The Case of Wagner

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The Case of Wagner (German: Der Fall Wagner) is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1888. Subtitled "A Musician's Problem", it has also been known as The Wagner Case in English.

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The book is a critique of Richard Wagner and the announcement of Nietzsche's rupture with the German artist, who had involved himself too much, in Nietzsche's eyes, in the Völkisch movement and antisemitism. His music is no longer represented as a possible "philosophical affect," and Wagner is ironically compared to Georges Bizet. However, Wagner is presented by Nietzsche as only a particular symptom of a broader "disease" which is affecting Europe, that is nihilism. The book shows Nietzsche as a capable music-critic, and provides the setting for some of his further reflections on the nature of art and on its relationship to the future health of humanity.

This work is in sharp contrast with the second part of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, wherein he praised Wagner as fulfilling a need in music to go beyond the analytic and dispassionate understanding of music. Nietzsche also praised Wagner effusively in his essay 'Wagner at Bayreuth' (part of the Untimely Meditations), but his disillusion with Wagner the composer and the man was first seen in his 1878 work Human, All Too Human. One of the last works that Nietzsche wrote returned to the critical theme of The Case of Wagner. In Nietzsche contra Wagner, Nietzsche pulled together excerpts from his works to show that he consistently had the same thoughts about music, only that he had misapplied them to Wagner in the earliest works.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Andreas Urs Sommer: Kommentar zu Nietzsches Der Fall Wagner. Götzendämmerung (= Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.): Historischer und kritischer Kommentar zu Friedrich Nietzsches Werken, vol. 6/1). XVII + 698 pages. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter 2012 (ISBN 978-3-11-028683-0).
  • James Kennaway: Psychiatric Philosophy in Nietzsche’s „Der Fall Wagner“ and „Nietzsche Contra Wagner“, in: New German Review. A Journal of Germanic Studies 20 (2004/05), pp. 84–95.

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