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Young Nietzsche: Becoming a Genius First Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0029250419
ISBN-10: 0029250412
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Here, Pletsch (Intellectual History/Miami Univ., Ohio) describes both how Nietzsche consciously chose to become a genius and the cultural conditions that allowed him to do so--the cult of genius itself, its 18th-century secular origins, its function in a period of progress, and Nietzsche's redefinition of it. Pletsch offers little personal information about Nietzsche aside from his military service, his nearsightedness, his inability to relate to women. Born in a society that worshipped genius and in a family of intellectually gifted Lutheran ministers, Nietzsche, orphaned at age five and industrious, introverted, bright, and ambitious, modeled himself after a series of father-surrogates and became a distinguished if dissatisfied professor of classical philosophy. In his discipleship to Wagner (whom he later repudiated as a ``disease'' to be overcome), he found his voice as a philosopher and his status as a genius, which he considered a critical as well as a creative role. As Pletsch uses it, the term ``genius'' is a vocation, not a description; a calling, not a gift; a choice, not a destiny. Its relationship to performance, excellence, originality, and comprehensive knowledge is marginal. But if Nietzsche were not born with exceptional gifts, when did he become a genius and who ratified his status? And how can one reconcile this culturally based theory of genius with the psychological one Pletsch also introduces, a modified Freudian family romance? As Thomas Kuhn has argued in science and Harold Bloom in literature, creative achievements are often the result of choosing strong ``fathers,'' predecessors, to be overcome--success itself being a combination of the struggle with the father and serendipity. In spite of its decisive tone, Pletsch's intriguing study is speculative and needs to be seen in relation to other studies of creativity. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Free Pr; First edition (June 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029250412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029250419
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,842,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Complaints abouts this books lack of biographical content are misguided. The author does not set out to provide a biography of Nietzsche but a study on genius and Nietzsche's achievement of genius. After a sketch of Romantic genius the author provides sufficient biographical information to dispel some of the common psycho-assumptions of Nietzsche. This book leaves me with the impression Nietzsche was more reserved than his writings attest. Nietzsche is both aggressive and sensitive with his friends. Criticism is a concern. He fails at love. And, he hesitates in overcoming his mentor Wagner. It is not until much later with the appearance of Zarathustra that we see the bold uncompromising Nietzsche. WIth regards to Nietzsche being a young genius, it appears that the rules of Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) still applied to Nietzsche. He still spent that 10 year or 10,000 hour of time becoming a genius. Between his studies, his lectures, tutoring, and the immense hours of writing, it cannot be said that he was born a genius but willed himself to genius. Overall I enjoyed the book and wish Pletsch would write a volume on the later Nietzsche.
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By A Customer on January 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book about two years ago in high school. It caught my eye because it was a completely black hardcover book with the title "Young Nietzsche" on the back (of course). Afterwards I had to skip a few classes to read the Hollingdale biography - so great was the inspiration this book provided. This was the first Nietzsche commentary/biography I read. I had struggled with the birth of tragedy and carried it around in an attempt to make myself look smart a few times but I was too lazy to do anything real, and only succeeded in impressing teachers, and I slowly realized that there was really no one to impress. Anyway, I remember the book as being fairly inspiring and very interesting from a purely biographical point of view (can I be more vague or ridiculous?). If you are perhaps a lowly high schooler living in the total darkness of American public education and would like to shine a little light onto you and your fellow prisoners, check this book out. I'm not sure I'd like it as much now that I have become less pretentious... but anyway it is worth reading and its not too long. I think the editorial above gives a good summary but is a bit harsh. The book develops what has become typical as far as hypotheses go, but it offers some sagacity for anyone who wants to learn or find out what it means to learn in that it provides the means - a step up from this is Monk's biography of Wittgenstein. The absolute worst thing about the book is that it leaves you hanging and so you had better buy the Hollingdale biography too (I don't work for amazon, BTW) and then read the real stuff. Well I hope you like the book if you buy it. I hadn't even thought of Harold Bloom until I read that editorial... You won't get a lot out of the book, but you might get a LITTLE, if you catch my meaning. It's the style the gets you out of the cave. The more scholarly person will turn a cold shoulder and avoid second hand ambition.
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Format: Paperback
If there is a problem with this book, it is that its conclusion, "Redefining Genius" is still too vague to make any particular genius of much significance. Due to media influences, social thought now is largely a matter of public opinion, and I may have few companions in the belief that, of course, it was quite proper for Nietzsche to rise to an attack upon his own age, its public opinions, and all the ways in which people prefer to fool themselves. I am grateful to this book for its outlook; merely mentioning its title is often enough to convince others that I don't have to agree with them. The index doesn't have a listing for jokes, and the author seems to associate them quite closely with the scandalous life of the composer, Wagner. On page 120, we are told, "If that was not enough, there were Wagner's coarse jokes, which frequently involved Cosima." My own interest in developing the idea of a fetish involving Nietzsche's relationship with the Wagner family has relied on the information in this book, on that very page, that Isolde was born in April 1865, so she was four when Nietzsche first stepped into that family circle. Other sources indicate that Nietzsche stopped visiting the Wagners before Isolde turned twelve, when the composer began trying to teach Nietzsche something about religion. Things which may have been left out of this biography might not be helpful for understanding the nature of genius. Or maybe the worst idea of a genius would be someone who knew what all these people were thinking and wrote it down.
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Format: Paperback
The most interesting (perhaps the only interesting) section of the book involves a letter Nietsche wrote to a friend in which he recommended a pony (foreign language book with the lines of the foreign language alternating with a translation). One can imagine that someone with an ego like Nietzsche had wished he had not left that admission behind.

The author is a professor of Western civilization at a small public university in Ohio. He makes the claim that the republican black-red-gold flag of 1848 was also the flag of the German Empire, 1871-1918. Nope.
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Format: Paperback
The title of the review says it all. Nothing you haven't heard, the man's youth is only of interest to resentment consumed non-entities. This book is not worth anyone's time; it may not even deserve a reference for refutation . . . See R J Hollingdale for a biography worth your time.
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