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Emerson, Nietzsche and Foucault

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Emerson, Nietzsche, and Foucault

An examination of the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) on Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), and, equally important, of the congruence of themes, styles, and preoccupations that characterize major works by the two thinkers/writers. Through a careful reading of major works by Emerson and Nietzsche, as well as of critical evaluations of their significance and influence, an effort will be made to unfold the similarities and dissimilarities in their themes, styles, preoccupations, metaphors, contexts, and textual spaces. In the process, the relationship of these seminal thinkers to romanticism, modernism, postmodernism, and post-postmodernism will be explored.

Close comparison of the two goes beyond the murky questions of "influence," however: To be aware of the extent to which much in Nietzsche's thinking was shaped by Emerson's language and constructions may reshape in significant ways our readings and understandings of important aspects of the Nietzschean project itself. Works considered will include Emerson’s Essays, First Series; Essays, Second Series; The Conduct of Life; and Letters and Social Aims; Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (Die Froeliche Wissenschaft); Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach

Zarathustra); Beyond Good and Evil (Jenseits von Gut und Boese); Toward a Genealogy of Morals (Zur Genealogie der Moral); and various writings by legatees of the Emerson-Nietzsche project, such as Hans Vaihinger, William

James, Robert Musil, Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze.

Study programmes