Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Hugh West


Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy has endured a torrent of both insightful analysis and faulty interpretation in America. This thesis seeks to examine a comer of this intellectual history, specifically some of the connections between political events and American readers' reception of Nietzsche's work. Chapter 1 introduces the study, arguing that an intellectual row created during the World War I era persisted into the Depression and World War II years. Chapter 2 analyzes Crane Brinton's Nietzsche and that historian's attempts to explain Nietzsche in terms of World War II politics, namely fascist thought. Brinton's efforts to establish a link between Nietzsche and contemporary ideology are presented as representative of the larger discourse during the Second World War. Chapter 3 explores the contrasting position of Walter Kaufmann's fundamental reevaluation of Nietzsche's philosophy in Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, appearing in 1950. Kaufmann's interpretation, a more sober and relativistic account, includes a major effort to divorce Nietzsche from his classification as a proto- Nazi. Chapter 4 concludes that Kaufmann's challenge to reconsider Nietzsche-a movement away from the failings of Brinton's interpretation-not only profoundly changed the thinker's academic and popular legacy, but also reflects a discipline-wide reevaluation of the connections between academic discourse and political motion and offers lessons for exploring this relationship within contemporary scholarship.

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