Artistic inspiration and the figure of the artist in the works of James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche
Bolsover, Mark David
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This thesis will seek to examine the parallel which it will argue exists between the theorising of artistic inspiration and the resulting conception of the figure of the artist in the works of Joyce and Nietzsche. Recent critical work on the relationship between Joyce and Nietzsche has tended to focus exclusively on the question of influence. In ‘The Struggle against Meta (Phantasma)-Physics: Nietzsche, Joyce and the “Excess of History”’, for example, drawing his reading in particular from The Use and Abuse of History, Joseph Buttigieg gives a broad account of Nietzsche’s conception of history, but, in effect, uses his reading of Nietzsche to simply augment his reading of Joyce, arguing that his conception of the ‘postmodern’ Nietzsche can ‘illuminate and give depth’ to the works of the ‘modernist’ Joyce. In The Aesthetics of James Joyce, Jacques Aubert discusses what he calls the ‘Nietzschean overtones’ of Joyce’s work. Aubert focuses on what he argues is Hegel’s crucial influence on Joyce and appears to align Nietzsche, and Nietzsche’s influence on Joyce, with what he allusively refers to as ‘post-Hegelian’ or ‘Neo-Hegelian’ philosophy, though it is never clear precisely what he intends these to denote. In ‘Beyond Truth and Freedom: The New Faith of Joyce and Nietzsche’, Joseph Valente gives an illuminating account of Joyce and Nietzsche’s mutual rejection of metaphysics, but focuses exclusively on the later Joyce and Nietzsche. Again, Valente frames his argument specifically in terms of an influence, drawing on an idiosyncratic reading of the concept of the ‘superman’ and identifying Stephen Stephen as ‘recognizably Zarathustrian’. The central problem with the critical approach these accounts share in common, which concerns itself with the question of influence, is that it obliges itself to attribute a detailed and philosophically thoroughgoing reading of Nietzsche’s works to Joyce, one not always necessarily in evidence in the criticism itself. It must thus be at pains to stretch available biographical information on Joyce’s reading of Nietzsche, as well as examples drawn from Joyce’s texts, in order to fit a partial, incomplete or inaccurate characterisation of Nietzsche’s thought; threatening to transform Joyce into some kind of ‘Nietzschean’ and Nietzsche into some kind of anticipatory ‘Joycean’. By contrast, then, this thesis will seek to set aside the problematic question of influence from the outset, instead seeking to examine the mutually illuminating parallel which it will argue exists between the theorising of artistic inspiration and the resulting conception of the figure of the artist in the works of Joyce and Nietzsche. It will argue that this parallel has mutually illuminating consequences for an understanding of both Nietzsche and Joyce’s relationships to metaphysics and, through this, to Romanticism. It will be the task of this thesis to explain the way in which both Nietzsche and Joyce retain the key terms of Romantic accounts of artistic inspiration, whilst rejecting the metaphysical claims at stake in them.