Nietzsche, Henry James, and the Artistic Will
Oxford University Press, 1978 - 347 pages
This pioneering contribution to the history of modern ideas connects two commanding figures ordinarily considered worlds apart. Observing that philosophy and fiction are two activities which have 'always sustained and offered criticisms of one another,' Stephen Donadio sets out to explore the continuities of thought and feeling which link Nietzsche, a European philosopher whose work often appears to reflect a feverish attraction to extremity, and James, an American novelist commonly identified with decorous assertions of magisterial detachment. Moving beyond the boundaries of isolated literary and philosophical investigation, this wide-ranging study represents a breakthrough in our understanding of the relations between the phenomenon of modernism and the settled presuppositions of American imaginative life. Donadio points out the correspondences between the Nietzschean conception of the superman and more immediately familiar assumptions regarding American identity. In addition, he provides a compelling account of that moment in cultural history at the turn of the century which produced a radical new view of the relationship of art to life. Donadio shows that James and Nietzsche shared an intense belief in the power of art as the only activity capable of raising experience from insignificance. For both of them, it was an activity requiring an unrelenting imposition of the will on the facts of experience, and they were accordingly joined in their resistance to the two dominant tendencies of the literature of their time... naturalism and 'art for art's sake.' Perhaps most significantly, they shared an abiding sense of kinship with Emerson, whom Nietzsche named as 'the author as yet the richest in ideas in this century.' -- Publisher description.
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The Immediate Context
Nietzsche William James and Emerson
The Background of Assumptions
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