I recently read Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s brilliantly argued, exquisitely written, long awaited book, American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. Since I’m reviewing it elsewhere, and since Tim plans to give it the “Lacy treatment” here at the blog, I won’t go into much detail about the book, other than to say it should be required reading for all intellectual historians. Instead, I would like to use this space to ask you, dear reader, to help me generate a list of reception histories. I’m interested in such a list for at least four reasons:
1) I find reception history fascinating, for reasons Ratner-Rosenhagen makes clear when she “seeks to demonstrate that reception history can be more ambitious than simply enumerating the varieties of uses of a thinker or a body of thought in a new national context.” For example, she instead “argues that confrontations with Nietzsche laid bare a fundamental concern driving modern American thought: namely, the question of the grounds, or foundations, for modern American thought and culture itself.” In other words, her book “is not a history of American ‘Nietzscheans.’ It is a history of American readers making their way to their views of themselves and their modern America by thinking through, against, and around Nietzsche’s stark challenges.” Lovely.
2) Moreover, such a list might help me put American Nietzsche in a properly broad historiographical context.
3) I’m considering teaching a graduate seminar on the topic of reception history.
4) I’m also considering whether or not my next book—after the culture wars book is written, by the end of this year, hopefully—should be a reception history of “Marx in America.”
So please list books that you know about, and also list projects in the works (for example, I’ve heard that Drew Maciag has a book coming out on “Burke in America”). And for God’s sake let me know if someone is writing or has written “Marx in America”!
I’ll get the list started. I’ve read some of these. Others I’m merely aware of. Some I cribbed from Ratner-Rosenhagen’s endnotes. Not all of them are explicitly Transatlantic. Reception history obviously flows in many directions, plays out in many contexts. These are in no particular order:
François Cusset, French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States (which I blogged about here.)
Martin Woessner, Heidegger in America
George Cotkin, Existential America
Lawrence A. Scaff, Max Weber in America
James Ceasar, Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought
Richard Wrightman Fox, Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession
David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History
Steven Biel, American Gothic: A Life of America’s Most Famous Painting