The Ayn Rand Cult and the Libertarian Mind Winter 2024

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The broad, “underground” influence of publicist-novelist Ayn Rand stands as one of the more curious sociocultural phenomena to have emerged out of post-War America. Examples: A youthful Alan Greenspan was a dedicated disciple of Rand’s in the 1940s and 50s; Michael Milken was reported to have kept twenty-six copies of Atlas Shrugged in his jail cell while serving time for securities fraud; former Congressman Paul Ryan and Exxon CEO (and then- Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson both are avowed fans of Ayn Rand; each year to this day, Rand’s books sell hundreds of thousands of copies; and, in a crowning instance of “canonization,” the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in Rand’s honor (as part of its “Great American Authors” series) in April 1999. This course will examine the nature and origins of the Rand phenomenon through reading of relevant works of journalism, fiction, and philosophy. Titles to be studied: Jeffrey Walker, The Ayn Rand Cult; Mary Gaitskill, Two Girls: Fat and Thin; Gene H. Bell-Villada, The Pianist Who Liked Ayn Rand (selections) and On Nabokov, Ayn Rand and the Libertarian Mind; and John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. We will also view two films: the movie version of The Fountainhead (1949) and the 1996 documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life. Note: No books by Rand will be read in this class! It is a course not “about” Rand but rather about the cultural sociology and anthropology of Randism.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 30
Expected: NA
Class#: 1031
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: class attendance and participation, readings, short weekly journal entries, and a final 10-page paper
Prerequisites: some previous acquaintance with Rand's work
Enrollment Preferences: by seniority (i.e. first seniors, then juniors, then sophomores, etc.)
Attributes: STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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