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Cotkin, George

Existential America

Kierkegaard, Sartre, Camus, Beauvoir, the thoughtful angst of continental thinkers in the 1930s, the stoic heroism of the French Resistance after 1940, and the world-weariness that surrounded and followed World War II: we think of existential philosophy as eminently French or explicitly European. George Cotkin here argues that an existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define 20th-century America in ways that we have not realized or appreciated.Cotkin´s study becomes a searching survey of the existential sensibility in American thought and culture. Cotkin discusses freshly some members of the canon - Jonathan Edwards, Herman Melville, William James and Emily Dickinson - and then, as formally existential writings made their appearance in the United States, offers probing discussions of theologians, sociologists, historians and literary critics. He also casts his net among novelists, filmmakers, African-American writers and commentators, student radicals such as Tom Hayden, and feminist leaders such as Betty Friedan.

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