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262Philosophy and Literature The Artist and the City, by Eugenio Trías; translated by Kenneth Krabbenhoft; xx & 154 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, $17.50. There are two forms of the essay. The one selects a small number of closely-defined topics and themes which it treats with comprehensive attention to detail. It discusses aill of their significant aspects systematically aind with die intent both of revealing the full spectrum of problems implicit in its materiad and of arriving at conclusive answers. The odier proceeds from a large set of related concerns, describes the oudines of their epistemological, historical, or ontological implications and allows an informed creative mind to develop its own momentum in a sequence of associative and open-ended analyses. A spirit of playful, allusive, and suggestive argumentation is at work which will find its own form of self-discipline in the continued return, from so many different directions , to its central objective. The reader is invited to be an active participant in these exploratory excursions. His productive response to the audior's course and insights is necessary as their complementary modification and corrective. The very prolific Catalan philosopher Eugenio Trias is more readily given to the latter style of thinking and writing, which is all the more appealing since in his discourse the ease of the impromptu is checked by the balanced gravity of systematic explication. This is not to say mat the laborious rigors (or drudgery) of academic preparation and clarification interfere with his independent sense of purpose and direction. It does become clear very soon, though, that he is unobtrusively taking issue with much neo-Freudian criticism of contemporary culture, specifically with H. Marcuse, Lacan, Deleuze, and Guattari. His topic is creativity in its artistic and speculative dimensions as well as in its civic relevance ("the City") and its social consequences. The interconnected order of"Eros" and "Poiesis," postulated as a conceptual dialectical synthesis in Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus and experienced as a living historical reality in Pico della Mirandola's Florence, defines the focal points and controlling perspective of Trias's book. Man as creative citizen in Protean likeness is its dominant concern; the course of European intellectual history after the Renaissance as a breakdown ofthe Platonic harmony into separate, autonomous, and mutually alienated realms informs its principal orientation. Its five major stages are defined, representatively, by the life's work of Goethe, Hegel, Wagner, Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann. Given diis ambitious scope, it is perhaps inevitable that not all sections that follow the mediodological preface and the discussion of Plato and Italian Neo-Platonism (pp. 1-48) are of equal precision and versatility. I find the chapter on Hegel too short, the appraisal of Wagner one-sided in its Nietzschean bias, and the evaluation of Thomas Mann's bourgeois/artistic ethos rather conventional. All things considered, there may well be some metaphorical truth to the observation that "in our culture, where there are no protagonists . . . the streets never lead anywhere, as in that mysterious, prophetic, and quasi-cabalistic city called Prague . . . over (which) reigns the feverish countenance, in the form of grotesque mask or cackle, of the always elusive Golem" (pp. 108-109). But when the exactitude of philosophical language rather than the allusive clichés of essayistic journalism is applied to Kafka and Flaubert, Joyce, or Beckett it will be apparent that they have transformed our world not "into an object of fruitless pursuit, paralysis, and Reviews263 nightmare" (p. 109). They have given it aesthetic expression in a manner of artistic techne that "qualifies the productive process in such a way that the finished work is good and beautiful" (p. 25) in Platonic terms. Rice UniversityMichael Winkler Heirs to Dionysus: A Nietzschean Current in Literary Modernism, by John Burt Foster, Jr.; xiv & 474 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981, $27.50. Heirs to Dionysus begins by claiming less concern with the questions of continuity or influence posed by positivist or Freudian-literary histories than with a properly Nietzschean challenge. Such a challenge entails exposing, within relations of indebtedness, the eternal return of a rhetorical dilemma of misreading, which challenges both histories of "imitative influence" and the "cause-and-effect-reasoning" on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 262-263
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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