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Question of Tragic Art
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|Subject: Question of Tragic Art Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:42 am|| |
This question has been on my mind for very long, as long as I've been reading Nietzsche. What exactly is tragic art? I know what a tragedy is. I recognize a tragic storyline. I know the "feeling" of the tragic, as a surplus that breaks itself up into a destruction of bewildering beauty - but I do not have sufficient clarity on what Nietzsche
means when he speaks of the tragic... not because I lack clarity, but because it is so all-important. Perhaps the most important concept in his work. It needs to be elaborated on much more bitterly than the will to power or the eternal recurrence, or slave versus master morality -- it is perhaps the realest, most alive concept. Because of this realness it not as easy for me to clarify.
So the question is: what is tragic art? Can we have examples? Music, plays, novels, films -- scenes from any of these.... classical but preferably also contemporary -- what is a contemporary tragedy - no, what represents "the tragic" in a contemporary form?
Here is the passage that inspired the question.
- Quote :
- What is Romanticism?
It will be remembered perhaps, at least among my friends, that at first I assailed the modern world with some gross errors and exaggerations, but at any rate with hope in my heart. I recognised who knows from what personal experiences? the philosophical pessimism of the nineteenth century as the symptom of a higher power of thought, a more daring courage and a more triumphant plenitude of life than had been characteristic of the eighteenth century, the age of Hume, Kant, Condillac and the sensualists: so that the tragic view of things seemed to me the peculiar luxury of our culture, its most precious, noble, and dangerous mode of prodigality; but nevertheless, in view of its overflowing wealth, a justifiable luxury. In the same way I interpreted for myself German music as the expression of a Dionysian power in the German soul: I thought I heard in it the earthquake by means of which a primeval force that had been imprisoned for ages was finally finding vent indifferent as to whether all that usually calls itself culture was thereby made to totter. It is obvious that I then misunderstood what constitutes the veritable character both of philosophical pessimism and of German music, namely, their Romanticism. What is Romanticism? Every art and every philosophy may be regarded as a healing and helping appliance in the service of growing, struggling life: they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: on the one hand those that suffer from overflowing vitality, who need Dionysian art, and require a tragic view and insight into life; and on the other hand those who suffer from reduced vitality, who seek repose, quietness, calm seas, and deliverance from themselves through art or knowledge, or else intoxication, spasm, bewilderment and madness. All Romanticism in art and knowledge responds to the twofold craving of the latter; to them Schopenhauer as well as Wagner responded (and responds), to name those most celebrated and decided romanticists, who were then misunderstood by me (not however to their disadvantage, as may be reasonably conceded to me). The being richest in overflowing vitality, the Dionysian God and man, may not only allow himself the spectacle of the horrible and question able, but even the fearful deed itself, and all the luxury of destruction, disorganisation and negation. With him evil, senselessness and ugliness seem as it were licensed, in consequence of the overflowing plenitude of procreative, fructifying power, which can convert every desert into a luxuriant orchard. Conversely, the greatest sufferer, the man poorest in vitality, would have most need of mildness, peace and kindliness in thought and action: he would need, if possible, a God who is specially the God of the sick, a "Saviour"; similarly he would have need of logic, the abstract intelligibility of existence for logic soothes and gives confidence; in short he would need a certain warm, fear dispelling narrowness and imprisonment within optimistic horizons. In this manner I gradually began to understand Epicurus, the opposite of a Dionysian pessimist; in a similar manner also the "Christian” who in fact is only a type of Epicurean, and like him essentially a romanticist: and my vision has always become keener in tracing that most difficult and insidious of all forms of retrospective inference^ in which most mistakes have been made the inference from the work to its author from the deed to its doer, from the ideal to him who needs it, from every mode of thinking and valuing to the imperative want behind it. In regard to all aesthetic values I now avail myself of this radical distinction: I ask in every single case" Has hunger or superfluity become creative here"? At the outset another distinction might seem to recommend itself more it is far