Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles/Eperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche Reprint edition
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From the Inside Flap
Spurs, then, is aptly titled, for Derrida's "deconstructions" of Nietzsche's meanings will surely act as spurs to further thought and controversy. This dual-language edition offers the English-speaking reader who has some knowledge of French an opportunity to examine the stylistic virtuosity of Derrida's writing—of particular significance for his analysis of "the question of style."
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Derrida offers the first strong reading (that I've seen) of Nietzsche's writings about women as something more than trite sexism. Derrida's interpretations shed new light on some of Nietzsche's metaphysical and psychoanalytic theorizing, and he goes on to use Nietzsche as a springboard into some of Hiedegger's thinking and some of his own critiques of Hiedegger. Despite being a great way to approach Derrida's own theories, it is a mistake to argue that Nietzsche's commentary on women is 'Derridized' here. Derrida gives an (at least tentatively) affirmatory account which is rigorous, nuanced, very convincing and stands alone in scholarship of Nietzsche and Feminism.
All that being said, the translation is a little poor at times. For example, "cavalier philosopher" is translated as "Philosopher-Knight," which, in english, implies Kierkegaard's Knight-of-Faith and only in that connection barely hint's at Nietzsche's 'Noble'. In French the Knight-of-Faith is "chevalier de la foi" (...Chevalier not cavalier). Derrida's use of "cavalier" works perfectly well in English, and implies the 'cavalier attitude' of philosophers which Nietzsche often derides and the 'cavalier' quality of Nietzsche's 'Noble' - an important character in Nietzsche's staging of several problems he takes up in his work. This may seem like minutia, but it is one of many examples where the translation is misleading and Derrida's thinking becomes opaque to readers unfamiliar with Nietzsche, Hiedegger and Derrida's own work.
Luckily the french text is given in its entirety in the book as well and anytime something doesn't look right, you can check for yourself.
He begins with the statement, “The title for this lecture was to have been ‘the question of style.’ However---it is woman who will be my subject. Still, one might wonder whether that doesn’t really amount to the same thing---or is it to the other. The ‘question of style’ is, as you have no doubt recognized, a quotation. Thus it serves to indicate that what I shall put forth here is already a part of that space which certain readings, in launching a new phase in the process of deconstructive (i.e., affirmative) interpretation, have de-marcated during these last two years.” (Pg. 35-37)
He states, “But let us leave this elytron to float between the masculine and the feminine… As far as sails and veils are concerned, now that we have happened into them, Nietzsche must have been familiar with all genres. Thus the style would seem to advance in the manner of a SPUR of sorts. Like the prow, for example, of a sailing vessel, its ‘rostrum,’ the projection of the ship which surges ahead to meet the sea’s attack and cleave to its hostile surface… So, it seems, style also used its spur as a means of protection against the terrifying, blinding, mortal threat (of that) which PRESENTS itself, which obstinately thrusts itself into view. And style thereby protects the presence, the content, the thing itself, meaning, truth---on the condition at least that is should not ALREADY be that gaping chasm which has been deflowered in the unveiling of the difference.” (Pg. 39)
He observes, “Nietzsche’s writing is an inscription of the truth. And such an inscription, even if we do not venture so far as to call it the feminine itself, is indeed the feminine ‘operation.’ Because woman is (her own) writing, style must return to her. In other words, it could be said that if style were a man… then writing would be a woman. But in the midst of all these weapons circulating from hand to hand, passing from one opponent to another, the question still remains of what I am about here. Must not these APPARENTLY FEMINIST propositions be reconciled with the overwhelming corpus of Nietzsche’s venomous anti-feminism? Their congruence… although ineluctably enigmatic, is just as rigorously necessary. Such, in any case, will be the thesis of the present communication. Woman, inasmuch as truth, is skepticism and veiling dissimulation. This is what must be conceivable.” (Pg. 57)
He quotes Nietzsche: “‘I have forgotten my umbrella.’ These words were found, isolated in quotation marks, among Nietzsche’s unpublished manuscripts. Maybe a citation. It might have been a sample picked up somewhere, or overheard here or there. There is no infallible way of knowing the occasion of this sample or what it could have been later grafted onto. We will never know FOR SURE what Nietzsche wanted to say or when he noted these words, nor even that he actually WANTED anything. And even this is still assuming, of course, that there is no doubt that it is Nietzsche’s autograph signature here, assuming also that one even knows what is included under the concept of autobiography and the form of a SEING. Given this lack of assurance, the note …is a monument to hermeneutic somnambulism…” (Pg. 123-125)
Later, he adds, “If Nietzsche had indeed meant to say something, might it not be just that limit to the will to mean, which, much as a necessarily differential will to power, is forever divided, folded and manifolded. To whatever lengths one might carry a conscientious interpretation, the hypothesis that the totality of Nietzsche’s text, in some monstrous way, might well be of the type ‘I have forgotten my unbrella’ cannot be denied. Which is tantamount to saying that there is no ‘totality to Nietzsche’s text,’ not even a fragmentary or aphoristic one. There is evidence here to expose one, rootless and unprotected by a lightning rod as he is, to the thunder and lightning of an enormous clap of laughter.” (Pg. 133-135)
Those interested in Derrida’s comments about Nietzsche, as well as about women (and even feminism!) will be highly interested in this brief book (printed with the original French facing the English translation).