Monthly Archives: January 2009

Nietzsche is breaking my spirit.

Reading The Birth of Tragedy is making me feel like I have mud in my brain. Apollo vs. Dionysus ≈ Olympians vs. Titans ≈ Homer vs. Archilochus (who?). Prometheus is involved, too. And then the scientific spirit of Socrates kills tragedy through Euripides. It’s a series of proper nouns strung together with murky declarations the point of which seem to be that the reader’s been thinking about ancient Greece wrong. Which, since I haven’t been thinking about ancient Greece much, and haven’t been mustering the self-discipline to hold onto what exactly the deal with Apollo vs. Dionysus was in the first place, isn’t very satisfying.

I thought I had a reasonably good understanding of Greek mythology. The kind that would let me place allusions in TV shows and whatnot. But apparently I didn’t spend enough time in my youth memorizing, translating, and reciting massive quantities of Greek poetry. (Did little German boys do that? Or was it strictly a British-and-colonies phenomenon?) Because I feel like, to have a more-than-superficial understanding of what’s being said, I’d have to have a sense of the character of these deities, rather than just what they’re responsible for, and to know the difference between Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides instead of being able to unearth their names with some effort.

But the translator tells me I’m through the part Nietzsche still liked in his old age, and now get to read him rhapsodizing about how Wagner embodies the new tragedy. He spends a third of the text doing this, sadly. Maybe I’ll find some Wagner to listen to and marathon my way through.

Upshot: I put my copy of Beyond Good & Evil in my living room to be eaten by wolves so that it wouldn’t become a part of my project to read every book I own. Section 15 is my fave for being clearly applicable to a world beyond classical studies, and for calling out the limits of science, which always pleases me. (Check it out here, if you’re so moved.)


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