W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize

2016 Citation Recipient

Rebecca Mitchell

The W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize, established in 2004 and sponsored by Mary Lincoln, is awarded annually for an author’s first published monograph or scholarly synthesis that is of exceptional merit and lasting significance for the understanding of Russia’s past, published in the previous year.

Winner: Rebecca Mitchell
Title: Nietzsche’s Orphans: Music, Metaphysics, and the Twilight of the Russian Empire (Yale University Press)

In this engaging and intellectually elegant book, Rebecca Mitchell explores how music emerged as a key instrument in the construction of Russian identity.  Drawing on an exceptional range of archival and published sources, she traces music’s central importance to the Silver Age era and to the aesthetic community she terms “Nietzsche’s orphans.”  Mitchell argues that, at once inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s call for “myth creation” yet troubled by many of the implications of his thought, the late imperial Russian cultural elite envisioned music as a unifying force that could overcome the divisions of modern life and usher in a new stage in human history.  Mitchell charts the rise and disintegration of this musical metaphysics amidst the turmoil of political crisis, war, and revolution.  She explores the elaboration of musical metaphysics through the lives, thoughts, and compositional language of the composers Aleksandr Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Nikolai Medtner, while also reconstructing the flow of ideas and influences through a cultural network comprised of composers, music critics, and music lovers.  Mitchell’s intellectual history of music’s cultural meaning contributes to the fields of cultural history, music history, philosophy, the history of emotions, and the history of social networks.   It is a model of innovative interdisciplinary research.