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Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Karoline Gritzner


Peter Szondi has suggested that in the late eighteenth century a philosophy of the tragic emerged as a critical response to German Idealism, as can be noticed in philosophers such as Schelling, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche (see Szondi, An Essay on the Tragic). There is a philosophical history of understanding tragedy as a dialectical category. For Schelling, tragedy raises the fundamental question of subjective freedom and free will, and the outcome of tragedy – death - contains the paradoxical possibility of subjective autonomy and self-definition. Other German idealists, such as Hölderlin and Hegel, also articulate the tragic in terms of contradiction (antagonism between subject and object, nature and art, God and human being, the universal and the particular). This paper will engage with the ‘tragic turning within philosophy’ (see Sparks and de Beistegui, Philosophy and Tragedy) in German Idealism, before turning attention to Howard Barker’s ‘theatre of catastrophe’ which provides a challenging reworking of the concept and aesthetic form of tragedy in the modern context of late capitalist culture.

Dr Karoline Gritzner is Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at Aberystwyth University and one of the core convenors of Performance Philosophy. She has published on modern British and European drama, on eroticism and sexuality in theatre and performance, and on the relationship between continental philosophy and theatre. Most recently, she has co-edited (with Will Daddario) Adorno and Performance (Palgrave, 2014).