Academic journal article German Quarterly

Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition

Article excerpt

18th & 19th Century Literature and Culture Bishop, Paul, ed. Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition. New York: Boydell and Brewer, 2004. 505 pp. $95.00 hardcover.

This collection of thirty-one short papers arises from the 2002 Annual Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society (United Kingdom) on "Nietzsche and the Classical Tradition." It is the first anthology for a quarter-century to be devoted to the philosopher's reception of antiquity, and the first to benefit from the full publication of his early philological writings in the critical edition of Colli and Montinari. As such, it constitutes a substantial and timely addition to the study of this important aspect of Nietzsche's work. The contributions vary in quality, and the authors adopt a number of different methodological perspectives, ranging from contextualist intellectual history through close textual commentary and bibliography to deconstruction. As well as underlining the significance of antiquity for Nietzsche, the book therefore serves as an introduction to the range of approaches current in Nietzsche scholarship.

In his short but meticulous introduction, Bishop sets out the key issues that motivate Nietzsche's response to the classical tradition in its various forms. He emphasizes three ways in which classical antiquity formed a focus for Nietzsche's thought: as a norm and model of perfection, as a poignant symbol of the distance between ancients and moderns and the irrecoverability of past ways of thinking and feeling, and as a cultural construct in which 19th-century Europeans have a questionable investment. Clearly, these elements of Nietzsche's thought are not entirely coherent, and it is negotiating the tensions between them that makes the task of assessing his reaction to the classical tradition so complex.

The book is divided into five sections, of which the second, third and fifth address specific Nietzschean receptions of the classical tradition (of Pre-Socratic and Hellenistic Philosophy, of Plato, and of Weimar Classicism respectively), while the first and fourth are diverse in subject matter. section One ("The Classical Greeks") claims to address "the theoretical and historical complexities" of Nietzsche's relationship to the classical past, while section Four ("Contestations"), promises to treat "various problems emerging from Nietzsche's engagement with antiquity" (4). …

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