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Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life$
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Vanessa Lemm

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262861

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262861.001.0001

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Toward the Body of the Overman

Toward the Body of the Overman

(p.160) (p.161) 9 Toward the Body of the Overman
Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life

Debra Bergoffen

Fordham University Press

This paper is (pre)occupied with two bodies: the body of the last man and the body of the Overman. As Nietzsche tells us that the Overman will appear only when the last man has disappeared, it examines the body of the last man to discern what this disappearance will entail. The body of the last man, as the embodiment of the ascetic ideals of Christianity and Platonism also embodies the misogyny of these Western traditions. This body refuses its materiality and vulnerability. It calls the body’s materiality and vulnerability «woman» and shuns her/it. It figures itself as autonomous, rational—without passion. By Nietzsche’s criteria of life affirmation, the last man’s body is a sick, if not dead body. How to transvaluate this body so that it may become the body of the Overman is the question. Taking up the themes of Luce Irigaray’s love letter to Nietzsche (Marine Lover) I propose the following thesis: the body of the Overman, the one who overcomes the last man of the ascetic ideal, will be a body that gives itself over to the chance and risks of the dice throw, a body that lives its vulnerabilities, its flesh, its becomings. It will be a body that sees through the fable of the patriarchal invulnerable body which anchors the last man’s project of securing a life of ordered happiness. It will be a woman’s body divested of its stigma. Turning to the woman’s body for clues to the overcoming of the body of the last man, takes us to the life affirming powers of the pregnant body. Here the descriptions of pregnancy of Irigaray and Kristeva alert us to the possibilities of an eternal return which instead of nauseating us with the demand that we affirm the return of the last man’s threat to life, challenges us to risk the illness of pregnancy and its threat to the stabilities of subjectivity, for the sake of the once more of life. My reading of Nietzsche finds that however blind he usually was to the ways in which his announcement of the Death of God and his critique of modernity were also and necessarily a critique of patriarchy, there are places in his texts, and not marginal places, where the figure of woman speaks both as critic of modernity and as an opening for the coming of the Overman. There is the supposing truth were a woman of the preface to Beyond Good and Evil. There are the women life and truth of Zarathustra. There is the woman on her wedding night of Gay Science 71, to name a few. Nietzsche’s women live the truth of their bodies in shock, shame and silence. Some of them whisper this truth to Zarathustra. Putting Nietzsche in conversation with Irigaray and Kristeva allows us to articulate this truth and to find the ways in which it cuts a path to the life affirming body of the Overman.

Keywords:   Nietzsche, Overman, Body, Gender, Becoming

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