Synopses & Reviews
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 popularand#8212;and surprisingly influentialand#8212;figure in American thought and culture.
In American Nietzsche, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen delves deeply into Nietzsche's philosophy, and Americaand#8217;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 Nietzscheand#8217;s ideas first burst on American shores at the turn of the twentieth century, and how they continuedand#160; 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 commentatorsand#8212;academic and armchair philosophers, theologians and atheists, romantic poets and hard-nosed empiricists, and political ideologues and apostates from the Left and the Rightand#8212;drew insight and inspiration from Nietzscheand#8217;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 and#160;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 lifeand#8212;and puts Nietzsche squarely at its heart.
is an original contribution to trans-Atlantic intellectual history. Imaginatively conceived, it sheds considerable light on the still neglected influence of German thought on American thought and culture from Emerson down to the present. On top of that, Ratner-Rosenhagen deals with her surprisingly fresh topic in a lively, sharp, and often witty prose that is a pleasure to read."--Richard King, University of Nottingham
Times Higher Education
"This is a superb book, widely and imaginatively researched, boldly argued, and vigorously written. The story it tells is compelling and populated by a fascinating array of characters, including almost everyone of importance in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American intellectual history: including Emerson, William James, Santayana, Mencken, and a host of lesser folk."
"A luminous and wide-ranging story of the depth and passion of American readers attraction to Nietzsche. This is transnational intellectual history at its very best."—Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University
Richard King, University of Nottingham
"Ratner-Rosenhagens skillful combining of historical research and philosophical analysis in a way that is both accessible and informative makes this book a pleasure to read. Highly recommended."—Library Journal Adam Kirsch - Prospect
"Ratner-Rosenhagens book, while technically the work of an intellectual historian, . . should be made compulsory reading for philosophers."—Times Higher Education Library Journal
andquot;[A] lively history. . . . With vigor and intelligence, American Nietzsche covers a great deal of ground. . . . Ratner-Rosenhagen is a superb listener.andquot;andmdash;Nation
"The major lesson of Ratner-Rosenhagenand#8217;s book, and its comedy, lies in her demonstration of how deftly the American genius has drawn on Nietzsche but cushioned and contained his challenge to democracy, religion, and humanitarianism in general."
andquot;More than any other European thinker, Nietzsche is alive in our cultural bloodstream. . . . What does our use and abuse ofand#160;Nietzsche's thinking say about us?and#160;This is the interesting question that Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen sets out to answer in her elegant and revealing account of America's reckoning with the German thinker.andquot;
andquot;Today's inescapable and perplexing Nietzsche is not necessarily the same Nietzsche who inspired readers in the past; and it's the achievement of American Nietzsche
to show how that is the case.andquot;
"An exquisitely and exhaustively researched work. . . . American Nietzsche argues that all appropriation [of Nietzsche] get the man wrong--or, at least, that none get him entirely right--but that the error is sort of beside the point, because each misappropriation is put to use in the grand, century-long project of helping America understand itself."--National Review Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University
"Friedrich Nietzsche and America, how does this go together? At first glance not at all. . . . But America eagerly soaked up the ideas of the German demolisher, who attacked last truth with a hammer."--Die Welt
"A truly outstanding piece of intellectual history."
Review of Metaphysics
andquot;A truly outstanding piece of intellectual history.andquot;
About the Author
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is the Merle Curti Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of a variety of articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century US intellectual and cultural history.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Transatlantic Crossings: The Aboriginal Intellect Abroad
The Making of the American NietzscheNietzsche and the European Axis of American Cosmopolitanism
The Nietzsche Vogue
The Persona of Nietzsche
Launching and#8220;Nietzscheanand#8221; and and#8220;Nietzscheismand#8221; into American English
The Soul of Man under ModernityNietzsche and the Problems of Modern Thought
Unapologetic Catholic Apologetics
The Social Gospel and the Practicability of Christianity
Nietzscheand#8217;s Service to Christianity
Jesus of Nazareth, Nietzsche of Naumburg
The American Naturalization of the and#220;bermenschThe and#220;bermensch in the Popular Imagination
Self-Overcoming and Social Uplift
Modern Whirl and Romantic Self-Abandonment
The and#220;bermensch and the German National Mind
The and#220;bermensch at War and the and#8220;Made in Germanyand#8221; Generation
To Each His Own and#220;bermensch
Nietzsche as EducatorExperiencing Intellect; or, World-Making Words
The and#8220;Gay Scienceand#8221; of Cultural Criticism
The Modern Intellect and Prophetic Longing
Devotions: The LettersNietzsche Possession, Possessing Nietzsche
Pathos of Distance from Democratic Culture
Dionysian EnlightenmentWalter Kaufmann, German and#201;migrand#233;s, and Nietzsche as Hitlerand#8217;s Exile
Nietzsche as Problem Thinker
Nietzsche and the Nazis
Nietzschean Experimentalism and Jamesian Pragmatism
Kaufmannand#8217;s Nietzsche for All and None
Antifoundationalism on Native GroundsHarold 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
Nietzsche Is Us