Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Huenemann Reviews the Young Biography of Nietzsche

Here. A judicious assessment, it seems to me.

1 comment:

Clayton Burns said...

Robert Alter in "Pen of Iron:"

"One unsettling symptom of the general problem [of the disappearance of a sense of style] is that in the country's most influential reviewing platform, the 'New York Times Book Review,' when a critic
singles out a writer for stylistic brilliance, it is far more often than not the case that the proffered illustrative quotation turns out to be either flat and banal writing or prose of the most purple hue"(page 10).

One certainty is that Francis Fukuyama's "Nietzschean dead end" is a symptom of his own textual hysteria and the compounding ineptitude of The New York Times Book Review.

There could be no better philosophy consultant of the future for that Book Review than Brian Leiter. I advise you to take up the position immediately.

If there had been 649 errors in Julian Young's Biography, Fukuyama might have noticed. But I doubt it. Reading books with minute attention takes more time than skimming them. Even though I have become almost as absorbed in Young's book as I was in "Crime and Punishment" when I was 12, I still will not teach it until the gross errors are removed in a paperback or second hardcover edition.

Try page 384: "... he was a scholar of meaningless philological minutia...". Given that the idea is to educate students in the habits of the spider (the seeming minutiae) and the eagle (our hermeneutics of suspicion, our discipline to the police of mistrust), we will not be employing such a text. I have listed over 50 errors.

The mark of the textual hysteric is that he reduces the text to a blank page, as our Johns Hopkins professor has managed to do. How could the NYT Book Review editors have failed to notice? The purpose of Nietzsche's philosophy is to cure blindness of ear and deafness of eye.

Instead of being the end, Nietzsche is the best beginning for students studying philosophy, as early as grade seven, in Young's Biography. But only if we have the language resources. I recommend Thomas Mautner's "The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy" as excellent for schools, even if the coverage of terms in Nietzsche could be improved.

If Fukuyama had examined the parallax of literature and philosophy, he might have decided that Nietzsche was worth years of meticulous study. Curiously, philosophers such as Zizek gravitate around Henry James without being able to read him. Someday a critic will deconstruct Zizek's interpretation of "The Wings of the Dove"--perhaps.

The philosopher of the future should analyze how philosophy sheds language. I would have thought that the method of the hermeneutics of suspicion would have generated a sensitive reading of "Sailing to Byzantium," the most misread poem ever.

If anyone can explain how critics have failed to see the presence of Maud Gonne in that lyric, please fill me in. We would just have to sift through two lines--the speaker shall never take "My bodily form from any natural thing,/ But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make/ Of hammered gold and gold enameling..." to note the pervasive embedding of the initials of Maud Gonne.

Not only is there a poverty of terms for poetry criticism, there is a resolute blindness that rejects even the clearest chiastic evidence as if it were of no significance.