultural History (Robert Wohl); History of France since 1740 (Eugen Weber); History of Germany since 1740 (Saul Friedlander); History of Europe: Renaissance to the French Revolution (David Sabean); Music and History (Robert Winter, outside observer); German Cultural History (George L. Mosse, outside observer)




Abstract: This book analyzes how the primary propaganda outlet of the Nazi party presented the History of Western art, literature, music, and thought according to the National Socialist worldview. It is a study of every major article the main newspaper of Hitler’s movement—The Völkischer Beobachter (Folkish Observer)—published about leading writers, composers, artists, and their works, including Germans like Luther, Dürer, Mozart, Schiller, Goethe, Beethoven, Schopenhauer, Wagner, and Nietzsche, non-Germans such as Socrates, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Byron, Rimbaud, Picasso, and Stravinsky, and minor figures they preferred over “enemies” such as Heinrich Heine and Thomas Mann. My extensive archival research demonstrates how Nazi Germany attempted to appropriate not only the Germany of “Poets and Thinkers,” but History of Western Humanities from Ancient Greece through the Second World War. Nazi leaders viewed their movement as the culmination of Western Civilization, and this book leads readers through their cultural self-justification. Indeed, it is the first comprehensive survey of the terms National Socialist propagandists used to discuss the great names of European culture.

This database is housed as a "Library" in a Public Group of Zotero.org. This will allow you to easily search the listings by tags, especially the names of major creative figures covered in the articles.  This will provide you with the author, title, and date on which the article appeared in the newspaper, as well as links to PDFs of the articles themselves. 

From the cover: This absorbing book chronicles the exploitation of Beethoven’s life and work by German political parties from the founding of the modern nation to the East German Revolution of 1989.  Drawing on a wealth of previously untapped archival resources, David B. Dennis examines how politicians have associated Beethoven with competing visions of German destiny, thereby transforming art and artist into powerful national symbols.  Dennis shows for the first time that propagandists of every persuasion have equated Beethoven’s works with dogma.  In the late nineteenth century, supporters of Bismarck and the German emperors endorsed a militaristic interpretation forged during the Franco-Prussian War, while opponents promoted portraits of Beethoven as revolutionary.  In the First World War Beethoven was drawn into the trenches where Germans countered enemy allegations that they had forfeited the right to enjoy his music.  Beethoven interpretations fragmented in the Weimar Republic, as every faction formulated its own variation.  The Nazi view of the composer as Führer was enforced in the Third Reich.  After 1945 German views of Beethoven corresponded to the division of the nation, but when the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989 one sentiment rose to dominance: that all people could become brothers, just as the composer had wished in his Ninth Symphony.  By establishing connections between Beethoven’s art and public policy, Dennis has written a book of compelling interest to historians, musicologists, and Beethoven enthusiasts alike.

Reviews of Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989:

  • James R. Oestreich, "Beethoven as Idealist, Militarist, Whatever," The New York Times, 6 March 1996
  • "Beethoven's slippery politics give a sharp twist to musical history," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (6 March 1996)
  • Peter Aspden, "Purist strike wrong note," The Financial Times (London), 28/29 March 1996
  • Maria Chiare Bonazzi, "Le mani su Beethoven," La Stampa (Turin),1 April 1996
  • Ian Buruma, "Hijacking Beethoven," The Sunday Telegraph (London), 26 May 1996
  • "An Ode Response: Alle Menschen werden Brueder?" The Guardian (London), 27 May 1996
  • Patricia Elliot, "Books for the General Reader," The Beethoven Journal (Spring 1996, vol. 11, no. 1)
  • Clive Davies, "Ode, dear, Ludwig pays the penalty," The Yorkshire Post, 6 June 1996
  • Nicholas Till, "Tunes of Glory," New Statesman and Society, 7 June 1996
  • Jeroen Koch, "Het gebruik van een genie," NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam), 20 July 1996
  • Barry Cooper, "Beethoven's political uses," BBC Music Magazine (August 1996)
  • R. R. Smith, Choice (September 1996)
  • Steven R. Cerf, "Books" Opera News (October 1996, vol. 61, No. 4)
  • Eugen Weber, "Recommended Reading," The Key Reporter (Autumn 1996)
  • Dennis Bartel, "Cover to Cover," Chamber Music (December 1996, vol. 13, no. 6)
  • Michael H. Kater, "Hitler in der Oper?" Kurt Weill Newsletter (vol. 14, no. 1, 1996)
  • "Buecher von unsern Lesern," DAAD (No. 4, December 1996)
  • Michael H. Kater, American Historical Review, October 1997
  • Peter Pulzer, Music & Letters, May 1997
  • William Weber, Notes, vol. 53, no. 4, June 1997)
  • David Imhoof, Weimar Listservice, February 1997
  • Matthias Alexander, "Beethoven als Titan, Revolutionaer und nordischer Speer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14 February 1997
  • Celia Applegate, Central European History (vol. 30, no. 1, 1997)
  • Sanna Pederson, Journal of the American Musicological Society (Summer-Fall, 1997, vol. 50 no. 2)
  • Nicholas Vazsonyi, German Studies Review (vol. 20, no. 3, October 1998)
  • Mark Evan Bonds, The Journal of Modern History (vol. 70, no. 1, March 1998)
  • Christian Berger, Das historisch-politische Buch (no. 45, Nov/Dec 1998)

