The Birth of Tragedy (Also Called Hellenism and Pessimism, With Biographical Information and Notes) [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (German: Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik) is an 1872 work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism (Die Geburt der Tragödie, Oder: Griechentum und Pessimismus). The later edition contained a prefatory essay, An Attempt at Self-Criticism, wherein Nietzsche commented on this earliest ...
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The Birth of Tragedy (Also Called Hellenism and Pessimism, With Biographical Information and Notes)

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Overview

The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (German: Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik) is an 1872 work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism (Die Geburt der Tragödie, Oder: Griechentum und Pessimismus). The later edition contained a prefatory essay, An Attempt at Self-Criticism, wherein Nietzsche commented on this earliest book.

Nietzsche found in classical Athenian tragedy an art form that transcended the pessimism and nihilism of a fundamentally meaningless world. The Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering and affirming it, passionately and joyously affirmed the meaning of their own existence. They knew themselves to be infinitely more than petty individuals, finding self-affirmation not in another life, not in a world to come, but in the terror and ecstasy alike celebrated in the performance of tragedies.

Originally educated as a philologist, Nietzsche discusses the history of the tragic form and introduces an intellectual dichotomy between the Dionysian and the Apollonian (very loosely: reality undifferentiated by forms versus reality as differentiated by forms). Nietzsche claims life always involves a struggle between these two elements, each battling for control over the existence of humanity. In Nietzsche's words, "Wherever the Dionysian prevailed, the Apollonian was checked and destroyed.... wherever the first Dionysian onslaught was successfully withstood, the authority and majesty of the Delphic god Apollo exhibited itself as more rigid and menacing than ever." Yet neither side ever prevails due to each containing the other in an eternal, natural check, or balance.

Nietzsche argues that the tragedy of Ancient Greece was the highest form of art due to its mixture of both Apollonian and Dionysian elements into one seamless whole, allowing the spectator to experience the full spectrum of the human condition. The Dionysian element was to be found in the music of the chorus, while the Apollonian element was found in the dialogue which gave a concrete symbolism that balanced the Dionysiac revelry. Basically, the Apollonian spirit was able to give form to the abstract Dionysian.

Before the tragedy, there was an era of static, idealized plastic art in the form of sculpture that represented the Apollonian view of the world. The Dionysian element was to be found in the wild revelry of festivals and drunkenness, but, most importantly, in music. The combination of these elements in one art form gave birth to tragedy. He theorizes that the chorus was originally always satyrs, goat-men. (This is speculative, although the word “tragedy” τραγωδία is contracted from trag(o)-aoidiā = "goat song" from tragos = "goat" and aeidein = "to sing".) Thus, he argues, “the illusion of culture was wiped away by the primordial image of man” for the audience; they participated with and as the chorus empathetically, “so that they imagined themselves as restored natural geniuses, as satyrs.” But in this state, they have an Apollonian dream vision of themselves, of the energy they're embodying. It’s a vision of the god, of Dionysus, who appears before the chorus on the stage. And the actors and the plot are the development of that dream vision, the essence of which is the ecstatic dismembering of the god and of the Bacchantes' rituals, of the inseparable ecstasy and suffering of human existence.

After the time of Aeschylus and Sophocles, there was an age where tragedy died. Nietzsche ties this to the influence of writers like Euripides and the coming of rationality, represented by Socrates. Euripides reduced the use of the chorus and was more naturalistic in his representation of human drama, making it more reflective of the realities of daily life. Socrates emphasized reason to such a degree that he diffused the value of myth and suffering to human knowledge. For Nietzsche, these two intellectuals helped drain the ability of the individual to participate in forms of art, because they saw things too soberly and rationally. The participation mystique aspect of art and myth was lost, and along with it, much of man's ability to live creatively in optimistic harmony with the sufferings of life. Nietzsche concludes that it may be possible to reattain the balance of Dionysian and Apollonian in modern art through the operas of Richard Wagner, in a rebirth of tragedy.

In contrast to the typical Enlightenment view of ancient Greek culture as noble, simple, elegant and grandiose, Nietzsche believed the Greeks were grappling with pessimism.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940015643206
  • Publisher: Balefire Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/24/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 230
  • File size: 11 MB
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Meet the Author

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, poet, composer, cultural critic and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Nietzsche's key ideas include the death of God, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism and the will to power. Central to his philosophy is the idea of "life-affirmation", which involves questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent and radical those views might be. His influence remains substantial within philosophy, notably in existentialism, post-modernism and post-structuralism, as well as outside it. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, especially in the continental tradition. Nietzsche has been called one of the masters of the "school of suspicion", alongside Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. In 1869, at the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual to have held this position), but resigned in the summer of 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life. In 1889 he suffered a collapse and a complete loss of his mental faculties. The breakdown has been ascribed to atypical general paralysis attributed to tertiary syphilis, but this diagnosis has since come into question. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, then under the care of his sister until his death in 1900.

His sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, acted as curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts during his illness. She was married to a prominent German nationalist and antisemite, Bernhard Förster and she reworked some of Nietzsche's unpublished writings to fit her husband's ideology, often in ways contrary to Nietzsche's actual opinions which were strongly and explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism (see Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism).
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