- Klassiker Auslegen 57: Friedrich Nietzsche—Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft ed. by Christian Benne and Jutta Georg
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015. vii + 188 pp. isbn: 9783050064987. Paper, $35.00.
The importance of GS for understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy cannot be overestimated. While it can be disputed whether or not modern Nietzsche scholarship started with the revaluation of GS—as the editors claim with Giorgio Colli—the work forms an important link between the early and late writings of Nietzsche and especially Z. Klassiker Auslegen—Interpreting Classics—is a series dedicated to interpreting important works of philosophy as a whole through chapters successively discussing the individual chapters of the work. The book at hand consists of two introductions—one for the volume, another one discussing the genesis of the edition of GS—and eight chapters covering each of the preface, the “Prelude in Rhymes,” the five main chapters, and the “Songs of Prince-Free-as-a-Bird.” The volume closes with a parable by Richard Schacht, already published in Making Sense of Nietzsche (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995). The chapters are written in German, with the exception of Schacht’s parable and his chapter discussing the third book. The quality of content and the methodological approaches of the authors differ widely in this volume, as roughly half of the authors come from a background of literary theory rather than philosophy. I will focus on extracting the basic structure of the respective chapters and pointing out particularly problematic or fruitful ideas. [End Page 131]
In the introduction, the editors, Christian Benne and Jutta Georg, discuss the significance of interpreting GS as a whole. They point out that the work has widely been reduced to isolated concepts in the wake of Z and that a strong focus has been laid on the later-added fifth book. GS is introduced as Nietzsche’s first confident work, as the philosopher “Nietzsche” stages himself throughout the book and reflects on himself as a philosopher. While this has some plausibility—the idea of a performative philosophy through the adoption of fictional perspectives is especially fruitful—the authors use passages taken almost exclusively from the fifth book to support a claim that is made for GS as a whole.
In the next chapter, Sebastian Kaufmann retraces the editorial genesis of GS in three steps, mainly using Nietzsche’s letters to reconstruct the process. He first highlights Nietzsche’s development of thought, from planning a second part of D toward ultimately deciding to publish GS as an independent book. He then describes the process of publishing the “first” GS, before elaborating in greater detail on the genesis of the second edition and the late fifth book. The chapter is a nice addition to the overall collection, yet to be treated as a historical reconstruction rather than anything to do with the contents of GS.
Jutta Georg discusses the preface in light of Nietzsche’s concept of “predating” his early writings. The connection Georg wants to uncover lies between the late prefaces and Wagner’s genre of “Vorspiel,” emphasizing that Nietzsche orchestrates a rather Mediterranean overture to establish distance from the composer. This part of the chapter uses many conditional terms as well as psychological and biographical assumptions. In the following passages, she interprets the preface in connection with stylistic “instrumentation” and Mediterranean “Leitmotifs,” in some cases, quite liberally.
Christian Benne explores the content and form of the “Prelude in German Rhymes” to GS. He underlines the importance of interpreting the passage as both the first expression of Nietzsche’s “art of the preface” and as an independent work of philosophy. Benne begins the chapter with an interesting discussion of the prelude’s genre combined with an elaboration of the numerous historical and literary references employed by Nietzsche, especially concerning Goethe and Wagner. He then goes into great analytical depth with some of the verses. The chapter is of great value because Nietzsche studies has yet to take an in-depth look at the passages as a conceptual whole. Benne offers this perspective and follows the development of [End Page 132...