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Leo Strauss on ''German Nihilism'': Learning the Art of Writing

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 68, Number 4, October 2007
pp. 587-612 | 10.1353/jhi.2007.0032


The year Leo Strauss published "Persecution and the Art of Writing" (1941), he prepared a lecture ("German Nihilism") that he never published. An analysis of this lecture shows that Strauss hadn't fully mastered the art of writing he'd discovered in others: his secrets are too exposed. In the context of "German Nihilism," it becomes clear that "Persecution and the Art of Writing" is about liberal persecution of authoritarianism, no the reverse, as liberals would assume. In response to recent apologias presenting Strauss as a liberal who didn't "write between the lines," a Strauss-style reading of "German Nihilism" disproves both claims.

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