The Tragic Protest

The Tragic Protest

The Tragic Protest

The Tragic Protest

Excerpt

From the chorus of god-drunken satyrs celebrating nature's mystic revival in the green Hellenic spring-time -- to the thick blackness of arresting headlines stamped by the midnight presses: this is the long transformation of the word "tragic" through the history of the Western world. No wonder then that if someone proposes to deal with what is tragic, there is hardly any initial orientation about the trail his ideas are to follow. Will it be historical pursuit of formal growth of a genre in the literary arts? Or a nontemporal analysis of some few specific canons to rule all art? Will it be, quite differently, a psychology of misfortune, of common thirst for sensation, of the malaise in the present times? Or a flight toward some immutable values purchased only in suffering? Such treatments there have been in the hands of philosophers, historians, critics, linguists, journalists. Will "tragic" yield to an approach which does not try to emulate any of these? What way of access could this be and of what import?

On the following pages an attempt will be made to steer a definite course between two equally inviting strands, one being the territory of tragic art, the other the tragic provinces of life. That such a course should be possible, is clearly attested by the conception underlying everyday usage of the word "tragic." In this usage there may be a tie, more than derivatory, to the stage or to literature; but there need not be. And this usage surely corresponds to something, if word is any more than noise. What is a man's intent, when the word "tragic" appears on his lips? Is it no more than a reference to spectacles he may see, read about, experience, or is it of some inner concern, too? Such a question, if it can be properly put, definitely transcends the field of linguistic analysis of meaning of a particular word. It is not . . .

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