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American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  141 Ratings  ·  21 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 be ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by University of Chicago Press (first published October 28th 2011)
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John
Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nietszche, philosophy
Nietzsche is a Rorschach blot for Americans: blue collar workers, housewives, Christians, political activists, artists, intellectuals. Americans see in Nietzsche what they most desire--freedom from the dead morals of a corrupt and decadent consumer society. And they see in Nietzsche what they most fear--a world without ultimate justification other than what the self can justify to itself, by itself. Ratner-Rosenhagen documents America's wide-ranging, disparate fascinations with Nietzsche in a fl ...more
Joshua Buhs
There's, like, 120% of a book here, but it's broken into parts: there's 80% of a brilliant intellectual history of America from the 1890s to around World War I; and then there's 40% of an informative, but much more constrained, intellectual history from the 1950s to the 1990s. The first would rate four stars; the second two: and so the compromise is three. They are awkwardly welded together with an interlude, which, I guess, is unrated.

JRR wants to examine how Americans made sense of the German
...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
In an article I wrote on my personal blog about the infamous prosecution of John T Scopes, an American teacher put on trial in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee for teaching the Darwinian view of evolution, contrary to local law, I made the point that Clarence Darrow, Scope’s defence attorney, was an enthusiast for the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as the biology of Charles Darwin.

He was influenced here by H. L. Mencken, a leading American journalist. It was Mencken who introduced the Germ
...more
Jason Jeffries
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Some time ago I mentioned to my wife that I’d been experiencing strange existential crises, and I had just noticed and it was odd to me. She replied that perhaps I was having a ‘mid-life crisis’, and yep, because she’s smart and that sounds about right. She thought for a moment and asked if I had read any Nietzsche lately. I considered this wonderful advice as she is trained and degreed in philosophy and has a wonderful mind for such things and I respect her opinions greatly. It’s not like she w ...more
David Withun
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
While Friedrich Nietzsche has had a significant impact on my own life, I can honestly say that I had very little idea, until I read this book, just how great an impact he has had on the lives of so many others. Ratner-Rosenhagen does an excellent job of covering the history of Nietzsche's engagement with American thinkers, from Emerson's impact on Nietzsche through to Nietzsche's impact on modern American thinkers. I think the most fascinating part of the book is the “Interlude” in which she dis ...more
Robin Friedman
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nietzsche In The United States

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen's book, "American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and his Ideas" (2011) examines the reception of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) in the United States and Americans' ongoing and continued fascination with his writings and character. Ratner-Rosenhagen, the Merle Curti Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison, also discusses the influence of American thought on Nietzsche. In particular
...more
Dean
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book, Ratner-Rosenhagen asserts, is less about Nietzsche than it is about how Americans appropriated his idea since the late 19th century. Yet she does end up sharing plenty about Nietzsche's life and his philosophy. It's fascinating to learn that an anti-democratic, anti-Christian, and anti-collectivist thinker would be met with such praise—to the extent of worshipping—as Nietzche in the United States.

Specially interesting is how his writings inspired Rosa Luxemburg and Huey P. Newton, al
...more
Shane Avery
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Titanic scholarship of the titan philosopher. A bit repetitive, but most lengthy scholarship tends toward repetition. Could really do without some of the antiquarian inspired trivia in the middle sections, her so called "ephemera." A couple of really good reviews here on goodreads already.

As an aside, it's hard not to be a little bewildered at the appropriation of Nietzsche by so many different and politically opposed groups, but his feverish and brilliant ramblings must attract the attention of
...more
Daniel
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
American Nietzsche is neither a biography nor a formal analysis of philosophical concepts. Professor Ratner-Rosenhagen is a historian, and the subject of her book is presented through the lens of her discipline. It is, in short, an insightful and skillfully written treatment of the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche's ideas and image on American culture. Refreshingly, I detected no axes being ground, no hidden agendas skulking in the shadows. The author has simply identified an important story tha ...more
Ed
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book of great scholarship, which is written in a clear and direct manner. It is a book about reading. Nietzsche was a provocative writer, who provoked a great variety of responses from his readers. Ratner-Rosenhagen traces the responses of his American readers through the twentieth century. These readers did not simply absorb Nietzsche, but reacted to him in terms of their own preoccupations. By tracing these reactions through the century Ratner-Rosenhagen provides an intellectual hist ...more
Roy Kenagy
Nov 04, 2011 marked it as to-read
Review (The Nation): http://bit.ly/vBdrGj

