The overtly Nietzschean aspect of Mann's use of myth is a response to Nietzsche's elaboration of the Apollonian and Dionysian
as forces observable in art and nature.
The world alternates between Apollonian and Dionysian
moments, and the last few years have certainly been the latter: upheaval, breaking with the past.
But in his epic verse drama and later symbolist plays, there seems to be an obvious tension between what one might call Apollonian and Dionysian
elements that deserves exploration even if a certain critical tact may be needed.
In Nietzsche's view, if the Apollonian and Dionysian
tendencies are not properly related to one another, then the individual becomes "egoistic" and "unartistic." Such a subject--i.e., the striving individual bent on furthering his own egoistic purposes--can be thought of "only as an enemy to art, never as its source." Indeed, it should be stressed here that, contrary to what is often assumed about Nietzsche, genuinely artistic creation is always a selfless or "egoless" activity.
Its very affirmation is accomplished by the ultimate reconciliation of the beautiful and sublime within the ideas of the Apollonian and Dionysian
, through which Nietzsche aims to bring together the aesthetic and the ethical with the affirmation of tragic essence of human nature through his concept of amor fati (109).
Even though Nietzsche was writing specifically about Ancient Greek tragedy in The Birth of Tragedy, if there is any psychological truth to his distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian
, the human experiences that he describes should apply to all humans, including prehistoric humans.
At the time, Nietzsche was a professor of classical philology (the study of language in written historical sources); in The Birth of Tragedy, he contemplated the Apollonian and Dionysian
elements of classical Athenian tragedy, viewing ancient plays as an art form that rose above the fundamental hopelessness, meaninglessness, and nihilism that surrounds life.
So, for example, Schiller's notions of the naive and sentimental transform seamlessly into Nietzsche's theory of the Apollonian and Dionysian
Although tragedy had been destroyed by the later Greek attempts to eliminate the Dionysian element-giving rise to the "Socratic" (theoretical, rationalist, scientific) culture that still dominated Europe-Nietzsche hoped for a "rebirth of tragedy" through a realliance of Apollonian and Dionysian
Nietzsche's aesthetic philosophy centers on the Apollonian and Dionysian
"art-worlds" (Tragedy 77) that comprise Greek tragedy as well as the "all-powerful artistic drives in nature" that dictate human instinct (25).
As prelude to examination of Wolfe's, Gorsline's, and Harris's interaction with Apollonian and Dionysian
aesthetics, it is fruitful to consider how these tendencies operated in Modernism more broadly.
The first panel is Nietzsche's more familiar account of the Apollonian and Dionysian
forces as they manifest themselves in ancient Greece before being repressed by the third, Socratic, force (BT [section][section]1-13).