Despite the fact that Nietzsche and his family considered his magnum opus to be blasphemous, and feared a backlash from the religious and political establishments, Thus Spoke Zarathustra was never banned. Indeed, not much notice was taken of it until well after Nietzsche’s collapse. In our era, this idiosyncratic work seems to stand in a paradoxical place, all its own. On the one hand, it is a work that is very well known and referenced with respect to some of its most famous phrases and words, such as ‘God is dead’, the ‘Last Man’, ‘Overman’ and ‘eternal recurrence of the same.’ On the other hand, it is a work that is little studied, either in literary, theological or philosophical contexts. The present essay seeks to redress this neglect through an exploration of the polemical context of Nietzsche’s charge of nihilism against monotheistic religions. Such a focus will allow an intersection of literary, theological and philosophical perspectives in a broader interpretation of the significance of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a challenge to both traditional, and radical, religious orthodoxies.
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