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social sciences

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Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844-1900)  
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In his work, Nietzsche takes the perspective that life is "beyond good and evil," and challenges the traditionally moral idea that exploitation and domination of others are universally objectionable. Rather, he argues that living things naturally aim to express a "will to power." Rejecting the idea that there is a universal morality to which all human beings are subject, he finds different moralities appropriate for different kinds of people, depending on whether they are strong and overflowing with life or whether they are weak and on the decline.

Nietzsche had just finished writing his intellectual autobiography Ecce Homo (published 1908) in late 1888, when he suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown, collapsing in a street in Turin, Italy.

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He was brought back to Germany for treatment and lived with his sister for the rest of his life. Though he lived for ten more years, neither his mind nor his body ever recovered. His sister gained control over his work and used it selectively to support her own anti-Jewish, Aryan supremacist views.

There is still dissent among students of philosophy about whether Nietzsche's ideas of the Übermensch, or "superior man," who rises above society's restrictive morality, were actually founded on prejudice and racism or were misrepresented and misunderstood by his sister and, later, by Adolph Hitler himself. This controversy gives special poignancy to the last line of his biographical work, Ecce Homo: "Have I been understood?"

Tina Gianoulis

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literature >> Overview:  Decadence

Nineteenth-century Decadent literature either describes aspects of decadent life and society or reflects the decadent literary aesthetic.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

arts >> Overview:  Wagnerism

Concerned with the music, theoretical writings, political ideas, and aesthetics of the German composer Richard Wagner, Wagnerism had a profound influence on late nineteenth-century European culture, including the expression of same-sex desire.

literature >> Brand, Adolf

Editor, photographer, and activist, Adolf Brand was the leader of a faction of the early German homosexual emancipation movement whose cultural views were expressed in Der Eigene (The Self-Owner), the first homosexual literary and artistic journal.

literature >> Byron, George Gordon, Lord

The bisexual Lord Byron treated many of his homosexual love affairs in his poetry, encoding them by the use of classical references or by purporting that they were affairs with women.

literature >> Cocteau, Jean

An outspoken homosexual, Jean Cocteau was a prolific poet, novelist, critic, essayist, artist, and filmmaker.

literature >> Gide, André

André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

social sciences >> Leopold, Nathan F. (1904-1971), and Richard A. Loeb (1905-1936)

The case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who gained notoriety for the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy in 1924, has since become a staple of popular culture, inspiring numerous books, films, and plays.

social sciences >> Ludwig II of Bavaria

Best known for his enthusiastic patronage of Richard Wagner and for his fabulous castles, Ludwig II of Bavaria withdrew from public life, perhaps in part due to the impossibility of living openly as a gay man.

literature >> Platen, August von

The poems of Count August von Platen are homoerotic expressions of Platonic love, idealism, beauty, friendship, and longing.

arts >> Wagner, Siegfried

Siegfried Wagner, the son of composer Richard Wagner, was himself a prolific composer and conductor; his bisexuality was the source of both scandal and also of elaborate attempts to erase it from histories of the Wagner family.


Cate, Curtis. Friedrich Nietzsche. New York: Overlook Press, 2005.

Danto, Arthur Coleman. Nietzsche as Philosopher. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965.

Dudley, Will. Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Oliver, Kelly, and Marilyn Pearsall, eds. Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1998.

Pilz, Gerald. "Nietzsche, Friedrich." Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. London: Routledge, 2001. 327-28.

Rothstein, Edward. "Is There a Gay Basis to Nietzsche's Ideas?" New York Times (July 6, 2002): B7.

Wicks, Robert. "Friedrich Nietzsche. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta, ed.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Nietzsche, Friedrich  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated December 12, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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