Friedrich Nietzsche's "Also Sprach Zarathustra": A Tragedy of Eternal Return

Dissertation, The University of Texas at Dallas (2003)

In Nietzsche's perception, Also sprach Zarathustra occupies a special place. But, as we know from his personal notebooks, he struggled about how to communicate the thought of eternal return before he wrote this work in a language outside of and in opposition to the German educational system of his time. ;While it is not easy to detect how Nietzsche set up the structure of the German text to communicate his thought, any available translation makes such understanding nearly impossible. However, a comparison of the German and English texts shows that the common English translation of one key phrase from Also sprach Zarathustra, "the eternal return of the same," leads to connotations other than those communicated by the German phrase "die ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen." By paying attention to the term "gleich," any reader of the German can see Nietzsche's play with the terms " gleich" and "Gleichnis" throughout the text. To afford the same accessibility for the English reader, I offer my own translations of all Nietzsche quotations in my text and provide an appendix that compares each use of any derivative of the stem " gleich" in the German text with the translations by Kaufmann and Hollingdale. For my reading of Nietzsche's whole text, Also-sprach Zarathustra, as a Gleichnis of the eternal return, I take into account Nietzsche's previous work and his lifelong opposition to the German Bildungssystem. I show that Nietzsche's early work on Greek tragedy and his attempt to recreate a new "tragic" style were highly influential for his unique prose in Also sprach Zarathustra, a book that is structured to allow his audience to learn about the ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen by his readers "experiencing" the thought. My reading of Also sprach Zarathustra considers the role and function of tragedy as education in Greece, Nietzsche's definition of the origin and purpose of tragedy and his thoughts regarding the communication of his "unspeakable" thought. ;If we pay attention to the doubled meaning of the German term " gleich," the structure of Nietzsche's text, and the relationship between his study of Greek tragedy and his critique of the German educational system, then we can join in Nietzsche's "dance of eternal return."
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