Electronic texts of some reviews of Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989:


All are available on eCOMMONS 
  • “‘Their Meister’s Voice: Nazi Reception of Richard Wagner and His Works in the Völkischer Beobachter,” book chapter for Mary Ingraham, Joseph So, Roy Moodley, eds., Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance (London and New York, Routledge, 2016)
  • “Wagner Propaganda during National Socialism,” in Nicholas Vazsonyi, ed., The Cambridge Wagner Encylopedia (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! First World War Beethoven Reception as Precedent for the Nazi ‘Cult of Art,’” in Stafan Hanheide, Dietrich Elms, Claudia Glunz, Thomas F. Schneider, eds., Musik bezieht Stellung: Funktionalisierung der Musik im Ersten Weltkrieg (Osnabrück, Germany: Universitätsverlags Osnabrück/Erich Maria Remarque-Friedenszentrum, 2013)
  •  “Moving Academic Department Functions to Social Networks and Clouds: Initial Experiences,” Computing in Science and Engineering , co-authored with George K. Thiruvathukal and Konstantin Läufer (Vol. 13, No.5, Sept-Oct 2011), pp. 84-89.
  • “Nietzsche Reception as Philosopher of Führermenschen in the Main Nazi Newspaper,”: International Journal of the Humanities. Volume 5, Issue 7, Winter 2007, pp. 39-48
  • “Culture War: How the Nazi Party Recast Nietzsche,” Humanities: The Magazine of the NEH (January/February 2014, Vol. 35, No. 1)

Reviews of Wagner's Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation

  • "Beethoven At Large: Reception in Literature, the Arts, Philosophy, and Politics" in Glenn Stanley, ed., Cambridge Companion to Beethoven (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, May 2000), 292-305. Other contributers include Roger Kamien, Barry Cooper, William Kindermann, and Scott Burnham. This chapter discusses Beethoven reception by non-musicians, whose potrayals of the composer and his music in belletristic criticism, in poetry and fiction, in philosophy, and in the visual arts have had a far greater impact on the establishment of an image of the composer and the work in general culture than the work of musicans and professionally trained music analysts and critics. Both high and popular reception and dissemination are treated, including the use (or misuse) of the man and the music for ideological and commercial purposes. 

  • "Brahms's Requiem eines Unpolitischen," for Nicholas Vazsonyi, ed., Searching for Common Ground: Diskurse zur deutschen Identitaet 1750-1871 (Weimar and Wien, Boehlau, 2000), 283-298. This article addresses what precisely is "German" about Johannes Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem. Should it be considered an icon of late nineteenth-century German nationalism? What does it tell us about Brahms's identity and the extent to which it was "German"? As is so often the case with Johannes Brahms-not everything is as simple as appears. After reviewing the scholarly debate over his Requiem's "German nationalist" or "Liberal humanist" significance, this paper suggests that Thomas Mann's notion of a "non-political man," applied retrospectively, can help us better apprehend the paradoxical nature of Brahms's national identity.

  • "Honor Your German Masters: The Use and Abuse of 'Classical' Composers in Nazi Propaganda": Journal of Political and Military Sociology, special issue on classical music and politics, Volume 30, No. 2 (Winter) 2002. Using heretofore untranslated materials, I have detailed the terms by which Nazi propagandists incorporated the tradition of eighteenth-century German music into their system of cultural symbolism. Specifically, this article surveys the Voelkischer Beobachter's reception of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. Above all, National Socialist reception exaggerated the proto-Romantic components of the eighteenth-century music. In their view, everything led to the "Iron Romanticism" they conceived as the cultural basis for uniting the volkish community and girding it for battle against enemies both internal and external. Implicitly, this outlook constituted a rejection of the ideals of the Enlightenment--but it was nonetheless communicated in terms designed to salvage the music greats of the period for National Socialist propaganda use.