more conspicuous, namely, to have in view whether the desire for rigidity, for perpetuation, for being is the cause of the creating, or the desire for destruction, for change, for the new, for the future for becoming. But when looked at more carefully, both these kinds of desire prove themselves ambiguous, and are explicable precisely according to the before-mentioned, and, as it seems to me, rightly preferred scheme. The desire for destruction, change and becoming, may be the expression of overflowing power, pregnant with futurity (my terminus for this is of course the word "Dionysian"); but it may also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, destitute and unfortunate, which destroys, and must destroy, because the enduring, yea, all that endures, in fact all being, excites and provokes it. To understand this emotion we have but to look closely at our anarchists. The will to perpetuation requires equally a double interpretation. It may on the one hand proceed from gratitude and love: art of this origin will always be an art of apotheosis, perhaps dithyrambic, as with Rubens, mocking divinely, as with Hafiz, or clear and kind-hearted as with Goethe, and spreading a Homeric brightness and glory over everything (in this case I speak of Apollonian art). It may also, however, be the tyrannical will of a sorely-suffering, struggling or tortured being, who would like to stamp his most personal, individual and narrow characteristics, the very idiosyncrasy of his suffering, as an obligatory law and constraint on others; who, as it were, takes revenge on all things, in that he imprints, enforces and brands his image, the image of his torture, upon them. The latter is romantic pessimism in its most extreme form, whether it be as Schopenhauerian will philosophy, or as Wagnerian music: romantic pessimism, the last great event in the destiny of our civilisation. (That there may be quite a different kind of pessimism, a classical pessimism this presentiment and vision belongs to me, as something inseparable from me, as my proprium and ipsissimum; only that the word "classical" is repugnant to my ears, it has become far too worn, too indefinite and indistinguishable. I call that pessimism of the future, for it is coming! I see it coming! Dionysian pessimism.)
[Nietzsche: The Gay Science, 370]
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|Subject: Re: Question of Tragic Art Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:58 am|| |
I posted a parallel thread on ILP
I am also interested in artists who can be associated with the tragic. And to broaden the topic, perhaps not only art, but also tragic approaches to the "stage of the world" , versus romantic or otherwise weaker ones. I want to expand the thinking on the tragic as well as bring it to the surface, to actuality.
Does the concept suffering, the affirmation of suffering amount to a sense of tragedy? I don't think so, but it is clearly important. What else is required for the tragic sense?
Can we re-shape our (interpretation of our) own cultural and political narrative in accordance with this sense? Can this perhaps be the first step in affirming what is happening? Or am I taking this into a far too practical direction now? No, I don't think so - this is precisely what we are lacking now, what traps us (as a civilization) in nihilism or resentment - the lack of the tragic sense, the will to utopia.
I don't even know what I am suggesting. Let anyone begin with an explanation of what it means for a "sense", or a narrative, or anything at all, to be tragic.
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|Subject: Re: Question of Tragic Art Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:28 am|| |
The element of 'affirmation' in the tragic seems to represent a more inherent, central characteristic of tragedy, involved directly within the sense or pathos of it: the lack of power to alter the tragic circumstances, to avert tragedy. This lack is present at the beginning and builds all the while the tragic aesthetic itself builds -- it is a necessary condition for it. This sustained disharmony could be experienced in our own lives, or vicariously through the lives of others, through art or upon the stage. Tragic might then be interpreted as a directly sensing of or pathos birthed in the light of a higher or more-reflned, more-sublimated experience of a "lack of power". All such lack would at first arise as an experience of a more immediate suffering or pain. As this is sustained over time and transforms into woe and despair, then finally into regret and resignation, the specific sense/pathos of this lack arising from these becomes likewise stronger, and ultimately gains its own patho-logical "nature" and "psychological" subjective inertia. Which is to say that other subjective states begin to orbit the new patho-logical trajectory. This tragic pathos, born of a sustained and cultivated sense "disharmony"-as-lack with respect to some otherwise overflowing vitality and value, becomes a signifying marker and symbol, a definitional relation.
