CLIT2102: The Tragic Imagination

6 credits| Dr. Beth Harper

A survey of European tragedy from ancient Greece to modernity encompassing key critical reflections on the genre of the tragic and its outsized role in European philosophy.  We will explore representative works of the genre from its glorious flourishing in ancient Greece (Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus), through Rome (Seneca) and into the early modern period (Racine, Shakespeare) including a brief excursus to China with the zaju drama. Together, we will interrogate the nature of tragedy. We will consider tragedy as a way to give form to and make sense of trauma and loss. We will also question whether tragedy is collective or individual and in so doing will examine the ethical and political questions it raises.  Finally, we will interrogate to what extent tragedy remains relevant today whether in prison performances of Macbeth, Syrian refugees reenacting the Trojan War on the London stage, or reimagining Oedipus the King as Peking Opera.  In addition to the plays, we will look at selections from some of the major theorists and philosophers of tragedy, as well as works of art inspired by tragic themes.

Assessment: 100% coursework.