The Death of Tragedy

Open Road Media
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An engrossing and provocative look at the decline of tragedy in modern art

“All men are aware of tragedy in life. But tragedy as a form of drama is not universal.” So begins George Steiner’s adept analysis of the demise of classic tragedy as a dramatic depiction of heroism and suffering. In The Death of Tragedy, Steiner examines the uniqueness and importance of the Greek classical tragedy—from antiquity to the age of Jean Racine and William Shakespeare—as providing stark insight into the grief and joy of human existence. Then, delving into the works of John Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett, and many more, Steiner demonstrates how the tragic voice has greatly diminished in modern theater, and what we have lost in the process.
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About the author

George Steiner, author of dozens of books (including The Death of Tragedy, After Babel, Martin Heidegger, In Bluebeard’s Castle, My Unwritten Books, George Steiner at the New Yorker, and The Poetry of Thought), is one of the world’s foremost intellectuals. He has been professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Geneva, professor of comparative literature and fellow at the University of Oxford, and professor of poetry at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, England, where he has been an Extraordinary Fellow at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge since 1969. 
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Additional Information

Publisher
Open Road Media
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Published on
Apr 16, 2013
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781480411883
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Drama
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Paradox informs the narrative sequence, images, and rhetorical tactics contrived by skilled dramatists and novelists. Their literary languages depict not only a war between rivals but also simultaneous affirmation and negation voiced by a tragic individual. They reveal the treason, flux, and duplicity brought into play by an unrelenting drive for respect. Their patterns of speech, action, and image project a convergence of polarities, the convergence of integrity and radical change, of constancy and infidelity. A fanatical drive to fulfill a traditional code of masculine conduct produces the ironic consequence of de-forming that code—the tragic paradox.

Tragic literature exploits irony. In Athenian and Shakespearean tragedy, self-righteous male or female aristocrats instigate their own disgrace, shame, and guilt, an un-expected diminishment. They are victimized by a magnificent obsession, a fantasy of un-alloyed authority or virtue, a dream of perfect self-sufficiency or trust. The authors of tragedy revised the concept of “nobility” to reflect the strange fact that grandeur elicits its own annulment. “Strengths by strengths do fail,” Shakespeare wrote in Coriolanus.

The playwrights made this paradoxical predicament concrete with a narrative format that equates self-assertion with self-detraction, images that revolve between incredible reversals and provisional reinstatements, and speech that sounds impressively weighty but masks deception, disloyalty, cynicism, and insecurity. Three heroic philosophers, Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche, contributed invaluable but contrasting accounts of these literary languages (Aristotle's Poetics will be discussed in connection with Plato's attitude toward poetry). Their divergent descriptions can be reconciled to show that invalidations as well as affirmations—the transmission of contraries—are essential for tragic composition.

An equivocal rhetoric, a mutable imagery, and an ironic progression convey the tortuous pursuit of personal preeminence or (in later tragic works by Kafka and Strindberg) family solidarity and communal safety. I am trying to integrate the disparate arguments offered by several notable theorists with technical procedures fashioned by the Athenian dramatists and recast by Shakespeare and other writers, procedures that articulate the tragic paradox.
A landmark American drama that inspired a classic film and a Broadway revival—featuring an introduction by David Mamet

A blistering character study and an examination of the American melting pot and the judicial system that keeps it in check, Twelve Angry Men holds at its core a deeply patriotic faith in the U.S. legal system. The play centers on Juror Eight, who is at first the sole holdout in an 11-1 guilty vote. Eight sets his sights not on proving the other jurors wrong but rather on getting them to look at the situation in a clear-eyed way not affected by their personal prejudices or biases. Reginald Rose deliberately and carefully peels away the layers of artifice from the men and allows a fuller picture to form of them—and of America, at its best and worst.
 
After the critically acclaimed teleplay aired in 1954, this landmark American drama went on to become a cinematic masterpiece in 1957 starring Henry Fonda, for which Rose wrote the adaptation. More recently, Twelve Angry Men had a successful, and award-winning, run on Broadway.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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