Novalis, Nietzsche, and the Rhetoric of Enchantment
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This work reopens the question of Nietzsche’s relationship to Early German Romanticism through critical readings of moments of enchantment in the writings of Novalis. It unveils the seemingly conciliatory gestures of enchantment as moments of discord between subject and figure, self and world. These readings attend to the tropes, ironic registers, and performative dimensions of texts that occlude rather than facilitate a strict demarcation between Novalis and Nietzsche. That the thinkers in question are shown to anticipate their critical reception is consonant with the present work, which, in foregrounding both the entanglement between self and language and the materiality of reading, attunes itself to enchantment as the manifestation of compulsion, imposition, and ecstasy. The principle of continuity that allows Nietzsche and Novalis to be read and to read each other is asceticism. Its secret ally, following Nietzsche, is the absolute will to truth. In its function of assigning an aim to the aimless, asceticism provides for both truth and its incessant undermining, for form as well as flight. It engenders a mode of expression that is only as true as it is provisional. Through a reading of Nietzsche’s Apollonian and Dionysian as the collision of epistemological anxiety and its anthropological stopgap, this work advocates an operation of double-reading that views the conceptual sphere itself as palliative and the nonconceptual as the possibility of an ascetic flight from ossification. In setting such double-reading into motion, this work traces the subterranean relations between Novalis and Nietzsche that allow the proto-Modernism of the former to interrogate the residual Romanticism of the latter. An erudite study that combines problems of representation with discussions of the theater, painting, and music, this dissertation seeks to reenchant questions of interpretation and reading that constantly threaten to petrify into all-too-self-evident truths.