U.Va. historian Jennifer Burns examines Ayn Rand's life, philosophy

Historians in the News

Burns, an assistant history professor at the University of Virginia, has just published "Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right," a peer-reviewed study of the controversial author/philosopher/atheist/libertarian.

"So much of what was written about her was either pro or con and written by people who had known her," Burns said. "There was no academic book on this important topic."

As a graduate student in history at the University of California-Berkley, Burns knew writing about Rand would be risky. Author of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," Rand tended to polarize debate. But, everywhere Burns went, she found someone reading Rand. Burns began a study of conservatism and again encountered Rand.

"There was a growing interest in conservatism, but she did not fit into that movement," Burns said, noting that Rand was still on the right of the political and social spectrum. "I wanted to see how she fit into the American tradition of thought. It was like a detective story, and I had the field all to myself."...
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