We might now interpret this movement as a mechanism whereby the valuing subject is left open before its possibilities in light of the fact that these possibilities would otherwise either remains largely closed or be directly militated against and pre-empted by the superior sense or cultivated pathos of experience of vitality (self-valuing becoming conscious of itself as value [but not necessarily yet as self-valuing capacity]). Tragic keeps the subject from walling off those which present as painful remainders in the equations of its self-value, painful reminders of what, from the vantage point of the self-affirmative and vital subject, constitute its own inescapable limit and highest failure (which it would like to, and indeed often must ignore for the sake of itself, for the sake of its own power and value and the "will to" these). Tragic operates directly to mediate the subjective relationship with these otherwise "remainder" or failed elements, as well as to keep open the space for the possibility of these at a later time.
Nietzsche seemed to have interpreted this as a "despair of all 'it was' " and of which (i.e. the past) we can do nothing about. A will to will backward ought to be cultivated, according to Nietzsche, to will all "it was" as "it is", as a "thus do I will it". Here we arrive at his derivation of the Eternal Return. So now we can see that the ER is a principle which begins with an understanding of the tragic, and it is Nietzsche's way of conceptualizing and objectifying (and then attempting to "solve", to resolve) the relation between subjective tragedy (the inescapability of self-failure/s) and its possible apotheosis/utility. Too much or too little tragedy is self-destructive. Nietzsche thus seemed to have sensed this and was attempting to trace a healthy the middle ground.
Tragic art then would be that art which inspires and evokes, sustaining and allowing for the tragic pathos to remain in view and un-"repressed". Thus would the subject that harbors the greater amount of this tragic pathos within it experience therefore the greater quality of reaction, strength and immediacy of value and meaning in the presence of tragic art; it finds its own greater catharsis and respite, and a focusing potency wherein it is able to encounter aspects of itself, through tragic art, which otherwise would remain to the subject unstated and uneludicated. Thus can the appreciation for tragic art be used as a sort of litmus test for the quality and character of a subject, which is what I think Nietzsche was trying to get at, and to explain/make use of.
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|Subject: Re: Question of Tragic Art Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:54 pm|| |
Yes, this seems like a perfectly sensible explanation. I much appreciate the connection of the tragic to the ER - it seems logical that the philosophy that started as an exploration/affirmation of the tragic amounted in the imagining and affirmation of the Eternal Recurrence of the same, especially in the not exactly level-headed way it is arrived at in Zarathustra.
But then a very interesting question can be asked: should the affirmation of the tragic lead to the affirmation of the eternal recurrence of the same? Is this not rather a dangerous exaggeration of an affirmation, or perhaps even of an almost-affirmation, a reaching for affirmation - a magnification into the absurd of the will to affirm, so as to obscure to the willer that this will is insufficient for true affirmation?
But perhaps the notion of the Eternal Recurrence (I could never actually think that the idea is a scientific-logical conclusion, but I can allow myself it imagine that it is true and taste the consequences of that) is in fact a sound and noble means to affirm the tragic, to open oneself up to what is difficult to affirm from an instinctive departure point. It could be seen as a means to create a sense of the tragic, to arrive at least at a pathology similar to the tragic sense.
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|Subject: Re: Question of Tragic Art Sat May 05, 2012 3:01 pm|| |
The Holocaust - man's inhumanity to man.
- Quote :
- Does the concept suffering, the affirmation of suffering amount to a sense of tragedy? I don't think so, but it is clearly important. What else is required for the tragic sense?
It depends on who is doing the suffering.
What resonates within us as stark and brutal reality and insanity of man's inhumanity to man, as depicted in this artwork.
The perception or sensation of deep sorrow, futility, desperation and the question "Why" on their faces which comes to us.
What else is required for the tragic sense? To take a much deeper look and to realize that we are all
capable of inhuman actions, if we do not take that time to look. And to realize that history can and will repeat itself because of our apathy and lack of compassion. This may not be what you were looking for though.
What else is required for the tragic sense? A sense of hopelessness.
|Subject: Re: Question of Tragic Art || |
Question of Tragic Art
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