Figures of the Monstrous in Nietzsche's "The Birth of Tragedy"

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Abstract

In this essay, we intend to interpret "The Birth of Tragedy" from a deconstructive perspective. We can say that the language of tragedy is deconstructive, for one of its characteristics is that of the decomposition of the unitary meaning of terms. In "The Birth of Tragedy", we find two fundamentally different ways of conceiving tragedy: one, static — in which a definition of the essence of the tragic is established; the other, dynamic — which reflects an understanding of tragedy as a historical process in which the meaning of the tragic is progressively fragmented and multiplied. In this second conception of tragedy, a deconstructive and tragic language is at work. Terms such as the monstrous ("das Ungeheure") and monstrous ("ungeheuer") play the role of a sort of axis around which the two conceptions of tragedy revolve. On the one hand, "das Ungeheure" is that in relation to which the experience of tragedy constitutes itself; on the other, "ungeheuer" is each one of the events leading to the multiple and diametrically opposed turns in the historical evolution process of tragedy, which Nietzsche regards as being themselves tragic. It is the equivocality of the meaning of "ungeheuer" that makes the term particularly apt to play the role of the instrument of decomposition and multiplication of the meaning of the tragic in the context of the second conception of tragedy. If we consider that "The Birth of Tragedy" includes a community project based on a certain experience of tragedy as a relation to "das Ungeheure", it is possible to maintain that this project takes the form of a politics of the monstrous which, grounded in a view of the history of tragedy as a succession of monstrous events destabilizing the meaning of the tragic, amounts to a certain politics of difference.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-136
Number of pages25
JournalParrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy
Volume38
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Nietzsche
  • "The Birth of Tragedy"
  • The monstrous
  • Politics of difference
  • Deconstruction
  • "Différance"

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