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The Tragic Critic After 9/11: Reading Today’s World

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Philosophers and theatre scholars often demarcate the aesthetic, literary or dramatic genre of tragedy from what we might think of tragic history. We must draw a clear dividing line, they say, between Tragedy on the stage or the page of a theoretical text and the “glib” way in which the term is bandied about by journalists to describe everyday occurrences. But what if we were to reverse this assumption and pay tragic events as much serious critical attention as we devote to fictional tragedy?

Using the hermeneutics of traditional tragedy, Jennifer Wallace aims to read global responses to crises over the last two decades, our post 9/11 era. In particular, in this talk, she will focus on two important terms from Aristotle’s Poetics: Anagnorisis (or recognition) and Hamartia (or mistake). These notions play a crucial role in understanding such contemporary concerns as drone warfare and the climate emergency but are also put under pressure by these modern developments. To what extent does the post-9/11 world push at the boundaries of tragic definition?

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