Friedrich Nietzsche’s Mixed (Peri)Performativities: Wagnerian Nationalism and Emersonian Pragmatism

Douglas Robinson

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The paper explores Eve Sedgwick’s concept of the periperformative as a middle ground between being able and being unable to perform a speech act—a useful middle ground for translators, who are not supposed to occupy the performative “Iyou” dyad, but also for speakers and writers caught in a political cross-fire between conflicting persuasivities, who need to hedge and deflect and engage in surreptitious sabotage with plausible deniability. The case study imagines Bismarck’s Germany in the late 1860s and 1870s as a collective individual—recently united politically by military force but still in ideological turmoil, and inclined to cope with that turmoil emotionally by imposing Romantic Nationalist idealizations on the power politics that had made unification possible—and Friedrich Nietzsche as that individual’s self-doubt, worrying that its idealizations are misplaced, wrong-headed, possibly even harmful, but not knowing what else to do. What this German-speaking individual needs is cultural development, like a sick person needing a cure, but all the German-speaking doctors ridicule its complaints, assure it loftily, even arrogantly, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And because the collective individual only speaks German, it is trapped— unable to seek an opinion from outside the German-speaking world, which seems to be conspiring against its mental/cultural health. What this individual needs is a translator—a community interpreter, perhaps. Specifically, as “sick Romantic Nationalist Germany” Nietzsche needs Ralph Waldo Emerson to doctor him—but he can’t read English.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationText Performances and Cultural Transfer/Textperformances und Kulturtransfer
EditorsMarco Agnetta, Larisa Cercel
PublisherZeta Books
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9786066971515
ISBN (Print)9786066971508
Publication statusPublished - 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Romantic Nationalism
  • Performativity
  • Periperformativity
  • Uncertain Agency


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