The Problem with the Problem of Tragedy: Schopenhauer's Solution Revisited

British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (1):17-32 (2012)

Authors
Sandra Shapshay
Hunter College (CUNY)
Abstract
If one holds that an engagement with tragedy is to some extent pleasurable, then one ought to recognize two distinct problems of tragedy. First, given the grim subject matter, what is the source of the pleasure in engaging with works of this genre? Second, is there some sort of affective irrationality involved in the experience? In this paper I reconsider Schopenhauer's theory of tragedy and offer a fuller reconstruction of his complex solution to these problems than has hitherto been given by commentators. Next, I draw out Schopenhauer's distinctive contribution to thinking about these problems, in contrast to contemporary, more univocal solutions. Finally, I argue that the strength of Schopenhauer's complex solution lies in its recognition that our serious engagement with tragedy is a cognitively rich oscillation between feelings of humility and pride
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayr051
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