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426Philosophy and Literature questions that torment his always soliloquizing soul. He does not know what to be or not to be. A tranquil philosopher like Schopenhauer, or a passionate artist like Wagner? In the most profound of these "observations," Nietzsche touches on the relation of truth and life, but cannot tell us what kind of history could unite them. Can one be true to life and to truth? Perhaps only art, epic art, will unite diem. This man does not know, and may spend all his life trying to find out. If so, he will have become a philosopher. And if he also finds out, he may have become a poet. Already he has left philology behind, and the incompleteness of the unpublished "We Classicists," which his American friend, Prof. William Arrowsmith, has included, shows that Nietzsche will not return. Had he not gone to Basel with tenure, he would not have received it. Even when colleagues agree with him, they will fear his spirit and, like Herr Prof. Dr. Burckhardt, watch, from the port they have reached, this ship in a storm. Will Nietzsche liberate himself from the modernity that vexes him? Will such liberation send him toward antiquity? Or towards some supermodernity? Will he recur to a radical naturalism, of nobility, nature, and reason, or arrive at a radical historicism, of time, or fate, or life? Who knows which suggestion, rejected possibility, or overlooked side road mentioned here he will one day take? Perhaps even the eternal return of the same. We hear lately that Prof. Nietzsche put aside plans for more "observations," gave up teaching, and left Basel. Will the world be the worse, or the better? Will it lose a great teacher? Or gain a great prophet? Will it lose a classicist, but gain a thinker? Was the Professor wise to retire? Was it forced upon him? By body, or by soul? Will he make a good use of his time or furiously swat flies, like Strauss? Will the rest be silence, thunder, or song? Only his later writings, if there are any, can tell us. Dartmouth CollegeMichael Platt American Literature and the Destruction ofKnowledge: Innovative Writing in the Age ofEpistemology, by Ronald E. Martin; xxiv & 391 pp. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991, $29.95. Sextus Empiricus once likened the absolute disavowal of his skepticism to a purge which eliminated everything, even itself. Ever threatening to undermine fixed systems of thought, skepticism has repeatedly forced philosophy to re- Reviews427 examine its truths and methods. But skepticism has just as continually elicited skepticism of its own radical critique and practical consequences. Ronald E. Martin's study demonstrates how writers from Emerson to Dos Passos have imaginatively contributed to this tradition of doubt and counterdenial. These artists could neither simply know nor merely not know. Attacking the wisdom behind conventional perception and exploring new paradigms of cognition, they turned fiction and poetry into epistemological apocalypses. Martin traces the destruction of knowledge from the early expressions of America's literary selfhood to the provocative experiments in the heyday of modernism. He shows how Emerson and Whitman dismissed the truths of their European heritage in favor of first-hand knowledge and insight without ever allowing their new-world skepticism to purge itself of a Platonic faith. Melville and Dickinson ventured more extreme negations by pondering a universe where such reassuring absolutes could not be known. In rejecting the romantic tradition of reading nature by way of the self, they anticipated such realists as Crane and Frost, who contemplated a stark otherness devoid of humanizing interpretations. As the twentieth century challenged the stability of even such an alien landscape, the modernists discussed in the second half ofMartin's study sought to make their art reflect the plurality and indeterminacy ofa universe in flux. Such "knowledge destroyers" as Stein, Pound, Hemingway, Aiken, Stevens, Williams, and Dos Passos emptied literature of its traditional forms, unequivocal truths, rationalistic methods, and static field of unified perceptions. To know meant, first of all, to say "no" to the reigning fallacies of observation and art. Martin's interdisciplinary perspective illuminates this naysaying by locating it in the context of similar developments in the visual arts, physics, and philosophy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 426-428
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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