Comparative Literature | Topics in Literary Genres Modes/Forms: The Disappearance of the Tragic
C611 | 30823 | F. Breithaupt


4 cr
Meets M 7:15-9:45 pm
Class Meets with GER-G625

Whereas the loss of quite a few literary forms and genres has been
duly noted, the large scale shift and disappearance of "the tragic"
in the past century deserves special attention. Like few other
genres, "the tragic" shaped both one of the most dominant literary
genres (tragedy) and an experience of life ("c'est une
tragedie..."). To be sure, the tragic is still accessible today,
though it's significance has greatly diminished. Why? And what are
the implications? Since the tragic is connected with a range of
elements, such as the heroic, the strong sentiment, and selfhood, we
will need to ask how these have been affected, as well.

To reach this question we will study tragedy in its heydays in
antiquity and, mainly, the literary period that begins with
Shakespeare and ends with Romanticism.

Sociologically, we may ask to which degree "the tragic" was
connected with aristocratic political regimes and war experience.
Culturally, we will question the changes of selfhood. Aesthetically,
we will wonder which form of experiences has been connected to
tragedy. Cognitively, we will examine how tragedies channeled and
thereby shaped empathy.

In particular, we will aim to gain an understanding of two central
attempts to define tragedy: Aristotle's Poetics and German Idealist
Philosophy (Holderlin, Schelling, Hegel). We will discuss a range of
tragedies by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Schiller, Kleist, Hebbel and
Hofmannsthal (the final selection will be determined by the entire
class). And we will also include recent attempts to define or
contextualize the tragic.

Participants should acquire the following longer texts:

Aristotle, Poetics

Hegel, Vorlesungen uber die Asthetik (Lectures on Aesthetics), Vol 3.

Nietzsche, Geburt der Tragodie (Birth of Tragedy)


Suggested readings include also:

Peter Szondi, Poetik der Tragodie

Vivasvan Soni, "Trials and Tragedies"

Ph. Lacoue-Labarthe, "Caesura of the Speculatif"