The poetry and the pity: Hume's account of tragic pleasure

British Journal of Aesthetics 41 (4):411-424 (2001)
I defend Hume's account of tragic pleasure against various objections. I examine his account of the emotions in order to clarify his "conversion theory". I also argue that Hume does not give us a theory of tragedy as an aesthetic genre, but rather elucidates the felt experience of a particular work of tragedy. I offer a partial reading of King Lear by way of illustration. Finally, I suggest that the experiences of aesthetic pleasure, and aesthetic sadness, share certain qualities. "Tragic pleasure" is possible, in part, because the pity of tragedy is realised through the pleasure of the aesthetic.
Keywords Tragedy  Hume  Aesthetics  Philosophy of Literature
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