The Tragic Vision in Twentieth-Century Literature

The Tragic Vision in Twentieth-Century Literature

The Tragic Vision in Twentieth-Century Literature

The Tragic Vision in Twentieth-Century Literature

Excerpt

A number of critics are at present puzzled and disturbed by the fact that the modern age has given birth to no impressive examples of the tragic form, none that can compare with the achievement of the ancient Greek and Elizabethan writers. Over and over again writers have preferred the charge, as if it were a shameful lack in our culture, that ours is indeed not a tragic age. Oswald Spengler delivers a characteristic magisterial judgment in The Decline of the West. Joseph Wood Krutch, in The Modern Temper, argues cogently that the scientific revolution has reduced man to atomistic insignificance, preventing that affirmation of the greatness of the human soul which is the indispensable basis of tragedy. George Steiner , in The Death of Tragedy, insists eloquently that tragedy is dead. He even denies the possibility of the restoration of tragic drama. The assumption that it is impossible to produce tragedy in the twentieth century has become a fixed conviction.

Naturalistic in outlook, the modern drama, it is said, reflects a type of life that is characterized by industrialized regimentation and by the supremacy of the scientific philosophy that interprets man as the victim of determinism. In its fidelity to the verisimilitude of the commonplace, it presents marginal, inarticulate characters who lack the greatness of soul that marked the tragic art of the past. The reliance on the factors of heredity and environment as the determinants of fate denies them the free-

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