Penn Arts & Sciences Logo


ENGL 016.301
W 3:30-6:30

Most twenty-first century readers find tragic theater alien or stuffy, even while they eagerly consume tragic stuff through television and film. This course proposes to reinvigorate the reading of tragedy for readers who want to understand it and to feel its power. The course will examine the theatrical and these historical conditions that defined tragedy in the past and examine the origins and evolution of the genre's formal qualities. We will review historical notions of the tragic hero, from Aristotle to the present, and consider how this hero has been understood to stand for his tribe, the common man, or the nation. The class will also think about the role of plot in defining tragedy, and how a tragedy differs from a catastrophe or a merely unhappy event. Finally, we will speculate on the future of tragedy as a genre. This course will not pretend to cover all the manifestations of tragic drama from the Greeks to the present: texts will include plays by Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Racine, Ibsen, and Beckett, recent films and relevant criticism and philosophy.. Assignments will include a reading journal or commonplace book, a class presentation on a film, a meeting with the instructor, and  two 5-7 pp. papers.

fulfills requirements