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The Birth of Tragedy: Out of the Spirit of Music (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Friedrich Nietzsche , Shaun Whiteside
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 May 1993 Penguin Classics
A compelling argument for the necessity for art in life, Nietzsche's first book is fuelled by his enthusiasms for Greek tragedy, for the philosophy of Schopenhauer and for the music of Wagner, to whom this work was dedicated. Nietzsche outlined a distinction between its two central forces: the Apolline, representing beauty and order, and the Dionysiac, a primal or ecstatic reaction to the sublime. He believed the combination of these states produced the highest forms of music and tragic drama, which not only reveal the truth about suffering in life, but also provide a consolation for it. Impassioned and exhilarating in its conviction, The Birth of Tragedy has become a key text in European culture and in literary criticism.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433395
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13.4 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was born in Prussia in 1844. After the death of his father, a Lutheran minister, Nietzsche was raised from the age of five by his mother in a household of women. In 1869 he was appointed Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Basel, where he taught until 1879 when poor health forced him to retire. He never recovered from a nervous breakdown in 1889 and died eleven years later.

Known for saying that "god is dead," Nietzsche propounded his metaphysical construct of the superiority of the disciplined individual (superman) living in the present over traditional values derived from Christianity and its emphasis on heavenly rewards. His ideas were appropriated by the Fascists, who turned his theories into social realities that he had never intended.

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About the Author

Friedrich Nietzsche was born near Leipzig in 1844, the son of a Lutheran clergyman. At 24 he was appointed to the chair of classical philology at Basle University, where he stayed until forced by his health to retire in 1879. Here, he wrote all his literature, including Thus Spake Zarathustra, and developed his idea of the Superman. He became insane in 1889 and remained so until his death in 1900.

Shaun Whiteside has translated widely from French, German and Italian. Michael Tanner is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He is particularly interested in Wagner and Nietzsche.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Birth of Tragedy is Nietzsche's first work, and in his 'Attempt at Self-criticism' he was subsequently to reject its nave tone, raw style and bald assertions of a Germanic cultural rebirth under the aegis of Wagner, whose influence Nietzsche had by that time repudiated. It is evidently the work of a young thinker whose opinions were not yet fully formed, yet to escape from influence of Schopenhauer. In comparison then, to his later masterpieces Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil, the Birth of Tragedy lacks Nietzsche's trademark vision and audacity.
That said, The Birth of Tragedy stands well as a work of its own accord; Nietzsche's war on Socratic optimism is began in this work, and the brilliant and influential Appollinian and Dionysian dialectic makes it first appearance here. Anyone interested in Greek tragedy or in Attic culture in general will undoubtedly benefit from reading the thoughts of a great thinker on the subject. Indeed it very difficult to dislike or dismiss Birth of Tragedy as a whole, despite the fact that it is flawed in parts. As with Nietzsche's other works, the sheer exuberance and intellectual excitement of the author enthuses the reader - and for this reason, recommends the work to anyone with taste for ancient Greece, or for Friedrich Nietzsche.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nietzsche's views on art 9 Jun 2008
Nietzsche is a philosopher that most people have heard of. He is quoted, or at least mentioned, a lot, all over the place. But he also seems grossely misunderstood. He is not the anarchistic maniac that one would think he is from listening even to commentators that should know better. He was actually a philologist (a historian of language), and taught at University level before packing it all in to roam Europe and write his books. He is a colouful, eccentric, enthusiastic personality who also happens to talk a lot of sense. His style is often very instinctive, saying things that defy normal logic - they at first seem odd, but then one does realize that he is absolutely correct in what he is saying. This book outlines his view on the importance in art of combining the sensible, ordered 'Apollonian' principle, with the wild and musically intoxicated 'Dyonisian' principle. He berates the 'naivity' of Homerian Epic, which for him is the epitomy of Apollonian art, and praises the Attic tragedies, with special reference to the Oedipus trilogy of Sophocles. He also praises Shakespeare as well as Bach and Beethoven, and, of course, his then friend Richard Wagner, to whom Nietzsche dedicates the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
F. Nietzsche expresses in a raging and delirious style loudly his vision on life, through his interpretation of the Attic tragedy and its history. He exposes himself as an anti-rational, anti-scientific, amoral romanticist, for whom art is the only truly metaphysical activity of man.

Apollo v. Dionysus
The gods Apollo and Dionysus represent two completely antagonistic lifestyles.
The Apollinian one stands for measured restraint and freedom from wild emotions. It is based on the principium individuationis (the individual). Its main art form is sculpture; in literature the epic form (Homeros).
The Dionysian one stands for ecstasy, intoxication, orgiastic frenzy, sexual licentiousness, savage natural instincts. It is the life of the bearded satyr, a symbol of the sexual omnipotence of nature, of the abolition of the individual man. Its art form is music, song and dance; in literature, it is the poetry of an Archilochus with its cries of hatred and scorn, with his drunken outburst of desire.

For Nietzsche, Socrates has the profound illusion that thought, using the thread of causality, can penetrate the deepest abyss of being. He is guided by the instinct of science, which for Nietzsche is a chain for humanity. Socrates stands for morality with its dictum: `knowledge is virtue; man sins only from ignorance; he who is virtuous is happy.' Socratism stands for morality, for `the anarchical dissolution of the instincts.'

The Attic tragedy
For Nietzsche, the Attic tragedy is born out of the Dionysian. It arose from the tragic chorus, the mirror image in which the Dionysian man contemplated himself. It was a chorus of natural beings who were (are) living ineradicably behind all civilization.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Philosophical Work 28 Jun 2009
This is Nietzsche's first book and has become one of the most important in European philosophy. This powerful and very energetic work was inspired by the Greek tragedies and Nietzsche's passion for the music of Wagner. In 'The Birth of Tragedy' Nietzsche attempts to relate our pleasure for tragedy in art to our experiences of suffering in life.

This can be a very difficult book to read but is definitely one of the most important books of its genre. There is also a good introduction by Michael Tanner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Birth of Tragedy: Out of the Spirit of Music 20 Sep 2011
By Jenn.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a small book with big ideas.

I had never read Nietzsche before and decided to read this book in conjunction with others I was reading for a talk I am giving.

Although his writing is convoluted at times: as I would expect from a philosopher, I was intrigued by what he was saying, particularly in the light of later psychoanalytic theorists, such as Freud,Lacan,Klein, Bion etc., since he seems to be working on ideas that would later become crystallized in psychoanalytic thinking and theory.

This, enabled me to shape what it was I wanted to say in my talk. I was also able to understand his thinking, not only theoretically, but also in the light of his illness, which would, later, have a profound effect on his work and his life.

I could relate also to his notion of art, and music in particular, as stimulus for experience of the sublime.
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