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Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism Paperback – June 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0804732956 ISBN-10: 0804732957 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Atopia: Philosophy, Political Theory, Ae
  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804732957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804732956
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,196,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is an original and exciting interpretation of Nietzsche's most difficult, hermetic, and influential book. The interpretation is carefully articulated, moreover, in such a way that it situates Thus Spoke Zarathustra at the center of Nietzsche's life and career. The reader thus gains not only a wealth of unprecedented insights into the structure and flow of Zarathustra, but also comes to appreciate it within the context of Nietzsche's greatest philosophical challenge—his confrontation with modernity, in which he attempts to take the measure of all things modern."—Daniel Conway, Pennsylvania State University

"Robert Gooding-Williams's book is a dazzling achievement....elegant, erudite, and imaginative..."—Constellations

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In arguing that Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a philosophical explanation of the possibility of modernism—that is, of the possibility of radical cultural change through the creation of new values—the author shows that literary fiction can do the work of philosophy.
Nietzsche takes up the problem of modernism by inventing Zarathustra, a self-styled cultural innovator who aspires to subvert the culture of modernity (the repressive culture of the “last man”) by creating new values. By showing how Zarathustra can become a creator of new values, notwithstanding the forces that hinder his will to innovate, Nietzsche answers the skeptic who proclaims that new-values creation is impossible. Zarathustra is a story of repeated clashes between Zarathustra’s avant-garde, modernist intentions and figures of doubt who condemn those intentions.
Through a close reading of Zarathustra, the author reconstructs Nietzsche’s explanation of the possibility of modernism. Showing how parody, irony, and plot organization frame that explanation, he also demonstrates the central significance of Zarathustra’s speeches on the body and the will to power. The author argues that Nietzsche’s critique of the modern philosophy of the subject revises Kant’s concept of the dynamical sublime and makes allegorical use of the myth of Theseus, Ariadne, and Dionysus. He also proposes an original interpretation of the thought of eternal recurrence (according to Nietzsche, the “fundamental conception” of Zarathustra). Breaking with conventional Nietzsche scholarship, the author conceptualizes the thought not as a theoretical or a practical doctrine that Nietzsche endorses, but as a developing drama that Zarathustra performs.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on March 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Robert Gooding-Williams sees three successive accounts of eternal recurrence that Zarathustra discovers as the plot unfolds, each connected with one of the three metamorphoses: camel, lion, child.
The first version of eternal recurrence is deterministic and entails the inevitable recurrence of the small man. Next Zarathustra develops a pantheistic, Spinozan vision of recurrence, via a spatialized vision of time: there is just an immobile present forming a vast circle. This is the lion's vision, who asserts his will to live only the present.
Finally, at the end of Book 4 comes the child's Dionysian vision of a creative recurrence, as Zarathustra becomes open to bodily passions, and here Gooding-Williams is inspired by Deleuze: a belief "neither in the repetition of the past, nor in the repetition of the present, but in the repetition of the possibility of a future that interrupts reproduction and repetition of the past." P.296.
Another new commentary that also emphasizes the Spinozan aspect of eternal recurrence is Seung's Nietzsche's Epic of the Soul: Thus Spoke Zarathustra
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