The Romance of Interpretation: Visionary Criticism from Pater to de Man

By Daniel T. O'Hara | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
AFTERWORDS: GEOFFREY HARTMAN ON THE CRITIC'S DESIRE FOR REPRESENTATION

The past cries to be recognized and the present to be transformed. Hartman, Criticism in the Wilderness


Critique du Mal

Reality explained.
It was the last nostalgia: that he
Should understand.

Esthétique du Mal

AT ONE POINT near the end of the first edition of The Gay Science ( 1882), Friedrich Nietzsche confesses openly that in a time when the god of metaphysics and morality has been murdered by the will to truth fostered by the faith in this god, existence can be justified--to use the formula from The Birth of Tragedy ( 1872)--"only as an aesthetic phenomenon." In such an ironic world only an open-eyed will to illusion that calls for the perfection of one's own individual "style" can redeem an otherwise ugly and brutish life: "To 'give style' to one's character--a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye."1 If the individual is going to withstand the pressures of an indifferent world, he must produce the appearance of a unifying taste. This appearance or illu-

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