"With vigor and intelligence American Nietzsche covers a great deal of ground—more than a century of response to the philosopher, from music critic James Huneker and philosopher Josiah Royce to feminist writers Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler. The book concludes with a consideration of how three influential thinkers—Harold Bloom, Richard Rorty and Stanley Cavell—relied on Nietzsche as a way to recover “expressions of antifoundationalism on American native
...more
vittore paleni
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Feels like Nietzhe's hall of mirrors. To each his own.
Will
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
There are already plenty of thorough (and maybe too thorough) reviews on here for this, but I'd add that (unfortunately) it isn't a cultural history but strictly an intellectual one. So you get weird instances of Judith Butler making an appearance, but Barbara Stanwyck's Baby Face (1933) and Hitchcock's Rope (1948) are absent—probably the two most popular cinematic expositions of anything vaguely Nietzschean in America—as are poets (Stevens), novelists (Jack London, Richard Wright), playwrights ...more
William
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: golden-age
This was an introduction to Nietzsche for me. I have no background in philosophy so I found it a bit of a challenge to get through.
Nils
Nov 28, 2012 rated it liked it
This book adverts to being a reader-response account of the Nietzsche reception in the US. And at first, this is what it actually is -- and it is fascinating, and potentially a mind-blowing new understanding of intellectual history, which the popular and personal responses to complex ideas. Why Nietzsche has exercised such deep fascination and engagement among popular readers, far more than any other serious philosopher, is a crucial and probing question. In particular, why has Nietzsche exercis ...more
Dennis
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This author is definitely an academic so this is no easy or fast read but surely worthwhile for any Nietzsche fans who are interested in tracing the history of America's take on the reputation and standing of one of the truly great modern thinkers of the western world.
Bill Brown
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Hard read but worthwhile to help one understand how culture went from Christian to secular. Some say Nietzsche released them from dead Christianity. Christianity is still alive and Nietzsche is dead. He has been the ruination of many intellectuals and mainline denominations.
Gabriel
Feb 06, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: philosophy
Heard about it on The New York Times Books Podcast. I knew I just had to read it. How a country could have been so receptive to a thinker so antagonistic to the values the country held dear deserves some attention.
Daniel
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this rather well. There was a lot I didn't know about the American Nietzsche. I would recommend this book.
David
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
I quit in this. it wasn't what I thought it would be, and I found it tough going. maybe someday I will go back to it
John
rated it really liked it
Feb 07, 2015
Gabe Long
rated it liked it
Mar 30, 2017
Patrick
rated it it was ok
Jan 05, 2016
Joy
rated it really liked it
Sep 22, 2014
Lauren Donoho
rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2015
Dan
rated it it was ok
Jan 09, 2018
Rayan
rated it really liked it
Feb 22, 2013
Bob Miller
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Jan 26, 2016
Brett Green
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Jul 06, 2014
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“Virtually all letter writers confessed how their encounter with Nietzsche's philosophy either emboldened or chastened them, liberated them from old falsehoods, or saddled them with new moral responsibilities. Helen Bachmuller of Dayton, Ohio, wrote to let Förster-Nietzsche know that her brother had inspired the belief that human greatness was still possible in the modern world. Though unworthy of his greatness, he nevertheless awakened in her a longing for something deeper in herself. Nietzsche, Bachmuller confessed, had saved her from her 'own inner emptiness.' The 'Ohio country' she called home had become 'tame and commonplace,' filled with lives 'trivial and ... essentially ugly, for they are engrossed with matters of money and motors, not with work or faith or art.' She regarded the Methodist church near her house as 'vulgar, pretentious.' Though disgusted by the offensive mediocrity around her, she was also chagrined by her own limitations: 'It would be, probably, impossible for you to imagine anything more superficial than I am.' But reading presumably the recently released translation of Förster-Nietzsche's The_Nietzsche-Wagner_Correspondence had exposed Bachmuller to 'depths beyond depths, of one great soul striking fire against another great soul, and I became thrilled. I could feel the harmonies and dissonances, the swell and surge of those two glorious beings, and I felt much more that I cannot express.' Reading Nietzsche enlivened her to the possibility 'for a companionship that would stimulate, that would deepen, that would give me Tiefen [depth].' Nietzsche strengthened her resolve that 'all my life I will hold on to my hunger, if I never manage to have a soul, at any rate I will remain, by hook or crook, aware of it and I will desire one all my life, I will not accept substitutes.” 0 likes
“The Enlightenment’s unwarranted esteem for human rationality, they argued, did not simply lead to the “disenchantment of the world” —it sowed the seeds of its own destruction. By exalting the limitless power of instrumental rationality, the Enlightenment cultivated an ideology in which nothing lay beyond the power of human apprehension, domination, and administration. The “administered world” of Nazism, then, represented the realization, not the abandonment, of the Enlightenment: the “Enlightenment is totalitarian.” 0 likes
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