Tragedy and Reparation

In Pedro Alexis Tabensky (ed.), The Positive Function of Evil. Palgrave-Macmillan (2009)
The Kleinian psychoanalyst Hanna Segal argues for the reparative nature of art, and especially of the genre of classical tragedy. According to Kleinian theory, healthy psychological development requires that early infantile aggressive and destructive emotions are worked through; such “working through” is necessary for the development of conscience, for feelings of empathy, as well as for cognitive development. It is also a necessary condition for creative activity. Segal examines the roots of the impulse to create by looking specifically at the genre of classical tragedy; she argues that the pleasure we derive from tragedy is non-contingently related to the distressing elements of the drama. Thus not only are the formal and aesthetic elements important for the containment of powerfully distressing emotions, but the distressing emotions themselves are a necessary ingredient of the aesthetic pleasure This paper will examine Segal’s discussion of tragedy in the light of her commitments to Kleinian theory, and it will attempt to explore more fully the contributions of difficult or painful emotions towards aesthetic pleasure.
Keywords Literature  Tragedy  Psychoanalysis
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