  • "Crying 'Wolf'? A Review Essay on Recent Wagner Literature: Lydia Goehr, The Quest for Voice: Music, Voice, and the Limits of Philosophy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Stephen McClatchie, Analyzing Wagner's Operas: Alfred Lorenz and German Nationalist Ideology. (University of Rochester Press, 1998), and Joachim Koehler, Wagner's Hitler: The Prophet and his Disciple, trans., Ronald Taylor (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2000) for the German Studies Review, February 2001, 145-158.
  • Review Essay on Recent Literature about Music and German Politics, Paul Lawrence Rose, Wagner: Race and Revolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992); Marc A. Weiner, Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1995); Frederic Spotts, Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994); Michael Meyer, The Politics of Music in the Third Reich (New York: Peter Lang, 1991); Erik Levi, Music in the Third Reich (New York: St. Martin's, 1994); for the German Studies Review, October 1997, 429-432.

  • Review of Pamela M. Potter, Most German of the Arts:Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler's Reich (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998) for the German Studies Review, February 2000, 222-224.

  • Review of Michael Kater, The Twisted Muse: Musicians and their Music in the Third Reich (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) for the German Studies Review, May 1998, 376-378.

  • Review of Jonathan Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: North Carolina U.P., 1996) for the American Historical Review, June 1997, 841-842.

  • Review of Michael H. Kater, "Carl Orff im Dritten Reich" Vierteljahrshefte fur Zeitgeschichte 43, 1 (Januar 1995)1:35, for H-German Listservice, 25 January 1996.

  • Review of Erik Levi, Music in the Third Reich (1994) in The Historian, vol. 58, no. 1, Autumn 1995, 177-178. 

  • "Preparing for Graduate Studies in History" (a guide for undergraduate students) Chicago: Loyola University Center for Instructional Design (LUCID), September 1994


  • The History of Computing and Its Cultures: book contract signed with Taylor & Francis on 14 March 2017, to be co-authored with George K. Thiruvathukal, Department of Computer Science, Loyola University Chicago. In process. Estimated completion: Fall/Winter 2018.
  • Abstract of proposal: As the computer age comes to full realization, a sophisticated summary of what led to the digital transformation of not just Western but Global existence is necessary. The History of Computing and Its Cultures is the survey that every student, scholar, teacher, and general reader needs for studying and assessing the historical and cultural factors that gave rise to the networked world we inhabit. While a number of textbooks and surveys have traced the stages of computing history from the ancients to the web in traditional narrative fashion, none has applied critical historiographical methods to explore the relationships between these developments and their social and cultural contexts. This book will provide a much needed synthesis, explaining that the history of technology—and the technology of information in particular—is intricately woven together with the cultural history of humanity, as well as its social and political transformations. Taking this multidisciplinary approach, A History of Modern Computing and Its Cultures has a helix-like structure. Its main axis delineates the fundamental series that everyone needs to know about computing history from the evolution of number systems and arithmetic, through the invention of calculating and computing machines, to the emergence of advanced communication technology via the Internet. From this core narrative, readers will attain the high degree of technological literacy required of students and teachers of computer history. Unlike many surveys, though, this one places emphasis on modern developments from the 18th century forward. A brief initial survey of early computing from the ancients to the enlightenment is intended to provide foundations for more in-depth coverage of innovations in the 19th century, when the modern information age really began. Commencing its main coverage at this stage, this book highlights processes that led to the most recent developments of the last half century. Readers are therefore not exhausted before reaching coverage of new media communications and other factors that are increasingly relevant today. It is indeed, as the title indicates, “a modern history" of computing and its cultures.


Also available on eCOMMONS 

  • WFMT: interviewed about Beethoven and German Politics, on occasion of Beethoven's Birthday, 15 December 2009.
  • “History Detectives”: interviewed for segment on film of Adolf Hitler attending the Bayreuth Festival.  Aired on PBS, 3 September 2007.
  • WLUW: interviewed in December 2002 about my career, by Dr. Paul Messbarger, Professor Emeritus, for the EVOKE radio series.
    To the Best of our Knowledge, Public Radio International, interviewed by host Jim Fleming regarding Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989, 13 May 1996; broadcast nationwide 12 January 1997.

Most are available on eCOMMONS 

  • Thomas Mann, ‘Expressionism,’ and Ðeath in Venice” for “Death in Venice: Warrington Colescott and Thomas Mann”: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), 22 October 1915.  This was a public lecture in association with an excellent exhibition of works by one of America’s premier printmakers, on the theme of Mann’s work and German culture. 

