When you are trying to articulate how your example is tragic, and you are trying to draw comparisons with the plays, do not try to twist your articulation of tragedy to fit the plays, or vice versa. If indeed you find that our contemporary idea of tragedy is different than the one Aristotle championed, or different than what we find in The Oresteia, Everyman, or Matsukaze, then it’s your job to articulate those differences, and try to account for them. There must be some similarity to traditional dramatic definitions of tragedy, of course, for the term ‘tragedy’ to mean anything stable at all, but you can trace the variations in your Think Tank.
Following up on what I said in class, here are the instructions for the next Thinktank. Your task is essentially the same as last time, but the topic has changed.
This Thinktank is on Tragedy in Contemporary Society
1. Choose an example from contemporary society (the last ten years) of something that can be considered ‘tragic’. As with the Spears example, not everyone has to agree it is tragic, but it is your job to demonstrate how it can be read this way.
2. Include the example in your submission: if it is on paper (cartoon, article, written joke, etc) you can attach it; if it is online, please provide the title and URL.
3. Write a very short essay (500 words) that includes the following things:
a. An analysis of how this example draws on one or more of our understandings of tragedy. You can draw on the theories of Aristotle, Hegel and Nietzche, and on the concepts of character, plot, and audience effect that we have discussed as characteristic to tragedy. Death is one of the elements that permeates our understandings of tragedy, so it might be useful to consider death when choosing your example.
b. An analysis of the specific mechanisms through which this example appeals to our tragic sensibility: How is the example directed at the audience? How is it framed to draw on our emotions? How does tap into societal fears about death or loss? Does it aim to deliver any kind of moral message, and if so, how does it go about delivering this message?
c. Compare your example to specific examples from one or more of The Oresteia, Everyman, and Matsukaze. Draw parallels and contrasts where you can. What does your example add to our understanding of tragedy, and what does it say about contemporary society’s ways of processing loss?
You will submit this paper in class on Oct 22. You will also share your example in small groups on that day, so do your best to bring the materials necessary (e.g. laptop) to share the example as quickly as possible, and plan out a few points that you will share from your paper (so that you don’t have to read the whole thing out loud!). *Please keep your own presentation under 6 minutes total, so that we can all keep on track.
From The Poetics
“Tragedy is a representation of a serious, complete action which has magnitude, in embellished speech, with each of its elements [used] separately in the [various] parts [of the play]; [represented] by people acting and not by narration; accomplishing by means of pity and terror the catharsis of such emotions”