Wonder, Nature, and the Ends of Tragedy

A survey of commentaries on Aristotle’s Poetics over the past century reflects a long-standing assumption that pleasure, rather than understanding, is to be seen as the real aim of tragedy, despite weak textual evidence to this end. This paper seeks to rehabilitatethe role of understanding in tragedy’s effect, as Aristotle sees it, to an equal status with that of its affective counterpart. Through an analysis of the essential inducement of wonder on the part of the viewer and its connection with the organic unity of the plot—what Aristotle calls the “soul” of tragedy—I argue that the telos of tragedy in the Poetics is intended to accommodate both pleasure and incipient philosophical activity without necessarily privileging either.
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DOI 10.5840/ipq20105016
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