Tragedy and Philosophy
8 Lewisham Way
London SE14 6NW
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Pivotal for the history of aesthetics are the encounters between philosophy and tragedy that span from Ancient Greece to the decolonizing Caribbean. Ever since its infamous exclusion in Plato’s Republic and its theorisation in Aristotle’s Poetics, tragedy has played a number of often contrasting roles in philosophy’s own self-understanding. Tragedy has variously been conceived as an origin of philosophical (and dialectical) thought, as a limit to philosophy’s efforts at intellectual sovereignty, as well as a constant source of ethical exemplification and conceptual instruction. While conscious of the stakes of philosophy’s image of tragedy, this conference will try to expand its purview to look beyond and beneath a late-eighteenth early-nineteenth century idea of the tragic which has often come to saturate reflection on this relationship. Tragedy and Philosophy will therefore also seek to consider a variety of themes that transcend the equation between tragedy and the tragic, including: the contribution of anthropology and history to an understanding of the specificity of Greek tragedy; the place of femininity, lament and conflict in ancient Greek tragedies; the relation between music and words in tragedy, and its philosophical significance (including in tragedy’s repetition by modern opera); the early modern emergence of a poetics of tragedy irreducible to Aristotelian and Idealist or Romantic variants; tragedy as a reflection on sovereignty; tragedy as an art intimately linked to moments of crisis and transition.
The conference will alternate sessions that delve into specific tragedies and theories of tragic drama with ones that explore the place of tragedy in the work of different philosophers and philosophical schools, ranging from Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to the contemporary work of authors from Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler to Stanley Cavell, Martha Nussbaum and Édouard Glissant, while also considering the various ‘rebirths’ of tragedy in the Renaissance, early modernity, the nineteenth-century aftermath of revolutions and the interwar period in the 20th century.
Selected papers will be published as an edited collection or special journal issue.