  • The Nazi War on Weimar "Dissonance" for "Dissonance: Music and Globalization since Edison's Phonograph": Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 11 September 2015: I was invited to contribute to this interdisciplinary series by the world-renowned musicologist, William Kinderman, and the equally noted historians, Harry Liebersohn and Peter Fritzsche.
  • “Does Beethoven Have to Roll Over? Not If We Flip Him!” paper for session: “Who’s Afraid of High Culture?” German Studies Association Conference, Kansas City, MO, September 19, 2014
  • “Beethoven At Large: Uses and Abuses in Politics and Beyond” paper delivered at the Beethoven Festival of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester (UK), on 21 June 2013.
  • “Wagner in the ‘Cult of Art in Nazi Germany,’” paper delivered at WWW2013: Wagner World Wide (marking the Wagner’s bicentennial) at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, on 1 February 2013. 
  • “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! Beethoven Reception during the First World War” at Musik bezieht Stellung – Funktionalisierung der Musik im 1. Weltkrieg (Music Positions its Forces – Functionalisations of Music during the First World War) Symposium held at the Institute of Musicology and Music Pedagogy of the University of Osnabrück in collaboration with the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Centre, Osnabrück, Germany, 25-27 October 2012. Unfortunately, due to teaching and GPD administrative duties, I could not attend However, my paper was read in my absence.
  • “Music in the ‘Cult of Art’ of Nazi Germany” to the “Epistemic Transitions and Social Change in the German Humanities: Aesthetics, Ideology, Culture and Memory” session at the German Studies Association Conference, Milwaukee, WI, on 7 October 2012.
  • ““The Nazi War on Modern Music””: paper for the Cultural Studies Association (CSA) Conference, Columbia College, Chicago on March 24-26, 2011. 
  •  “War on Modern Music and Music in Modern War: Völkischer Beobachter Reception of 20th Century Composers”: A paper for the “Music, War, and Commemoration” Panel of the American Historical Association Conference in San Diego, CA, January 8, 2010.
  •  “Their Meister’s Voice”: The Reception of Richard Wagner and his Music in the Völkischer Beobachter: a paper for the Language, Literature, Society Colloquium of Loyola College in Baltimore, MD, April 2nd, 2008. 
  • “Inhumanities: The Reception and Manipulation of Western Cultural History in Nazi Propaganda: The Case of Friedrich Nietzsche,” a paper for the Fifth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Paris,17 July 2007.
  • German Studies Association Conference, Milwaukee, WI, October 2005: attended conference.
  • “The Most German of all German Operas”: Die Meistersinger Reception in the Third Reich, a paper for the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research, Opera and Politics session, University of Kent, Canterbury, England, September 7, 2001.
  • Beethoven At Large: Reception in Literature, the Arts, Philosophy, and Politics, a lecture for the conference and performance series, Beethoven at Work: Rediscovering the Complete Sonatas for Violin and Piano, DePaul University, Chicago, April 11, 2001
  • “Honor Your German Masters: The Use and Abuse of ‘Classical’ Composers in Nazi Propaganda,” the Annual DeSantis Lecture, Department of History, University of Notre Dame, April 16, 1999.
  • “Brahms’s Requiem eines Unpolitischen,” paper for University of South Carolina German Studies Symposium, Searching for Common Ground: German National Identity 1750-1871, April 8-10, 1999.
  • “O Freunde nicht diese Töne: Beethoven Biography as Propaganda” lecture for “History and Biography,” the Lecture Series of the German Historical Institute, Washington, D. C., 22 October 1998.
  • “Reception of Classical Composers in the Völkischer Beobachter,” paper for the “Deutsche Identität als kulturelles Konstrukt” session, sponsored by the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik, German Studies Association Conference, Salt Lake City, 9 October 1998.
  • “Fidelio’s Triumph: The Politics and Culture Surrounding Beethoven’s Music,” lecture sponsored by The Women’s Association of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Center, Chicago, Illinois, 8 May 1998.
  • “Robert Schumann and the German Revolution of 1848,” for “Music and Revolution,” concert and lecture series arranged by The American Bach Project and supported by the Wisconsin Humanities Council as part of the State of Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Observances, All Saints Cathedral, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2 May 1998.
  • “Beethoven in National Socialist Political Culture,” paper for the “Musicology Colloquium Series,” Music and History Departments, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 14 February 1997.
  • “Music Reception in the Völkischer Beobachter,” paper for the “Music, Politics, and the State” session at German Studies Association Conference, Seattle, 12 October 1996: proposed and arranged complete session.
  • “Beethoven and German Identities: Evocations of the Composer and His Music in 19th-Century Political Culture,” lecture for “German Identities, German Differences,” lecture series from The German Studies Committee, Loyola University Chicago, Spring 1995, 28 February 1995
  • “Legacies of the Second World War: Teaching about Germany and Japan”: co-presenter with Carol Pixton, Polytechnic School, Pasadena, CA, of session on “Nazism: The Past That Will Not Pass Away,” American Historical Association, Annual Meeting, Chicago, 8 January 1995
  • “Confronting the Past” Conference & Teaching Workshop: participant in conference associated with the “Topography of Terror” exhibit, Loyola University Chicago, Water Tower Campus, 4-6 November 1993
  • “Facing America: Communist Images of the United States”: participant in conference on East German perceptions of the U.S., Goethe-Institut Chicago, 1-3 April 1993
  • “What is Happening in Germany Today?”: moderator of panel discussion on racist outbursts in Germany, Goethe-Institut Chicago, 9 September 1992