“By doing we forego”, Nietzsche writes in The Gay Science; specifically, we forego what he calls the “consolation of conclusions.” Accordingly, Nietzsche’s signature concept of overcoming is not a proper concept but a meta- or super-concept that allows purposive action to persist in a modern godless context in which conclusive definition amounts to evasive consolation. Overcoming is defined by how it foregoes temporally transcendent, univocal definition: how it fore-swears, pro-jects, pre-tends. If Nietzschean overcoming ultimately is just what it does, then it avoids pointless directionless tautology, I suggest, by projecting an interminable imperative to upward movement or climbing. Acts of overcoming embed themselves in matter and across time by the radical vertical orientation of over in super-, hyper- and summit: what Nietzsche calls “the longest hour” of the sun at its zenith perpetually receding behind the horizon of temporally embodied life. This essay explores such interplay in Nietzsche’s later work and some of its anticipatory and retroactive resonances in John Keats’s Romantic poetics of negative capability, the modernist ecopoetics of A. R. Ammons, and recent neo-Darwinian and poststructuralist theory.

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