Aby Warburg, lecturing at Hamburg University in the winter of 1927, concluded his reflections on the Nachleben der Antike, the “afterlife of Antiquity,” by comparing two “types of ancient prophet,” Burckhardt and Nietzsche. Both, Warburg said, had been “receivers of mnemonic waves.” Their receptivity to other times and places had resembled that of “sensitive seismographs, which shake in their foundations when they have to receive and transmit the waves.”

There had been, though, a “huge difference” between Burckhardt and Nietzsche. Both had recognized what Warburg called “the violent passions of humans,” and both had “suffered” the “most extreme oscillations” from that recognition. But Burckhardt had “never fully and unhesitatingly affirmed” the suffering or the oscillations....

 

New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now