Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872) is one of the most important philosophical texts of the modern period. Nietzsche describes how Greek tragedy was born out of the encounter between the Dionysian and the Apollonian and represents a culture in which a balance between the two was achieved. The Dionysian plunged Greek culture into chaos and despair but also paved the way for the regenerative power of Apollonian clarity and rationality. It is this model that Nietzsche employs to understand both the decline of modern culture and the possible rebirth of this culture. In genuine tragic art, the Dionysian and Apollonian elements are completely entwined. In the music of Richard Wagner, to whom the work is dedicated, Nietzsche sees a redemptive power that can overcome the intellectual dichtonomy between the Dionysian and the Apollonian that characterises modern society.
The basic thesis behind The Birth of Tragedy is, to me,
This is not to say that Nietzsche is an unsubtle writer. Far from it. But I find in him an annoying tendency to make brash claims, posit extreme contrasts, and ignore (if not deny) middle ground. In Zarathustra's hortative call for people to overcome social pressure to conform to a life of mediocrity, bold and brash may be called for. In an examination of literary styles, it seems to be not very apt.
Ultimately, for me, the success or failure of a book of literary criticism must be how original and how convincing the argument is. It's certainly an original argument, and a provocative one. But it doesn't persuade me at all.
In this case I think the conception of tragedy as part Dionysian, part Apollonian is useful, if you substitute "hidden reality" for Dionysisan and "visible ideal" for Apollonian and assume that on a large scale that combination--or to be more specific the contrast and conflict between the two--produces discomfort.
And yes, he does have a man-crush on Wagner. No further comment.
Certainly the history behind the book improves it. And even Nietzsche had to admit that he disagreed with much of the work, hence the much later preface he wrote which is present in the Penguin edition. If it wasn't for this book, however, and his subsequent ousting from Basle, Nietzsche may not have become the great philosopher he is - which is the grounding Willamowitz gave in his autobiography to justify his incredibly harsh and insulting rebuttal of the book.
Modern scholarship has now looked with a much more credible eye over this book. Many scholars, viz. Stephen Halliwell, the late W.B. Stanford, Malcolm Heath; are now calling this book misinterpreted and maligned. Indeed the main aim of Nietzsche's book was not to say that the Greek view of life was pessimistic or to explain the origins of Greek tragedy, but to attack the scientific methodology of philology. Yes, his book does support those claims and over one hundred years later people are willing to listen to what he has to say, but philology was Nietzsche's main victim of this book.
I have given it three stars. I agree with his view of philology, but his conclusions are rashly drawn and I don't entirely agree with what he says about the Dionysian-Apolline division in tragedy.
Hmmm..... a difficult read to be sure. The book consists of Nietzsche's philosophical meanderings without converging on a point. I liked the contrast between the Apollonian idea of art and the idealized individual versus the Dionysian feeling