Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (9):0191453713490716 (2013)

This article explores the ways in which Nietzsche’s conception of subjectivity, as rehearsed in The Birth of Tragedy, draws close to other modern models of split subjectivity as described by Hegel, Freud, or Althusser. Although the subjectivity depicted by Nietzsche is constituted in the tension between reaffirming and dissolving its boundaries, and this tension may seem to put the possibility of identity at risk, in effect individuation and dissolution function as symmetrical contraries. Rather than disrupting the boundaries of reason, the Dionysian contributes to Apollonian equilibrium by temporarily destroying Apollonian rigidity, so that the polis can periodically overcome limitations, assimilate its others and gather new strength. Identity is thus seemingly reinforced through the controlled illusion of its shattering: it is protected from the irruption of real otherness. Unlike Nietzsche’s dialectical dramaturgy, Greek tragedy depicts an incipient rationality wounded by contradictions, institutionalizing conflict. Because of the ambiguity of the Greek tragic world, the fissures of its organizing powers and the ambivalent agency of tragic subjects, a parallel between Attic tragedy and modern subjectivity may illuminate the latter
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DOI 10.1177/0191453713490716
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