Richard Wagner and the birth of the birth of tragedy

Nietzsche writes that the 'real task' of The Birth of Tragedy is to 'solve the puzzle of Wagner's relation to Greek tragedy'. The 'puzzle', I suggest, is the intermingling in his art and writings of earlier socialist optimism with later Schopenhauerian pessimism. According to the former the function of the 'rebirth of Greek tragedy' in the 'collective artwork' is to 'collect', and so create, community. According to the second the function of the artwork is to intimate a realm 'beyond' this world of pain and death. The audacity of The Birth is that it attempts to show that Wagner can have his cake and eat it: the 'Dionysian', musical, element provides a 'metaphysical comfort', while the 'Apollonian', verbal, element draws a 'veil of oblivion' over the metaphysical, thereby allowing the artwork to solidify community. Contrary to the standard Anglophone view, this perspective on The Birth shows that Nietzsche's intimate association with Wagner during the period of its creation lies at the heart of its philosophical content.
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DOI 10.1080/09672550802017915
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