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264Philosophy and Literature Apollo and Dionysus according to which these divinities are seen as opposing forces. According to Nietzsche, however, each god is die other's seduction, not repression. The dual godhead is portrayed in Birth of Tragedy as die "consummation" and "complement" (Sec. 3), as the "metaphysical supplement" (Sec. 24) which, says Nietzsche, art is in relation to life. Whereas Foster, in his reading — which amounts to the standard reading — of Death in Venice, views die protagonist Aschenbach as a devotee ofApollo who is ambushed by the opposing force of Dionysus, Nietzsche, by contrast — while discussing, in Birth of Tragedy, die similarly tragic agon of Euripides' Bacchae— sees the Aschenbach-like protagonist of Euripides' tragedy, Pentheus, as a Socratic-aesthete who, in repressing Dionysus, has repressed Apollo too (Sec. 10). In discussing Mann, Foster generally neglects to consider the limits of Mann's reading of Nietzsche, limits owing in part, as has been well-documented in the secondary literature, to Mann's indebtedness to Ernst Bertram's book on Nietzsche. In a work that claims to be "evaluative," such critical omissions necessarily mar the otherwise sensible thematic readings contained within it. University of California, Santa BarbaraLaurence A. Rickels The Parasite, by Michel Serres; translated by Lawrence R. Schehr; ? & 255 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, $17.50. The least one can say about Michel Serres is that he disconcerts, and in fact the subject of TAi? Parasite is the act of disconcerting, interrupting, and upsetting systems. Playing widlin the fields of information theory, thermodynamics, etymology, parasitology, theology, and literary history, Serres explores and exploits die disappearance of"substantialism ," the belief that material entities have importance and power in themselves, and its replacement by a world made up entirely of relationships or structure: "Substantialism was and is the refusal of voices and wind. From now on, only relations, only waves" (P- 97). In a way, Serres's vision can be recognized as structuralist — based as it is on the detection of significance in a system of similarities and differences — but with the important variation that Serres's model is not a stable binary one, but a perpetually unstable ternary model, a model that describes the moment of passage from one state to another. The initial example, one that is illustrated on the cover of both French and English editions, is die interrupted meal of the city rat and country rat from the fable by La Fontaine. The rats have intercepted or "plugged into" the relationship between the proprietor and his food, forming a model with three points: proprietor, parasite, food. This triad can be diagrammed directionally with a series of arrows to reveal that the parasite comes between proprietor and food only to have the system overturned when the proprietor discovers the parasite and evicts him. This is only the beginning of the permutations in Reviews265 this fable. In such a model the parasite does not relate to the individual objects but to the relationship between the objects: "someone has a relationship to someone or something else. A third arrives who has no relationship to the people or the things but only relates to their relation" (p. 109). Thus static or noise, orut( parasite in French, interrupts die relationship in sound or electronic messages yet the static has no significance for the individual parties to a communication, only to the communicative relationship. To characterize any philosophical reflection in a few sentences is unsatisfactory; in the case of Serres it is laughable because Serres builds his whole work out of complex verbal play, much of which would be lost in any translation, and with a deliberately non-linear movement, circling around various problems again and again but with different examples . Since most of mese textual illustrations are literary (seventeen texts from La Fontaine, two from Rousseau, a passage from the Odyssey, etc.) he casts a new light on the structure of these stories — and he does treat them as stories by concentrating on the relations of characters, for the most part — in a way that should give a welcome shock particularly to readers of French neo-classical literature. Serres is not easy reading, yet he is anything but dull. It is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 264-265
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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