Birth of Tragedy:
Chpts 1 – 15 Theory of Attic Tragedy
Chpts 12 – 15 It’s demise
Chpts 16 – 25 Extension of theory to Wagner
How do we take The Birth of Tragedy?
as a complete package (inseparable components)?
as a theory of tragedy specifically (historically, philosophically)?
as an aesthetic theory with broader application?
as a source of aesthetic categories?
as an anticipation of later features of Nietzsche’s work?
In English this term is translated into “Music of the Future”. It is the title of an essay by Wagner to appeal to French audiences and introduce his music to them. Amongst other things he promotes the need for ‘endless melody’. The essay seeks to explain why this term is actually unsuitable for his music. The term was adopted never-the-less by Wagner supporters to describe their progressive innovations and aesthetics.
The Birth of Tragedy:
Nietzsche was originally trained as a philologist. That is, the study of languages in written historical sources (so a combination of history, literary studies and linguistics).
The main thesis of the Birth of Tragedy is to explain the Attic (Athenian) Tragedy through two ‘drivers’ or ‘powers’ of art: Apolline and Dionysian. That is: to set out the aesthetics of tragedy, how it works, its significance, its component parts.
Apolline (dreams): reality differentiated by forms
1)Dreams have determinate shapes, forms (things are individuated)
2)”We retain a pervasive sense that it is semblance”. Semblance: outward appearance.
3)We experience good and bad things in dreams (the Divine Comedy of Life) there is reasoning to a degree.
4)Measured limitation (not to become pathological)
Dionysian (intoxication): reality undifferentiated by forms
Each side is always in conflict, yet no side ever prevails. THis is the state of humanity (as reflected in the Arts). Attic drama combines these elements into a consistent and seamless whole. This is Nietzsche’s assertion and argument for Attic importance. The book also deals with the demise of the art-form and links it with the coming of rationality and Socrates. For Nietzsche a sober, reasonable practice of realism was alienating audience from active engagement.
Nietzsche differed from other thinkers in this view of Greek culture and thought. He saw that they were dealing in Pessimism. That universe was comprised of great conflict and that we as humans live within it, but never realize or know these forces as such. What we put together as our conceptions of the world never address the underlying realities (a human dreamt world of illusions).
Outward appearance, resemblance, apparition.
“Their (Greeks) two deities of art, Apollo and Dionysus, provide the starting point for our recognition that there exists in the world of the Greeks an enormous opposition, both in origin and goals, between the Apolline art of the image maker or sculptor (Bilbner) and the imageless art of music, which is that of Dionysus. These two very different drives (Triebe) exist side by side, mostly in open conflict, stimulating and provoking (reizen) one another to give birth to ever-new, more vigorous offspring in whom they perpetuate the conflict inherent in the opposition between them, an opposition only apparently bridged by the common term art – until eventually, by a metaphysical miracle of the Hellenic ‘Will’, they appear paired and, in this pairing, finally engender a work of art which is Dionysiac and Apolline in equal measure: Attic tragedy.” (BoT: p14)
“These Dionysiac stirrings, which as they grow in intensity, cause subjectivity to vanish to the point of complete self-forgetting, awaken either under the influence of narcotic drink, of which all human beings and peoples who are close to the origin of things speak in their hymns, or at the approach of Spring when the whole of nature is pervaded by lust for life.” (BoT, p17)
“Not only is the bond between human beings renewed by the magic of the Dionysiac, but nature, alienated, inimical, or subjugated, celebrates once more her festival of reconciliation with her lost son, humankind.” (BoT, p18)
“…the Apolline and its opposite, the Dionysiac, as artistic powers which erupt from nature itself, without the mediation of any human artist…” (BoT, p19)