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Reviews215 NietzscL·^ Zarathustra, by Kathleen M. Higgins; xxi & 306 pp. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987, $34.95. In NietzscL·^ Zarathustra Professor Higgins promises "not to provide a detaüed commentary on Zarathustra but to indicate the general sweep of that text" (p. 126). The result of such a sweep is that the explosion of details integral not only to die sayings of Zarathustra but to Zarathustra's way of speaking is generalized into a "gospel of loving life" (p. 239). The good news is that "[t]he present moment, at any point in time, however distant from the attainment of some projected goal, affords an experimental richness that itself makes life meaningful" (p. 239). The goodness of this news rests in the "innocence" that this absolution of die "present moment" from both past and future restores (see pp. 188-91). The newness of this news is supposed to rest in Zarathustra's effort to announce his doctrines in opposition to the old news, that is, to the "Christian worldview" (p. 238). That doctrine which overcomes the Christian worldview and replaces it with a "tragic worldview" (p. 15) is one of eternal recurrence. Since this doctrine "focuses on the significance of the present" (p. 174), it releases us from a "focus" on sin (supposedly in the past). The present, Higgins goes on to claim, is "the only moment in time that stands out from the swirl of recurrence. Moreover, it is a moment of privüeged significance because it is the only moment in which we are actively involved in time" (p. 175). The gospel Zarathustra preaches is thus one of parousia. If, however, human beings are only actively involved in the present because they have to be so involved, if this involvement were constitutive of temporality as such—which it surely is not, nor is this language in any way adequate to the explication of Nietzsche's understanding of temporality—then it is no accident that the two rival worldviews both celebrate parousia, for "the" world has to be viewed in the present. Nietzsche does no more than acknowledge that we are "actively involved " in the present, whereas Christianity supposedly denies such involvement . Every indication that the presence of the present moment is not so privileged—indications that are read out of the very structure of the work as a complex interweaving of detaUs—is effaced by Higgins's interpretative sweep. In her final section Higgins brings out an aUusive pattern hitherto unnoticed, and, in this respect at least, her work rises to the demands that Zarathustra imposes on reading. Byexploringdie parallels between Book Four ofZarathustra and Apuleius' Golden Ass, Higgins hints at a difficulty implicit in the generic instabUity of Zarathustra which she already briefly examined (pp. 98-104). An investigation into the relation of Nietzsche's work to Roman satire and thus to that very generic degradation of Greek tragedy into Hellenistic and Roman comedy which Nietzsche attributes to Euripides in TL· Birth of Tragedy would 216Philosophy and Literature then seem appropriate. Unfortunately, Higgins, who begins this book with a brief review of The Birth of Tragedy and who estabUshes her work as an investigation into "the problem of tragic suffering" (p. 19), never concerns herself with Nietzsche's adoption ofthis seemingly illegitimate tragic issue; the opening chapter on tragedy is never brought into relation with the closing chapter on Menippean satire, even though the latter can only begin with the death of tragedy. At certain moments, Higgins complains that some phUosophers cannot read Zarathustra because they are taught only "to isolate the propositional content ofany argument" (p. 193). There are, however, other phUosophers who cannot read Zarathustra because the very challenge of the book to live and lose oneself in its strange configuration of detaUs—detaüs that do not embeUish an already constituted form and which therefore are not open to traditional "commentary "—is equally impossible. To lose oneselfin the text is, finally, not to project a telos of interpretation but rather to live on in its presence. University of Massachusetts at AmherstPeter Fenves On Interpretation: A Critical Analysis, by Annette Barnes; i& 171 pp. NewYork: Blackwell, 1988, $45.00cloth, $16.95 paper. This book is a valuable contribution...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 215-216
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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