College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance

Joseph G. Kronick

"Repetition and Mimesis from Nietzsche to Emerson: or, How the World Became a Fable"

In declaring how the true world became a fable, Nietzsche concludes, "with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!" When all extra-mundane truth disappears, we are left with the aesthetic world of becoming. Nietzsche's challenge to modernity is to affirm what cannot but must be endured, this world of becoming, which he does in his doctrine of eternal recurrence. Emerson finds his own way to affirm becoming in his doctrine of the God within: God "puts [nature] forth through us," he proposes, thereby conceiving nature, not as the product of either divine action or physis, but as a double, a repetition, of the human. In the injunction "Build therefore your own world," he asserts that the one true world is the mimetic world and, like Nietzsche, denies any a priori value to life. For Nietzsche, this denial means embracing the totality of what is, transforming "every 'It was' into 'I wanted it thus!'" To think being as becoming is to accept the eternal recurrence of the same. This essay argues that mimesis is at the center of Emerson's drama of redemption in the world of becoming. Rejecting all external authority, Emerson is led in the conclusion of Nature to think the world as fable, as the poetic world of repetition. When Nietzsche praises Emerson's cheerfulness he seems to acknowledge the paradox that makes Emerson's optimism the acceptance of fate.

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