Prophets of Dissent: Essays on Maeterlinck, Strindberg, Nietzsche and Tolstoy

by Otto Heller

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Otto Heller pulls together four unique voices because he argues that they are radicals who put forth powerful theories for living. In his own words, Heller states:

However, the gathering together of Maeterlinck, Nietzsche, Strindberg, and Tolstoy under the hospitality of a common book-cover permits of a supplementary explanation on the ground of a certain fundamental likeness far stronger than their only too obvious diversities. They are, one and all, radicals in thought, and, with differing strength of intention, reformers of society, inasmuch as their speculations and aspirations are relevant to practical problems of living. And yet what gives them such a durable hold on our attention is not their particular apostolate, but the fact that their artistic impulses ascend from the subliminal regions of the inner life, and that their work somehow brings one into touch with the hidden springs of human action and human fate. This means, in effect, that all of them are mystics by original cast of mind and that notwithstanding any difference, however apparently violent, of views and theories, they follow the same introspective path towards the recognition and interpretation of the law of life. From widely separated ethical premises they thus arrive at an essentially uniform appraisal of personal happiness as a function of living.

Otto Heller was born on July 1863, and was known for being a writer and an academic, until his passing on July 29, 1941. His life spanned the Atlantic Ocean. He attended the University of Prague, among a handful of other European schools because coming to the United States in 1883. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1890. His focus was on European languages and literature. He taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but his final post would be at Washington University. Eventually, he came the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.