In agon with Nietzsche : studies in modernist creativity

Lungstrum, Janet Ann, Department of German , University of Virginia
Sokel, Walter H., Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Bennett, Benjamin, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Martens, Lorna, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Megill, Allan, Department of History, University of Virginia

Nietzsche's agon is the multivalent configuration of creativity-as-contest, first formulated in his 1873 essay, "Homers wettkampf," and subsequently resurfacing in the varying practices Harold Bloom, Jean-Fran9ois Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. Agonistics, an assault upon Hegelian sublation, is primarily a disruptive gesture, whatever the contextual field of operation at which it is targeted. As a policy for vitalistic, social engagement, however, the Nietzschean agon has historically provided a crossover-point from creative use to ideological abuse in German modernity. Hence this dissertation receives its impetus from the break between the liberal (post-)modernist, Homeric potential of Nietzsche's agonal philosophy, on the one hand, and the entrapments of reifying, "applied II reception of the same, on the other. A representative cross-section of Nietzsche's involvement with agonistics is delineated in this study: on the levels of language, sexuality, technology, Nazism, and anti-semitism, respectivey. The initial two chapters,. concerning relationali ty in language and Wittgenstein, and the male-female sexual agon and Lou Andreas-Salomé, explore Nietzsche's agonal innovations in semiology and psycho-physiology. The latter three chapters examine whether Nietzsche's agonistic structuration of enquiry inherently inclines -- or was externally inclined -- toward a slip from creative potential to political misappropriation and influence: this thesis is tested by focussing specifically on the historical evolution of a metaphysically oriented -- and ideologically motivated -- mise-en-scène of the Nietzschean creative agon in Imperial, Weimar and fascist Germany. In this scenario of misprized agonistics, the übermensch of technological German modernity was adapted as a national warrior parodied by Musil. by Spengler and Ernst Jünger, an application parodied by Musil. Nietzsche himself was idolized and subsequently loathed as an irrational myth-maker of Germanness and creator of an ineradicably proto-fascistic, re-Hegelianized dialectic, a process "demonstrated" by Thomas Mann in the novel Doktor Faustus. Nietzsche's own attempted transvaluation of the Dühringesque discourse of Jewish parasitism into a creative symbiosis was immediately absorbed by the hegemonic discourses of Imperial German nationalism.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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