Academic journal article German Quarterly

Nietzsche and the Rebirth of the Tragic

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Nietzsche and the Rebirth of the Tragic

Article excerpt

Witt, Mary Ann Frese, ed. Nietzsche and the Rebirth of the Tragic. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007. 255 pp. $ 52.50 hardback.

While the discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche's writings in both philosophy and political thought have made substantial advances over the last two decades or so, it is quite remarkable that the reception of Nietzsche within the field of literary studies has barely changed since the early 1980s. To be sure, there have been exceptions, such as Barbara von Reibnitz's ground-breaking commentary on Die Geburt der Tragödie, published in 1992, and, most recently, Paul Bishop's and R. H. Stephenson's volume on Friedrick Nietzsche and Weimar Classicism (2007). But, at least in the English-speaking world, much literary scholarship concerned with Nietzsche remains somewhat unsatisfying. The current volume is no exception here. The common theme of the nine essays collected here is the reception of Nietzsche's notion of the tragic in 2()th-century literature and film, starting with August Strindberg and Gabriele D'Annunzio and ending with Jean-Luc Godard's acclaimed film Prénom Carmen (1983). Most of the essays present a thorough reception history that seeks to trace the direct influence of Nietzsche's anti-Aristotelian notion of the tragic which favors the aesthetic event over the plot or mythos.

Mary Ann Frese Witt's introduction surveys the development of Nietzsche's thought on Greek tragedy, emphasizing in particular the latter 's interest in the Dionysian origin of the tragic drama, i.e., its origin in religious ritual. From the perspective of feminist literary criticism, she presents the Dionysian as a female cultural principle in order to conclude that Die Geburt der Tragödie is marked by a "tangle of tropes of sex, birth, gender, and culture" (18) - a theme she also follows in her essay on Gabriele D'Annunzio's reading of Nietzsche as privileging the aesthetic over the ethical (98). Given this perhaps slightly superficial assessment of the central ideas of Nietzsche's Die Geburt der Tragödie, which generally lacks historical con textualiza tion, it is also not surprising that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's middle name is missing and that Lebensphilosophie is strangely reduced to an anti-bourgeois youth movement (11-12).

In contrast, the following essays are mainly focused on the reception of Nietzsche's notion of the tragic. Michael Stern, for instance, reads Nietzsche's writings, such as Also sprach Zarathustra, as a literary performance of his idea of the tragic, noting that "Nietzschéen tragedy [. . .] is the story of the ironic subject of modernity" (43) at the center of which stands the idea of self-overcoming as a tragic process. Tracing Nietzsche's influence on Strindberg's novellas and his later dramatic production, he convincingly argues that a tragic subjectivity lies at the heart of the latter. Along similar lines, John Burt Foster Jr. presents us with a detailed and nuanced reading of W B. Yeats's "poems as lyrical 'translations' of Nietzsche" centered on the idea of a Dionysian "tragic joy" (104), while Edith W Clowes examines how existentialist Russian philosophy from the 1910s to the late 1980s regarded Nietzsche's writings, at times from a religious angle, as focused on a "philosophy of tragedy" that is akin to poetry (126). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.