Nietzsche’s Greeks: The Birth of Tragedy
68 Jay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
The Birth of Tragedy marked the moment when the Friedrich Nietzsche ceased to be a traditional scholar. Rejecting the attempt bring scientific methods to philosophical reasoning, Nietzsche began a new career as a critic of stable, transcendent truth—rethinking the fundamental principles of Western philosophy all the way back to its ancient Greek roots.
In this course, we will read closely The Birth of Tragedy, as well as extracts from other works of the early Nietzsche, principally “On Truth and Lying in an Extramoral Sense” and Untimely Meditations—examining Nietzsche’s reconceptualization of philosophical method and his parallel articulation of an audacious new theory of ancient Greek tragedy. By revivifying and engaging with the Greek deities of Apollo and Dionysos, Nietzsche proposed a mode of understanding tragedy that sets reason and unreason, calm and frenzy, into a dialectical relationship. In addition to reading Nietzsche, we will make our own return to the Greeks, especially to the Dionysos of Euripides’ Bacchae and the Sokrates of Plato and Aristophanes. What does The Birth of Tragedy teach us about the making of art and the making of a self in our own times? How does Nietzsche’s conception of tragedy contest classical conceptions, such as Aristotle’s? How does the encounter with Dionysos and Apollo reconfigure our own relation to past, present, and future? How do Nietzsche’s “suffering Greeks” provide the basis for a critique of contemporary culture? How does Greek tragedy—and Nietzsche himself—respond to the “wisdom of Silenus”: “What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is—to die soon”?
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm
May 30 — June 20, 2019