American Nietzsche: A History Of An Icon And His Ideas

Paperback | November 5, 2012

byJennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

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If you were looking for a philosopher likely to appeal to Americans, Friedrich Nietzsche would be far from your first choice. After all, in his blazing career, Nietzsche took aim at nearly all the foundations of modern American life: Christian morality, the Enlightenment faith in reason, and the idea of human equality. Despite that, for more than a century Nietzsche has been a hugely popular—and surprisingly influential—figure in American thought and culture.

In American Nietzsche, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen delves deeply into Nietzsche's philosophy, and America’s reception of it, to tell the story of his curious appeal. Beginning her account with Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom the seventeen-year-old Nietzsche read fervently, she shows how Nietzsche’s ideas first burst on American shores at the turn of the twentieth century, and how they continued  alternately to invigorate and to shock Americans for the century to come. She also delineates the broader intellectual and cultural contexts within which a wide array of commentators—academic and armchair philosophers, theologians and atheists, romantic poets and hard-nosed empiricists, and political ideologues and apostates from the Left and the Right—drew insight and inspiration from Nietzsche’s claims for the death of God, his challenge to universal truth, and his insistence on the interpretive nature of all human thought and beliefs. At the same time, she explores how his image as an iconoclastic immoralist was put to work in American popular culture, making Nietzsche an unlikely posthumous celebrity capable of inspiring both teenagers and scholars alike.

A  penetrating examination of a powerful but little-explored undercurrent of twentieth-century American thought and culture, American Nietzsche dramatically recasts our understanding of American intellectual life—and puts Nietzsche squarely at its heart.

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If you were looking for a philosopher likely to appeal to Americans, Friedrich Nietzsche would be far from your first choice. After all, in his blazing career, Nietzsche took aim at nearly all the foundations of modern American life: Christian morality, the Enlightenment faith in reason, and the idea of human equality. Despite that, fo...

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is the Merle Curti Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

other books by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Format:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:November 5, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022600676X

ISBN - 13:9780226006765

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

PROLOGUE
Transatlantic Crossings: The Aboriginal Intellect Abroad

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER ONE
The Making of the American Nietzsche
Nietzsche and the European Axis of American Cosmopolitanism
The Nietzsche Vogue
The Persona of Nietzsche
Launching “Nietzschean” and “Nietzscheism” into American English

CHAPTER TWO
The Soul of Man under Modernity
Nietzsche and the Problems of Modern Thought
Unapologetic Catholic Apologetics
The Social Gospel and the Practicability of Christianity
Nietzsche’s Service to Christianity
Jesus of Nazareth, Nietzsche of Naumburg

CHAPTER THREE
The American Naturalization of the Übermensch
The Übermensch in the Popular Imagination
Self-Overcoming and Social Uplift
Modern Whirl and Romantic Self-Abandonment
The Übermensch and the German National Mind
The Übermensch at War and the “Made in Germany” Generation
To Each His Own Übermensch

CHAPTER FOUR
Nietzsche as Educator
Experiencing Intellect; or, World-Making Words
Imitatio Nietzsche
The “Gay Science” of Cultural Criticism
The Modern Intellect and Prophetic Longing

INTERLUDE
Devotions: The Letters
Nietzsche Possession, Possessing Nietzsche
Nietzschean Self-Fashioning
Nietzsche Pilgrimage
Pathos of Distance from Democratic Culture

CHAPTER FIVE
Dionysian Enlightenment
Walter Kaufmann, German Émigrés, and Nietzsche as Hitler’s Exile
Nietzsche as Problem Thinker
Nietzsche and the Nazis
Nietzschean Experimentalism and Jamesian Pragmatism
Kaufmann’s Nietzsche for All and None

CHAPTER SIX
Antifoundationalism on Native Grounds
Harold Bloom and the Quest for Emersonian Priority
Richard Rorty: Fusing the Horizons between Nietzsche and the Pragmatists
Stanley Cavell: Nietzsche, Emerson, and American Philosophy Finding Its Way Home
Thinking about American Thinking

EPILOGUE
Nietzsche Is Us

Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"A truly outstanding piece of intellectual history."