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The Bells of Genoa and Nietzschean Epiphanies

The Bells of Genoa and Nietzschean Epiphanies

(p.89) Chapter Five The Bells of Genoa and Nietzschean Epiphanies
Nietzsche's Journey to Sorrento
Paolo D’Iorio
University of Chicago Press

This chapter traces the motif of bells as a signal for epiphanies in Nietzsche's work. D'Iorio offers a history of the idea of the epiphany for the Greeks, for Christianity, and for James Joyce, and advances the theory of the Nietzschean epiphany as a moment of non-divine elucidation and crystallization of meaning. He then follows the genesis of an aphorism from Things Human, All Too Human, which combines the bell motif with a quotation from Plato's Laws, where he says that "nothing human is worthy of great seriousness"—in his aphorism, Nietzsche cites this phrase and then adds the hopeful words, "and yet— —" D'Iorio puts forth the thesis that the deeper meaning of the title Things Human, All Too Human lies in this "and yet," which is effectively an argument against Plato's devaluation of human things, and a resituating of the human at the heart of philosophy, instead of any notion of ideality. D'Iorio then brings this thesis to bear on the Night Song of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The centrality of the bells to Nietzsche's thought is in this way connected with the theory of the Eternal Return.

Keywords:   James Joyce, epiphany, Plato, Laws, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Song of the Bell, Night Song, Eternal Return

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