Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nietzsche and the Literary

I take the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to be one of the true early literary Philosophers. His ideas have sparked considerable controversy, and have indeed been associated with many unsavory moments in political history. But his thought is very much intended, I believe, to spark debate. He was familiar with the writings of Baudelaire, who also courted the controversial. Nietzsche's work in texts such as The Birth of Tragedy simply swim in the passionate execution of language in a very poetic and stylistic fashion. His distinction between the Dionysian and the Apollonian (a distinction, at heart between desire and restraint) has didactic resonances, but should rather be read as a poem might be read - for enjoyment and aesthetic appreciation. Nietzsche was also aware of Holderlin's work, and importantly struck up a correspondence with August Strindberg. These two writers have been covered below in this blog, and are important for understanding madness as it expresses itself in literature. Nietzsche's own madness, reputedly cause by a syphilitic condition, was to mark the end of an amazing and indeed controversial career as a thinker. And this is how we should take Nietzsche, as one to spark debate and controversy, not one to take didactically.

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