College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Nietzsche, language, the subject, self, writing


This project is an investigation of language in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. The framing question is whether Nietzsche’s treatment of language as an explicit philosophical theme in published work and notes of the early 1870s is in fact only an early interest abandoned by the later work and notes in which the treatment of language as such does not assume such a central role. I suggest that if we consider language not as a unitary concept but as a constellation, a network of shifting thematic nodes, we find that language remains a chief interest throughout the Nietzschean corpus, but that its constitution is continually shifting as the texts emphasize changing nodal points. I then apply this suggestion to the reading of various Nietzschean texts in an effort to trace the changing constellation of language. First, in texts from the early 1870s, including The Birth of Tragedy, the essay “On Truth and Lying in a Nonmoral Sense,” and unpublished notes from the period, we find the thematic nodal points of truth, origination, perception, and rhetoric. Then, in later texts like Beyond Good and Evil and The Genealogy of Morality, as well as posthumously published notes from the mid-to-late 1880s, we find the nodal point of the Subject come to the fore. Finally, in the last text, Ecce Homo, writing and self-narrative emerge as dominant nodal points in this changing constellation of language.