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Gay, Peter (Jack)

GAY, Peter (Jack)

Nationality: American (originally German: immigrated to Cuba, 1939, the United States, 1941, granted U.S. citizenship, 1946). Born: Peter Joachim Fröhlich, Berlin, 20 June 1923. Education: University of Denver, B.A. 1946; Columbia University, New York, M.A. 1947, Ph.D. 1951; psychoanalytic training at Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis, 1976-83. Family: Married Ruth Slotkin in 1959; three stepdaughters. Career: Instructor and assistant professor of government, 1947-56, associate professor, 1956-62, and professor of history, 1962-69, Columbia University; professor of comparative and intellectual European history, 1969, Durfee Professor of History, 1970-84, and Sterling Professor of History, 1984, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Visiting fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin, 1984. Awards: Frederic G. Melcher book award, 1967, for The Party of Humanity: Essays in the Enlightenment; National Book Award, 1967, for The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, Volume I: The Rise of Modern Paganism; Guggenheim fellow, 1967-68, and 1976-77; Phi Beta Kappa Ralph Waldo Emerson award, 1969, for Weimar Culture: The Outsider As Insider; Los Angeles Times book prize nomination, 1984, for The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, Volume 1: Education of the Senses; Amsterdam prize for history, 1991; Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (Germany), 1999. D.H.L.: University of Denver, 1970; University of Maryland, 1979; Hebrew Union College, 1983; Clark University, 1985; Suffolk University, 1987; Tufts University, 1988. Alfred Hodder Jr. fellow, Princeton University, 1955-56; fellow, American Council of Learned Societies, 1959-60; fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1962-63; overseas fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge University, 1970-71; fellow, Rockefeller Foundation, 1979-80.



My German Question: Growing up in Nazi Berlin. 1998.


The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx. 1952.

Voltaire's Politics: The Poet As Realist. 1959.

The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment. 1964.

Age of Enlightenment, with Time-Life Books. 1966.

The Loss of Mastery: Puritan Historians in Colonial America. 1966.

The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (2 vols.). 1966.

The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism. 1966.

The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom. 1969.

Weimar Culture: The Outsider As Insider. 1968.

The Bridge of Criticism: Dialogues among Lucian, Erasmus, and Voltaire on the Enlightenment On History and Hope, Imagination and Reason, Constraint and Freedom and on Its Meaning for Our Time. 1970.

The Berlin-Jewish Spirit, A Dogma in Search of Some Doubts. 1972.

Modern Europe, with Robert K. Webb (2 vols.). 1973.

Style in History. 1974.

Art and Act: On Causes in History: Manet, Gropius, Mondrian. 1976.

Freud, Jews and Other Germans: Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture. 1978.

The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud (5 vols.). 1984.

Education of the Senses. 1984.

The Tender Passion. 1986.

The Cultivation of Hatred. 1993.

The Naked Heart. 1995.

Pleasure Wars. 1998.

Freud for Historians. 1985.

A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis. 1987.

Freud: A Life for Our Time. 1988.

Reading Freud: Explorations & Entertainments. 1990.

Mozart. 1999.

Moritz Frohlich-Morris Gay: A German Refugee in the United States. 1999.

Schnitzler's Century: The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815-1914. 2001.

Editor and translator, The Question of Jean Jacques Rousseau, by Ernst Cassirer. 1954.

Editor and translator, Philosophical Dictionary, by FrancoisMarie Arouet de Voltaire (2 vols.). 1962.

Editor and translator, Candide, by Voltaire (bilingual edition).1963.

Editor, John Locke on Education, by John Locke. 1964.

Editor, Deism: An Anthology. 1968.

Editor, with John Arthur Garraty, The Columbia History of the World. 1971; as A History of the World, 1972.

Editor, with Gerald J. Cavanaugh and Victor G. Wexler,Historians at Work (4 vols.). 1972.

Editor, Eighteenth Century Studies: Presented to Arthur M. Wilson. 1972.

Editor, The Enlightenment: A Comprehensive Anthology. 1973; revised edition, 1985.

Editor, A Freud Reader. 1989.

Translator, Dictionnaire philosophique by Voltaire. 1953.


Critical Studies:

"In Bed with the Victorians: Views of P. Gay" by Noel Gilroy Annan, in The New York Review of Books, 33, 20 November 1986, pp. 8-9; "Putting Freud on the Couch, Historian Peter Gay Finds a Genius Whose Stature Time Cannot Shrink" by Eric Levin, in People Weekly, 29, 6 June 1988, p. 101-02; "Two Jews: Freud and Gay" by Benjamin Goodnick, in Judaism, 38, Winter 1989, pp. 103-11.

* * *

Born Peter Joachim Fröhlich on 20 June 1923 in Berlin, Peter Gay narrowly escaped the Holocaust, sailing to Cuba with his parents on the Iberia in April 1939. In January 1941 the family arrived in Key West, Florida, and in 1943 they officially changed their names to Gay, the English translation of Fröhlich. At the University of Denver, from which Gay graduated in 1946, the future historian developed an interest in the eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume and the Enlightenment. Gay's first book, however, was his Columbia University dissertation about the German socialist political philosopher Eduard Bernstein, which appeared in 1952 as The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism.

In 1953 Gay returned to the eighteenth century with a translation of Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique , and in 1959 he published Voltaire's Politics: The Poet As Realist. His translation of Candide followed in 1963, and The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment in 1964. The latter won the Frederic G. Melcher Award in 1967. In that same year Gay received a National Book Award for The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966), the first of his two-volume The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. Here he examined the origins of eighteenth-century secular thought, which he traced to classical ideas. In The Science of Freedom (1969) Gay placed eighteenth-century intellectuals within their historical context. While working on the Enlightenment, he also published A Loss of Mastery: Puritan Historians in Colonial America (1966), in which he criticized William Bradford, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards for their lack of objectivity, a quality Gay has repeatedly insisted is necessary for the student of history. His four lectures at Columbia, where he was then teaching, became Weimar Culture: The Outsider As Insider (1968), winner of Phi Beta Kappa's 1969 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award.

Freud, Jews, and Other Germans (1978) continued Gay's exploration of late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century German history. He maintained that German Jews were not necessary supporters of modernism and that modernism itself was not as antibourgeois or as antirational as many had claimed. In the mid-1970s he enrolled in the New England Institute for Psychoanalysis to learn more about Sigmund Freud and psychology. In Freud for Historians (1985) Gay argued that historians should apply psychological methods to their study of the past. Further studies of Freud followed, including A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis (1987), Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988), and Reading Freud (1990).

Along with his biography of Freud, Gay's most enduring legacy is likely to be his five-volume The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud (1984-97). Drawing on a wealth of primary material, this work overturned many previously held views about the late nineteenth century. Other works that drew on this theme are The Education of the Senses (1984), which rejected the equation of Victorian age with sexual prudery, and Pleasure Wars (1997), in which Gay demonstrated that the bourgeois, far from being philistine, patronized the arts, including avant-garde painting.

In a 1985 interview Gay said, "I wanted to understand how ideas arose and what they meant in their whole context."Whether looking at culture or the psyche, Gay has fulfilled that goal in his elegantly written books.

—Joseph Rosenblum

See the essay on My German Question: Growing up in Nazi Berlin.

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