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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 27, 1998

Philosophy of Culture

Jacqueline Scott
Pages 91-96

Nietzsche’s Portraiture
Wagner as Worthy Opponent

Richard Wagner always represented for Nietzsche the Germany of that time. By examining Nietzsche's relationship to Wagner throughout his writings, one is also examining Nietzsche's relationship to his culture of birth. I focus on the writings from the late period in order to clarify Nietzsche's view of his own project regarding German culture. I show that Nietzsche created a portrait of Wagner in which the composer was a worthy opponent-someone with whom he disagreed but viewed as an equal. Wagner was such an opponent because he represented the disease of decadence which plagued the culture and from which Nietzsche suffered for a time, but of which he also cured himself. In other words, Nietzsche emphasized his overcoming and revaluation of Wagner because he wanted his readers to understand it as a metaphor for his larger battle with decadence in general. The goal of this portraiture is to demonstrate on an individual level what could be done on a cultural level to revitalize culture. Through an analysis of Nietzsche's portrait of Wagner in the late period, I will claim that in order to understand Nietzsche's revaluation of decadent values in nineteenth century German culture, one must understand his relationship with the composer.

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