A History of an Icon and His Ideas
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.
The Society for U.S. Intellectual History: Annual Book Award of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History
Journal of the History of Ideas: JHI-Morris D. Forkosch Prize
"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."
"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."
"The major lesson of Ratner-Rosenhagen’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."
"American Nietzsche 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."
"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."
"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."
Transatlantic Crossings: The Aboriginal Intellect Abroad
The Making of the American Nietzsche
The Nietzsche Vogue
The Persona of Nietzsche
Launching “Nietzschean” and “Nietzscheism” into American English
The Soul of Man under Modernity
Unapologetic Catholic Apologetics
The Social Gospel and the Practicability of Christianity
Nietzsche’s Service to Christianity
Jesus of Nazareth, Nietzsche of Naumburg
The American Naturalization of the Übermensch
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
Nietzsche as Educator
The “Gay Science” of Cultural Criticism
The Modern Intellect and Prophetic Longing
Devotions: The Letters
Pathos of Distance from Democratic Culture
Nietzsche as Problem Thinker
Nietzsche and the Nazis
Nietzschean Experimentalism and Jamesian Pragmatism
Kaufmann’s Nietzsche for All and None
Antifoundationalism on Native Grounds
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