THE FUNCTION OF TRAGEDY
I will address the thematic frame of this panel  by briefly discussing some ideas concerning the function of tragedy as genre and of the “tragic” as a conceptual constellation that exists independently of the genre with which it shares a name. I will do so by drawing a comparison between Aristotle’s discussion of tragedy in the Poetics and the one drama the Stagirite marked out as “kalliste tragoedia”, the most beautiful, the best of all tragedies – Sophocles’ King Oedipus. I argue that the discrepancies between the Sophoclean text and my implicit reading of the Poetics suggest that tragedy and the tragic address problems otherwise treated in contemporaneous discourses as part of the religious sphere, but do so in a decidedly non-religious, that is to say aesthetic way.
Joachim Küpper is Professor of Comparative Literature and of Romance Literatures at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. In addition, he serves as the director of the Dahlem Humanities Center. He has published on a wide range of texts from Classical antiquity to the 20th century. In addition, his research focuses on literary theory and aesthetics. Currently, he is working on a book manuscript which discusses the principles of cultural exchange (European Research Council [ERC] Advanced grant).