Modern Literature and the Tragic by K. M. Newton

By K. M. Newton

This booklet explores glossy literature's responses to the tragic. It examines writers from the latter half the 19th century via to the later 20th century who reply to principles approximately tragedy. even if Ibsen has been accused of being chargeable for the 'death of tragedy', Ken Newton argues that Ibsen in its place generates an anti-tragic viewpoint that had an incredible impression on dramatists comparable to Shaw and Brecht. against this, writers comparable to Hardy and Conrad, stimulated by way of Schopenhauerean pessimism and Darwinism, try and modernise the idea that of the tragic. Nietzsche's revisionist interpretation of the tragic motivated writers who both take pessimism or the 'Dionysian' dedication to existence to an severe, as in Strindberg and D. H. Lawrence. diversified perspectives emerge within the interval following the second one international battle with the 'Theatre of the Absurd' and postmodern anti-foundationalism.

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For Bluntschli as for Sergius it would be absurd to die in a tragic manner given the nature of the world that is opposed to the self. As a romantic, Bluntschli cannot help possessing ideals, but the value of an ideal for him is that it can be brought into an active confrontation with the world and bring about change, though the ideal may be sullied in the process. Sergius, in contrast, holds ideals passively and gives them up in despair when, like love, they are vulnerable to other forces in the world, such as human changeableness.

He finds a new role for the self that allows him to be master of the situation; his new self acts to change the object and thus alters the relation between subject and object so that the subject achieves mastery over it. At the end of the play, Dudgeon realises that he might have chosen to act as Anderson has done: ‘if I had been any good, I should have done for you what you did for me, instead of making a vain sacrifice’ (249). As mentioned in the Introduction, it has been argued that fundamental to the tragic is an irreconcilability that is ‘unmendable’,24 but Shaw is deeply antagonistic to such a concept which he sees as static and defeatist.

Accordingly in tragedy both protagonist and antagonist are doomed to perish . . It is from this idea that Saint Joan derives its magnitude. ’ Shaw could resolve this problem only, claims Valency, by using de Stogumber to point out the horror of Joan’s death, an ineffective conclusion in tragic terms: ‘Thus Saint Joan, after skirting with circumspection the borders of tragedy, plunges suddenly into melodrama. Shaw could hardly stop there. ’12 What this shows is that Saint Joan is unconvincingly interpreted as a Hegelian tragedy.

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