- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
American Historical ReviewNo other book engages existentialism in America so broadly or seeks to make it so central to American intellectual life.
— Terry A. Cooney
Europe's leading existential thinkers?Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus?all felt that Americans were too self-confident and shallow to accept their philosophy of responsibility, choice, and the absurd. "There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization," Sartre remarked in 1950, while Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse" and Camus derided American materialism and optimism. Existentialism, however, enjoyed rapid, widespread, and ...
Europe's leading existential thinkers—Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus—all felt that Americans were too self-confident and shallow to accept their philosophy of responsibility, choice, and the absurd. "There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization," Sartre remarked in 1950, while Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse" and Camus derided American materialism and optimism. Existentialism, however, enjoyed rapid, widespread, and enduring popularity among Americans. No less than their European counterparts, American intellectuals participated in the conversation of existentialism. In Existential America, historian George Cotkin argues that the existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define the United States in the twentieth-century in ways that have never been fully realized or appreciated.
As Cotkin shows, not only did Americans readily take to existentialism, but they were already heirs to a rich tradition of thinkers—from Jonathan Edwards and Herman Melville to Emily Dickinson and William James—who had wrestled with the problems of existence and the contingency of the world long before Sartre and his colleagues. After introducing this concept of an American existential tradition, Cotkin examines how formal existentialism first arrived in America in the 1930s through discussion of Kierkegaard and the early vogue among New York intellectuals for the works of Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus. Cotkin then traces the evolution of existentialism in America: its adoption by Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison to help articulate the African-American experience; its expression in the works of Norman Mailer and photographer Robert Frank; its incorporation into the tenets of the feminist and radical student movements of the 1960s; and its lingering presence in contemporary American thought and popular culture, particularly in such films as Crimes and Misdemeanors, Fight Club and American Beauty.
The only full-length study of existentialism in America, this highly engaging and original work provides an invaluable guide to the history of American culture since the end of the Second World War.
Johns Hopkins University Press
— Terry A. Cooney
— Werner J. Dannhauser
— Andy Lamey
— Richard Polt
— Nick Gillespie
— Christopher Luna
— Carlin Romano
— Jay Parini
— John Fagg
— Joshua Glenn
This sweeping survey traces the genealogy of existential philosophy in the United States.
One of the great pleasures of reading George Cotkin's brilliant study Existential America is that it explains why existentialism has proved so deeply appealing and enduring in an American context.
Lively and readable... A fine survey of existential 'notions' in America, from the 1600s to the 1970s, when various new forms of French thought became more fashionable. It is quite discerning in the way it separates the various strands of the actual movement known as existentialism and locates its antecedents in various early American authors.
Entertaining, insightful cultural history... Cotkin's welcome addition to this picture [of the history of existentialism] is to recognize, as too few ever have, America's participation in existentialism and special contribution to it.
Cotkin excels... in tracing the reception, in these optimistic, practical, can-do United States, of those European ideas and art forms that have mounted a challenge to our received world view.
In Existential America, intellectual historian George Cotkin proves existentialism's relevance by showing that it was never just a fad; existential sensibilities run deep in our history. Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus, who all toured the United States after the war, saw only the country's exterior, its consumerist boosterism. But would it be so surprising if the land of the free were also the land of the searching, the anxious, the alienated? This is, after all, the country of Herman Melville and Edward Hopper... Along the way [Cotkin] drops fascinating anecdotes about how existentialism touched everyone from FDR to MLK, from Whittaker Chambers to Betty Friedan... An engrossing, readable account of a major current in our cultural history.
A useful reference volume for students of philosophy and American culture.
A timely and compelling account of America's engagement with, and involvement in, what might otherwise be seen as a quintessentially European conversation.
No other book engages existentialism in America so broadly or seeks to make it so central to American intellectual life.
Cotkin... makes the unusual argument that existentialism, despite its reputation as quintessentially French, was an equally American phenomenon... Cotkin does a good job showing how much the French thinkers' ideas resonated among prominent Americans.
Cotkin is at his best in tracing the recognition of the dark side of the human soul that characterizes the best of American literature in Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Dickinson, and others.
AcknowledgementsChapter One Introduction1741–1949
American Existentialists before the Fact
Chapter Two The "Drizzly November"of the American Soul1928–1955
Chapter Three Kierkegaard Comes to America
Chapter Four A Kierkegaardian Age of Anxiety1944–1960
The Era of French Existentialism
Chapter Five The Vogue of French Existentialism
Chapter Six New York Intellectuals and French Existentialists
Chapter Seven The Canon of Existentialism1948–1968
Realizing an Existential Vision
Chapter Eight "Cold Rage": Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison
Chapter Nine Norman Mailer's Existential Errand
Chapter Ten Robert Frank's Existential Vision1960–1993
Postwar Student and Women's Movements
Chapter Eleven Camus's Rebels
Chapter Twelve Existential Feminists: Simone de Beauvoir and Betty FriedanChapter Thirteen Conclusion: Existentialism Today and TomorrowNotes
Essay on Sources
Johns Hopkins University Press