Posts Tagged ‘Friedrich Nietzsche’

What do you do with, or about, the inconvenient bits of the past, the bits that simply don’t fit with the present and its values or that create an uncomfortable tension? At least for its first two acts, Barrie Kosky’s Bayreuth production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg seems to adopt Nietzsche’s idea of critical history, holding up the past as something to be judged and overcome, and indeed presenting the past in a way that demands judgement (at the expense, as Nietzsche notes, of anything that could claim to be the ‘real’, complex and ambiguous past). What Kosky holds up for judgement, however, is not the past of late medieval Nürnberg, whose citizens (insofar as they’re supposed to be real, rather than figments of the imagination) are presented on stage as cheerful, simple, well-meaning, semi-anarchic folk, but the past represented by Richard Wagner, and the antisemitic ideas that are taken to taint his work. (more…)

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The British media and political class don’t do really Thucydides in the way that he’s a fixture of public discourse in the US (and, it seems, is now making inroads into Australia), or we might by now have seen a rush of references from those horrified by the election of Jeremy Corbyn to “hope, danger’s comforter”, the irrational exuberance of the Athenians in the Sicilian Debate, the depiction of factional in-fighting in the Corcyrean episode, or the general “history repeats itself, people being what they are, so it’ll be 1983 all over again” pessimism of his methodological statements in Book 1.* We have already had lots of more general (and non-classical) comments in a similar vein, arguing that the ‘lessons of history’, and more particularly the lessons of the 1980s, demonstrate the foolishness of abandoning the middle ground, however far rightwards it’s moved, and however much one might yearn for a bit more principle.

It isn’t that history is necessarily a conservative discipline, (more…)

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