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378Philosophy and Literature Nietzsche's Case: Philosophy as/and Literature, by Bernd Magnus, Stanley Stewart, and Jean-Pierre Mileur; 284 pp. NewYork: Routledge, 1993, $52.50 cloth, $16.95 paper. This book sets out to tackle the formidable corpus of Friedrich Nietzsche from the points ofview ofboth literature and philosophy, to "bring conventionally marked 'philosophic' and 'literary' texts into conversation with one another in a way never done before" (p. 2) . I am not sure the authors are as innovative as they claim—after all, poststructural literary critics are continually straying into the textual territory once clearly marked "philosophic"—but it certainly proves to be a most fruitful enterprise with regard to Nietzsche. The authors' collaboration (Magnus is a philosopher, Stewart and Mileur are teachers of English) offers numerous insights into the vexed relationship of these disciplines, and most substantially, a provocative re-viewing of Nietzsche's eclectic work as—in effect—a complex, even tortuous allegory of writing. With this view in mind, the authors work hard to represent Nietzsche's seminal constructs—Eternal Recurrence, Will to Power, the Übermensch et al.— as so many textual strategies, occasions for the reader, in Roland Barthes's terms, to write herself into the experience of reading. This argument is elaborated through a series of provocative, detailed readings of Towards the Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of tL· Idols, and—most exhaustively—Thus Spake Zarathustra. The authors consider a number of pressing Nietzschean issues, including the narrator/speaker's relationship with his readers—"Some are born posthumously," observes Nietzsche modestly in Ecce Homo—the rhetorical tropes and ploys of his writing (chiefly, say the authors, the device of hyperbole) and—in sum—the radical kind of narrative that Nietzsche is writing. For example: in Twilight of the Idols, assert the authors, Nietzsche frustrates our deep-seated desire for narrative closure, creating instead "an alternative definition of the protagonist's place in an unfinished story which no one is writing, about characters with no specifiable or necessary traits, whose destiny cannot be known" (p. 74). In particular, the relation of reader to writing is marked, the authors tell us, by Nietzsche's own implicated sense of the world-as-text: "For Nietzsche seems to look on the world, not securely from without (as if it were a sort of artwork) , but ... as if from within an unfolding text whose alienness we must find a way to make our own" (p. 134). Accordingly, the constructs which Nietzsche "embodies" rather than "expresses" (in the author's terms) are spurs to the imagination of the (attentive, perhaps unborn) reader: "Rhetorically, the questions propounded [in TL· Gay Science or Thus Spake Zarathustra] insinuate that a bland or neutral response ('So who cares?') is impossible. Both fictive representations exclude apathy as an option" (p. 114). One of the most interesting aspects of the book, from the point of view of both philosophic and literary readers, is the "conversation" initiated between Reviews379 Nietzsche and various seminal figures in the English literary tradition. This is not to say that Magnus, Stewart, and Mileur assert "influences" on Nietzsche: they demonstrate, most effectively in some cases, that great literature embodies the complex constructs that Nietzsche is after—that Wordsworth's "Resolution and Independence," say, or Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," reveal Eternal Recurrence, or an authorial Will to Power, to be the complex writerly strategies they are. And yet, there are problems with this cheerfully postmodern mode of exegesis. Try and textualize as one might, there are awkward problems for conduct contained in Nietzsche's writings—for example, his characterization of women is more (ethically) disturbing than our authors' rather blithe rhetorical concerns allow—and these problems remain after reading this study. To represent epistemology as literary epiphany reduces Nietzsche's claims to being a philosopher, in the sense of one who engages in serious, sustained attention to the problems of living—outside the text. Magnus, Steward, and Mileur may have given us a Nietzsche who is a marvelous writer—the only begetter of, say, Foucault and Derrida—but they may just have lost us a powerful agent who ventures beyond writing. And that would be a pity. University...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 378-379
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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