Untimely aesthetics : a critical comparison of Schiller's Ästhetische Briefe and Nietzsche's Die Geburt der Tragödie
The thesis is two-fold. First, that Nietzsche's early writings owe more to Schiller than he subsequently wished to admit. This is demonstrated by evidence from Die Geburt der Tragödie and the Nachlass notes of the same period. Second, that there are tangible parallels of content and intent between Schiller's Ästhetische Briefe and Nietzsche's Die Geburt der Tragödie. The thesis is not an 'influence study', although the issue is addressed. By examining his hitherto neglected attitude to Schiller, this study sheds light on Nietzsche's tactics when dealing with men and their ideas in his writings. This, however, is not the main point of the thesis, which is to analyse the connections between the two texts. The essential point of comparison is that Die Geburt der Tragödie and the Ästhetische Briefe both set out aesthetic prescriptions for a diseased culture. Certain kinds of art are deemed capable, by virtue of their timeless and incorruptible properties, of reforming the human psyche, and by extension of promoting cultural integrity and vitality. After analysing Nietzsche's attitude to Schiller, particularly in connection with the argument of Die Geburt der Tragödie, the thesis compares the strategies adopted in the two texts: both present triadic schemes of historical development, in which the Greek experience is regarded as crucial; their aesthetic 'reform programmes' are predicated on psycho-metaphysical pictures of human nature; and both texts reject attempts to cure human ills by political means. The thesis is an attempt to articulate, compare, and criticise the respective projects and to see in what sense(s) they were untimely. Both projects were untimely, in the sense that they were deliberately out of step with their times. In each case, the alleged remedial properties of art themselves are characterised as untimely. They are borrowed from another time, or are said to be out of time altogether. The thesis concludes that the two texts, although outstanding contributions to aesthetic theory, were inappropriate (untimely) attempts to tackle larger problems.