Nietzsche and the Approach of Tragedy

In a small portion of The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Walter Benjamin engages in a critique of Nietzsche’s understanding of tragedy in The Birth of Tragedy. He argues that Nietzsche’s account divests individuals of significance in the tragic worldview. The corrective to Nietzsche’s view, according to Benjamin, is a reflective, historical approach to the Greek social and literary phenomenon of tragic poetry. I argue that Benjamin’s approach to tragedy and to The Birth of Tragedy is inherently flawed. The paper has threesections: (1) a presentation of Benjamin’s critique of Nietzsche in The Origin of German Tragic Drama; (2) a refutation of that critique on the basis of a reading of The Birth of Tragedy; and (3) a rejection of Benjamin’s theory of tragedy on the basis of Nietzsche’sinsights into the relation to human significance of both tragedy and the science of history
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