Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Michael Keller


Ayn Rand published her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957. Since then, the novel has continued to grow in popularity, and today, Atlas Shrugged is purchased by hundreds of thousands of people each year, and the philosophy that the novel espouses, Objectivism, continues to influence our culture in a myriad of ways. Atlas Shrugged has not only greatly influenced American politics; it has become a popular culture phenomenon. Representations of her ideas show up in radio talk shows, on nightly Fox News programing, on popular television series, on YouTube clips, Twitter posts, and everywhere between. The influence of Rand and her ideas are not simply within the confines Atlas Shrugged; they surround us. However, up to this point, scholars have simply pointed to Rand’s presence in popular culture as an indicator of her growing influence. No one has considered asking by what process does a text such as Atlas Shrugged—a thousand-plus page novel of ideas that articulates a systematic philosophy—become a popular cultural phenomenon? To address this question, and to fill this gap in the scholarship, this thesis will focus on the various means by which Rand’s ideas are transmitted, how these means affect the consumption of these ideas, and how, ultimately, these means affect the currency, potency, and integrity of these ideas in the public sphere. In short, this project will reveal three fundamental ideas concerning Ayn Rand and her most famous novel. First, she was, and continues to be, a highly influential thinker. Second, Rand achieved great success in popularizing her ideas, as evidenced by the many attempts to represent her ideas in modern media. And third, because of Rand’s popularity, her ideas are often misconstrued and changed by the technological media that represent them, and because of this, her ideas have often been used to widen various ideological divisions, rather than serve as a moment for an important conversation and an opportunity for serious discourse.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Rand, Ayn. Atlas shrugged -- Influence
Popular culture and literature
Objectivism (Philosophy)
Transmission of texts


Includes bibliographical references (pages 106-113)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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