Notes and Quotes – The Birth of Tragedy Chapter 5

April 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

tragedy and the dramatic dithyramb: dithyramb is a hyme sung and danced to Dionysos in Ancient Greece.

The context of subjectivity and objectivity:

“Homer, the hoary dreamer lost in his own inner world, the archetypically Apolline, naive artist, now gazes with astonishment at the passionate head of Archilochus, the warlike servant of the Muses, driven wildly through existence; to which recent aesthetics could only add, by way of interpretation, that here the first ‘subjective’ artist was contrasted with the ‘objective’ artist.” (p29, BoT)

“…the prime demand we make of every kind and level of art is the conquest of subjectivity, release and redemption from the “I”, and the falling silent of all individual willing and desiring; indeed without objectivity, without pure, disinterested contemplation we are unable to believe that any creation, however slight, is genuinely artistic.” (p29, BoT)

Nietzsche presents in this section a hard to follow account of the pairing of lyrical poet and Dionysiac musician. He starts the in-depth thought on the psychological state of the poet with reference to Schiller who states in a letter to Goethe that a ‘musical mood’ preempts the poetic idea). He is making a statement about the different states of subjective experience:

“If we add to this the most important phenomenon in the whole of ancient lyric poetry, the combination, indeed identity, of the lyric poet with the musician, something which was regarded as natural everywhere (and in contrast to which our more recent lyric poetry resembles the statue of a god without a head), we are in a position to explain the lyric poet, on the basis of the aesthetic metaphysics presented above, in the following way. In the first instance the lyric poet, a Dionysiac artist, has become entirely at one with the primordial unity, with its pain and contradiction, and he produces a copy of this primordial unity as music, which has been described elsewhere, quite rightly, as a repetition of the world and a second copy of it; now, however, under the influence of Apolline dream, this music in turn becomes visible to him as in a symbolic dream image.” (p30, BoT)

“The Dionysiac musician, with no image at all, is nothing but primal pain and the primal echo of it. The lyric genius feels a world of images and symbols growing out of the mystical state of self-abandonment and one-ness, a world which has a quite different colouring, causality, and tempo from that of the sculptor and epic poet.” (p31, BoT)

Starting to form a picture:

Tragedy and Greece as a model for how to live life. A rejection of modernity. Tragedy and the experience of awful life events (Oedipus) was very different for the Greeks.Tragedy is a real, honest recognition of the hardships of life. The Apolline: rationalistic; tragedy happens to the individual , a real personal loss. The Dionysian; a loss of the sense of self, going with the flow; what happens to ones self is of no great consequence. In this way, a tragedy can also be seen as something beautiful.

3 Greek authors:

Sophocles and Thesesclus – balancing the two artistic drivers. In harmony.

Euripedes – Nietzsche condemns him because of his connection with Socrates. This is the beginning of rationalizing tragedy. For the other, previous two, tragedy is a mystery.

Chapter 6:

“Melody gives birth to poetry, and does so over and over again, in ever new ways […]” (BoT, p33)

It is clear by this stage that Nietzsche considers the Dionysian driver as something preliminary or more primordial to the Apolline. Hence, it would seem that Nietzsche is equating Dionysos as a more pure element.


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