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396Philosophy and Literature masculine romanticism" (p. 20; see also p. 99). I am not sure what she makes of this irony—whether it incapacitates feminism or rehabilitates romanticism. Although key points remain undeveloped, Ellison is on the right track. As she points out, "feminist theory has exhibited sustained dislike for the romantic" (p. 11). Delicate Subjects adumbrates a more thoughtful response to romantic tiieory. Ellison righdy encourages us to draw on romanticism in addressing current issues in feminist theory, especially the vexed relationship between ideologyand subjectivity, political actionand imaginative writing. DelicateSubjects lays the groundwork for "a differendy modulated feminism" (p. 225), one that sees romanticism as a resource rather than an encumbrance. University of New MexicoMichael Fischer Nietzsche and Emerson: An Elective Affinity, by George J. Stack; xi & 379 pp. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1992, $39.95. In a fine 1980 essay, John McDermott, speculating on Emerson's underappreciated influence on American philosophy, noted the curious situation of Emerson studies: "In the vast secondary literature on Emerson distinctively philosophical considerations are virtually absent." The only thing wrong with that perceptive remark was its relegation to a footnote. For any reconsideration of Emerson's thought must begin with his uniquely problematic receptionhistory . Why have critics, academic and nonacademic, persistendy for over a century and a half, lifted Emerson to unquestioned canonical status—all the while dismissing his work as unworthy of serious attention as either philosophy or even as coherent prose?John Dewey was one ofthe first to object to this pattern; Stanley Cavell has been objecting again. The prevailing "condescension" to Emerson, Cavell insists, "helps to keep our culture, unlike any other in the West, from possessing any founding thinker as a common basis for considerations ." Such condescension has now become an ingrained, largely unconscious part of Emerson scholarship—and one needs some understanding of tins fact to appreciate the importance of Stack's careful, idea by idea, placing of Emerson 's work in an American-European phUosophical tradition that includes Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Freud. The ramifications of this relocating of Emerson are enormous. If Stack is right (as I believe he is)—if that radical, immensely influential philosophy/ psychology we call "Nietzschean" must now be rechristened "Emersonian," so Reviews397 deep are its roots in the essays of the New Englander Nietzsche embraced as "brother soul"—then we will need to rethink our understanding of modern intellectual history, the boundaries we often ascribe to "Romanticism," and our too-provincial conceptions of a "New England literary renaissance"—even "American literature" generally. The Emerson-Nietzsche connection has, to be sure, been taken up before. Fifty years ago, Hermann Hummel concluded that Emerson must be regarded as not just another of Nietzsche's many precursors, but as his "teacher and master"—an anticipation of Stack's thesis that "Emerson served as Socrates to Nietzsche's Plato." But no one has offered so sustained or systematic—or "distinctively philosophical"—a comparison. It does not, like most previous commentaries , stop merely to point out momentary echoes and coincidences. Stack's analyses ofthe post-Christian, protoexistentialist nature ofEmerson's thought— his constant wrestling with the freedom found only in necessity, his fundamental vision of a universal "will to power" in nature and man, his doctrine of creative antagonism, beliefin "the good ofevil," aesthetic ofthe "superhuman," emphasis on the sublimation of the instincts, advocacy of a "sacred courage" in affirming "fate," his political ideal ofan "aristocratic radicalism"—all suggest that Emerson is not only tL· central influence on Nietzsche, but a key "hidden presence" (via Nietzsche) in Heidegger and Freud as well. Previous scholarship, from René Wellek's to recent studies by Cavell, David Van Leer, John Michael, and others, has focused on a line of influence that begins in Europe, with Kant, Hume, Locke, or earlier figures, then crosses the Adantic either to be successfully or not-so-successfully rejected, absorbed, or transformed by Emerson. Stack does not deny that orientation, but suggests a contrary one: a line of descent that begins in Massachusetts and extends to Europe and the twentieth century in ways we arejust beginning to see. NietzscL· and Emerson is, in short, a provocative, groundbreaking work. One hopes a paperback edition is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 396-398
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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