Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism

Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism

Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism

Tragedy: Modern Essays in Criticism

Excerpt

The study of tragedy has broadened and deepened ever since Nietzsche. For the last twenty-five or thirty years, it has attempted not only revaluations of the tragic drama and theatre, but also probings into and prescriptions for the underlying ethos and "classic form" of the thing itself.

Secondly, presumptions about tragedy, and the word "tragic," keep cropping up in contexts which, a generation or two ago, would not have been thought particularly receptive to these terms. Aristotle had said the last word on the Greeks, Bradley on Shakespeare, and that was that. Now, however, the terms and insights have renewed their franchise and have been found useful and stimulating in the most unexpected realms of discussion. This phenomenon is reflected in writing about the arts and sciences, politics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology: religion, theology, and philosophy: Zeitgeist and Weltanschauung. In the colleges, courses in tragedy have become the cores whence other courses radiate, drawing upon what is variously recognized as "the tragic form," "the tragic sense of life," "the spirit of tragedy," "the tragic vision."

This volume is designed to make available a representative body of modern thought on tragedy and to display the new terminology at work. The editors have chosen (with the frustrations usual to anthologizing) those essays which seem to be most serviceable or exciting, most valuable, most challenging; those not readily available elsewhere; and those which "say a new word."

The list could easily be tripled, even now. Many pieces were chosen over others quite as illuminating (and making much the same points) because they are particularly wealthy and pertinent in reference or allusion to the surrounding criticism, or because they helpfully summarize a body of thought before modifying or building on it. Some of the pressures are relieved by the existence of such collections as Nathan A. Scott's The Tragic Vision and the Christian Faith (New York, Association Press, 1957) and Cleanth Brooks' Tragic Themes in West ern Literature . . .

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