Existential America

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Product Details
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publish Date
6.56 X 1.23 X 9.72 inches | 1.58 pounds
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About the Author
George Cotkin is a professor of history at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He is the author of Reluctant Modernism: American Thought and Culture, 1880-1900 and William James, Public Philosopher, the latter published by Johns Hopkins.

"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."

--Nick Gillespie "Reason "

"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."

--Andy Lamey "National Post "

"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."

--Carlin Romano "Philadelphia Inquirer "

"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."

--Jay Parini "Guardian "

"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."

--Joshua Glenn "Washington Post Book World "

"An involving and cogent discussion... Cotkin's intellectual history will engage any American who remembers identifying with Camus's The Stranger as an adolescent, as well as offering students a compelling theory of American culture."

--Library Journal

"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."

--Richard Polt "Village Voice "

"A useful reference volume for students of philosophy and American culture."

--Christopher Luna "Rain Taxi "

"A timely and compelling account of America's engagement with, and involvement in, what might otherwise be seen as a quintessentially European conversation."

--John Fagg "Cercles "

"No other book engages existentialism in America so broadly or seeks to make it so central to American intellectual life."

--Terry A. Cooney "American Historical Review "

"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."

--Werner J. Dannhauser "Weekly Standard "

"This sweeping survey traces the genealogy of existential philosophy in the United States."

--American Literature