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Introduction: The Urgency of Tragedy Now

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Tragedy—the word conjures up a multitude of associations, some clichéd. By calling something a tragedy, whether a literary work or an event in a person's or a society's experience, one may suggest suffering and trauma but also grandeur and endurance and nobility. A tragedy is something horrible and yet, paradoxically, edifying. For those who are morally inclined, it demonstrates the punishment that befalls the proud or the flawed; for those more fatalistic, it suggests humanity's unmerited but inevitable suffering in an indifferent universe. To some people, certainly, tragedy as a literary genre is old and boring, loved by the Greeks but of little relevance now.

Special Topic: Tragedy Coordinated by Helene P. Foley and Jean E. Howard
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2014

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