Nietzsche, Henry James and the Artistic Will

Nietzsche, Henry James and the Artistic Will

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Product details

  • Hardback | 366 pages
  • 142.24 x 210.82 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 0195023587
  • 9780195023589

Review Text

Although he draws no direct lines of influence or familiarity between Nietzsche and James, Donadio finds the two contemporaries united by "an intense belief in the power of art as an activity that serves to order and thus give coherence and meaning to experience." Donadio unravels the tangles of this affinity, first, by seizing threads linking the two to intermediaries, notably Emerson, whom Nietzsche so admired, and Henry's brother William, who read Nietzsche and shared many of his convictions. Donadio goes on to disclose similarities in Nietzsche's and Henry's ideas of "the artist as superman," the "self as a work of art," the imaginative benefits of detachment from nationality and culture, the rewards of objective "point of view," and so on. Though Donadio does not ignore wider cultural connections, his purpose is not to write cultural history but to re-read Nietzsche and James in the light of a consuming idea of art. And these labors arouse puzzlement and discomfiture. For the relations between his two subjects often seem casual, arbitrary, and ingenious, prompting the questions: If these writers shared so much at a distance, do they not reflect a state of culture? What was it? And if they don't, how can we be sure they were talking about the same things.? Because it is so historically disembodied, Donadio's dialogue reads like a willful academic exercise of doubtful use. Even the terms of the dialogue confuse: by the "activity of art," Donadio says he means, "perhaps more precisely, the exercise of taste," and there lets the issue drop with no further discrimination between the very different mental functions of creative imagination and aesthetic judgment. Such looseness trivializes Donadio's bold and unproved claim that Nietzsche's powerful, diverse philosophizings can be reduced to a belief in the redemptive powers of art; that we should see James, the self-conscious artist, imbued with such a belief is slight consolation. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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