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The Birth of Tragedy

Friedrich Nietzsche

Study Questions

Key Facts

Quiz

What separates the Dionysian Greek from the Dionysian barbarian?

The Dionysian Greek was the first to transform the Dionysian festivals into the redemptive enterprise of art. He was able to do so because of his already strong Apollonian tendencies. The Dionysian barbarian, however, possessed no method of taming or channeling the Dionysian impulse, leaving him doomed to destructive rampages and a sickening combination of sensuality and cruelty.

Why is language unable to render the cosmic symbolism of music?

Language cannot touch the symbolism of music, because music accesses the essence of the primordial contradiction and primordial pain in the heart of the Primal Unity, and thus symbolizes a realm beyond phenomena. Language, being a system of signs and symbols is fundamentally phenomenological, and so cannot hope to access the chaos of primordial being. In its attempt to imitate music, language achieves only the most superficial contact. Words cannot bring the significance of music any closer to our understanding; instead, we must experience it for ourselves.

What is the mythical story of Dionysus's suffering?

As a boy, Dionysus was torn apart by the Titans and so was forced to experience the agonies of individuation. In his dismembered state, Dionysus was known and worshipped as Zagreus. This dismemberment is the source of Dionysus's suffering, and indicates his ability to sympathize with human suffering. Unlike many other gods, Dionysus has known true physical and metaphysical suffering, and has been reborn. For, after being torn apart, the young god was put together again and reformed in a new and more glorious state. This is a metaphor for the suffering of man and his redemption at the hands of Dionysus.

What is the profound illusion at the heart of the Socratic worldview?

The Socratic man is under the illusion that thought can reach to the depths of being, and effect a change in it. This optimistic thinker believes that he can discover the secrets of the universe by force of his logic alone. Nothing can stand in the way of a man armed with knowledge, suggests Socrates, so go forth, and learn! This worldview is painfully naive and arrogant, for it insists that the universe is entirely comprehensible to the mind of man. Man needs only to keep acquiring knowledge, which will eventually lead him to an understanding of his own existence and of the universe. This theoretical man is blinded by his own superficial scientific successes, and so is unable recognize that his entire world is an illusion. He need only reach out for the Dionysian in order to know the answers to all his questions, but he will not reach out, for Dionysus is dead to him, relegated to the outmoded gods.

Suggested Essay Topics

What is the distinction between the two art worlds of dreams and drunkenness?

How does Nietzsche explain Apollo's relationship to the rest of the Olympian gods?

How does Raphael's "Transfiguration" support Nietzsche's argument about appearance?

How is Doric Art representative of the Apollonian impulse?

How does Archilochus stand in contrast to Homer as an artist?

What reasons does Nietzsche give for stating that subjective art is not really art?

What are the main characteristics of lyric?

In what way does the Dionysian man resemble Hamlet?

What is the metamorphosis experienced by the dramatic chorus?

In what ways does Oedipus act as a tragic hero, by Nietzsche's definition of 'hero'?

How do Apollo and Dionysus differ in their conception of boundaries?

What do the Promethean and the Dionysian have in common?

Why does historicism destroy myth?

What are some major differences between Euripides and his predecessors?

Why did Euripides feel the need to write prologues for his plays?

How does Socrates' use of instinct differ from that of other men?

By what means, and with what results, did Socrates change his position in his last days of life (according to Nietzsche)?

How is the universality of melodies opposed to the universality of concepts?

Why is the New Attic Dithyramb a degenerate form of music?

At what point does Socratic culture begin to fail?

How does opera relate to Socratic optimism?

How does myth protect us from music? Why is this necessary in the first place?

What is the essential flaw in the approach of modern aesthetics to art?

Why is myth critical to a healthy creative culture?

What does Nietzsche conclude is the source of the delight experienced in the face of the tragic myth?

What is Nietzsche's definition of art? What art does he consider to be degenerate, and why?

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