112th: Benedetta Zavatta & Nadia Urbinati
Join us at Book Culture 112th on Tuesday, November 19th at 7pm as we celebrate the release of Benedetta Zavatta's Individuality & Beyond. She will be joined in conversation by Nadia Urbinati.
Though few might think to connect the two figures, Ralph Waldo Emerson was an important influence on Friedrich Nietzsche. Specifically, Emerson played a fundamental role in shaping Nietzsche's philosophical ideas on individualism, perfectionism, and the pursuit of virtue, as well as his critiques of social conditioning, religious dogmatism, and anti-natural morality. With Individuality and Beyond, Benedetta Zavatta offers the first philosophical interpretation of Emerson's influence on Nietzsche based on a sound philological analysis of previously unpublished materials from Nietzsche's private library. Nietzsche's collection reveals numerous copies of Emerson's essays covered with annotations and marginalia as Nietzsche revisited these works throughout his life.
Through close-reading, Zavatta casts a new light on the ways in which Emerson's work informed Nietzsche's defining ideas of self-creation, the relation between fate and free will, overcoming morality of customs and achieving moral autonomy, and the "transvaluation" of such values as compassion and altruism. Zavatta organizes these concepts into two main lines of thought: the first concerns the development of the individual personality, or the achievement of intellectual and moral autonomy and original self-expression. The second, on the contrary, concerns the overcoming of individuality and the need to transcend a limited view of the world by continually questioning one's own values and engaging with opposing perspectives.
Ultimately, Zavatta clarifies the surprising contributions that Emerson made to 20th century European philosophy. She provides a fresh portrait of Emerson as an American thinker long stereotyped as a na ve idealist disinterested in the social issues of his day. Seen through the eyes of Nietzsche, his acute interpreter, Emerson becomes an incisive cultural critic, whose contributions underpin contemporary philosophy.
Benedetta Zavatta is Marie Curie Researcher at ITEM (CNRS/ENS) in Paris. She is currently a member of the International Society for Nietzsche Studies and other European associations devoted to the study of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Her principal research interest is German philosophy of the 19th Century, with particular attention to Nietzsche and his sources. Zavatta has been Research Fellow at the Weimar Classics Foundation, Basel University, LMU Munich, the University of Oxford, the New University of Lisbon and Columbia University in NYC. She is author of many essays in five languages published on International peer-reviewed Journals, of two books in Italian and of the monograph Individuality and Beyond. Nietzsche reads Emerson. Oxford University Press 2019. She has also participated in several Research Projects funded by the European Union in the field of Digital Humanities (HyperNietzsche, Discovery, Agora among others).
Nadia Urbinati, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University, is a political theorist who specializes in modern and contemporary political thought and the democratic and anti-democratic traditions. She co-chaired the Columbia University Faculty Seminar on Political and Social Thought and founded and chaired the Workshop on Politics, Religion and Human Rights. She is co-editor with Andrew Arato of the journal Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation Reset Dialogues on Civilization-Istanbul Seminars. She is the winner of the 2008-9 Lenfest/Columbia Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2008 the President of the Italian Republic awarded Professor Urbinati the Commendatore della Repubblica (Commander of the Italian Republic) "for her contribution to the study of democracy and the diffusion of Italian liberal and democratic thought abroad." In 2004 her book Mill on Democracy received the David and Elaine Spitz Prize as the best book in liberal and democratic theory published in 2002.