The Poetics of Affirmative Fatalism: Life, Death, and Meaning-Making in Goethe, Nietzsche, and Hesse
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The fundamental role that tragedy has played in the development of European philosophy and, by extension, psychology, has in part been due to its inextricability from an understanding of human life, facilitating its many transformations alongside major shifts in the political and social landscapes where it plays out. This dissertation draws a thread from the traditions of tragedy and German Trauerspiel through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, focusing on the legacy of the tragic as it lived on in Nietzsche's psychological philosophy and was taken up by Hermann Hesse in his literary explorations of spiritual development and the fate of the German soul. Affirmative fatalism is the conceptual name for a tendency that I observe specifically in German literature from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, finding its clearest articulations in Goethe’s Faust and Nietzsche’s amor fati, and then becoming thematized itself in Hesse’s Glasperlenspiel. This study illustrates how ultimately in Hesse’s texts the sharp distinction is drawn between affirmative fatalism in its authentic sense – a love of and dynamic engagement with fate – and the passive fatalism of authoritarianism – a prostration before a prescribed fate, the obsequiousness of which is veiled in the language and pageantry of patriotic heroism.