This essay is a critical analysis of Nietzsche's anti-Aristotelian reading of tragedy. My purpose is to show Aristotle's relevance for our age, which is strongly inflected by Nietzsche. I focus on the contemporary sidelining of catharsis in order to understand certain directions in modern art and continental aesthetics. I argue that Nietzsche's anticathartic reading can be explained in terms of his critique of natural causation. Though this critique is often considered part of Nietzsche's naturalism, it contributes to the post-Kantian eclipse of nature and offers a partial understanding of Greek tragedy, since tragedy relied on cause and responsibility. Nietzsche's anti-Aristotelianism can also be regarded in terms of his philosophical project of inventing cultural antidotes for what he viewed as a falsely optimistic age: joy in suffering rather than release emphasizes tragedy's darker aspect. While his motives were noteworthy, his one-sided view of tragedy as joy in suffering anticipates the current culture of victimhood he otherwise deprecated. Symptomatically, the anticathartic Nietzsche leads the tragic away from tragedy.
Kalliopi Nikolopoulou; Reflections on Catharsis in an Anticathartic Age. the minnesota review 1 November 2016; 2016 (87): 76–109. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-3630856
Download citation file: