Strategies for reading Nietzsche:

Do NOT treat this like a textbook, expecting the points to be neatly laid out for underlining. Nietzsche's style is self-consciously playful (really) and the text is structured around a simple plot-line: Zarathustra (30 years old) coming down from the mountain to share his wisdom with the masses, who are either uninterested or incapable of understanding it.

The text adapts the style of prophecy: Z. speaks in parables, metaphors, and short sound-bites (aphorisms), that are often meant to be paradoxical or ironic.

It is written for the educated (that is it was not meant for a popular audience). His Zarathustra has several recognizable models: (1) Zoroaster (the Persian wise man, who was thought by 19th-century intellectuals to have been the inventor of philosophy); (2) Jesus (note how many of the sayings of Jesus are recalled), and (3) Socrates. (If any of you have read Plato's Republic, you might recognize elements of the "Myth of the Cave".) For the reader raised in the Christian tradition and with (as would have been common) a classical education, these parallels are easily identified.

What each of these famous teachers had in common was spoken, interactive and often confrontational teaching that forced hearers to think hard to understand or decode the message.

Much in Zarathustra is structured as dialogue, which is by nature open-ended.


IN reading:
Do read the summaries for each book to get a sense of what topics are taken up.

Do read for repeating themes and ideas.

Do read for moments that anger or outrage you--in this kind of writing deliberately provoking the hearer/reader for a reaction is part of what is conceived of as a process of prodding us into self-awakening.

Do read for central metaphors--the camel, lion, child, beehive, ass.

Do notice the way scientific ideas like Darwin's evolutionary ideas or ideas about the nature and origins of the universe occur in the text.

Think about the way in which civilization is portrayed vs. nature.

Think about the way music is treated (and what kinds of music).

Three of Nietzsche's ideas are important in this book, though none is clearly defined. As you read notice how and where these ideas occur and think how you would describe them: (1) The ‹bermensch, variously translated as Overman, Afterman, Superman. See if you can identify his characteristics. (2) The will to power. (3) Eternal recurrence. What recurs? How?