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The Tragic Imagination: The Literary Agenda

Dr. Rowan Williams

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Oxford University Press
13 October 2016
Literary theory; Classical history & classical civilisation; Religion: general; Philosophy of religion
This short but thought-provoking volume asks the question 'What is it that tragedy makes us know?'. The focus is on tragedy as a mode of representing the experience of radical suffering, pain, or loss, a mode of narrative through which we come to know certain things about ourselves and our world--about its fragility and ours. Through a mixture of historical discussion and close reading of a number of dramatic texts--from Sophocles to Sarah Kane--the book addresses a wide range of debates: how tragedy is defined, whether there is such a thing as 'absolute tragedy', various modern attempts to rework the classical heritage and the relation of comedy to tragedy. There is also a fresh discussion of whether religious--particularly Christian--discourse is inimical to the tragic, and of the necessary tension between tragic narrative and certain kinds of political as well as religious rhetoric. Rowan Williams argues that tragic drama both articulates failure and frailty and, in affirming the possibility of narrating the story of traumatic loss, refuses to settle for passivity, resignation, or despair. In this sense, it still shows the trace of its ritual and religious roots. And in challenging two-dimensional models of society, power, humanity and human knowing, it remains an intrinsic part of any fully humanist culture.
By:   Dr. Rowan Williams
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 194mm,  Width: 144mm,  Spine: 10mm
Weight:   184g
ISBN:   9780198736417
ISBN 10:   019873641X
Series:   The Literary Agenda
Pages:   176
Publication Date:   13 October 2016
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Rowan Williams is Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Reviews for The Tragic Imagination: The Literary Agenda

The Tragic Imagination proves rewarding. Williams offers intelligent - and not straighforwardly theological - readings of Madea, Antigone, King Lear, Othello, and modern plays by Sarah Kane and Edward Bond. * Clare Carlisle, Times Literary Supplement * There are insights and humane wisdom to be found on every page of Williams's study ... As Williams's incisive readings suggest, great tragedies can yield crucial moral knowledge. Preparing oneself to receive this knowledge, though, likely requires an imagination formed by other liturgies. Even then, perhaps, to watch a tragedy is to undertake a risk that promises no certain insight. * Steven Knepper, Commonweal Magazine *


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