Tragedy, Katharsis, and Community in Aristotle’s Poetics
This chapter turns to Aristotle’s discussion of tragedy and narrative in the Poetics. It examines how the public, performed aspect of tragedy and witnessing tragedy as a political community are significant for the body politic. One political function of tragedy is to enable a community to become more responsive to the vulnerable in their own midst. This chapter also provides an interpretation of Aristotle’s notion of katharsis that argues for catharsis as a form of ‘rebalancing’, not only of an individual soul, but also of the community at large. Stepping beyond Aristotle himself, the chapter argues that tragedy can enlarge a community’s vision of its own identity and the realities of its own citizens, including vulnerable citizens. Tragedy and other forms of narrative thus possess not only an aesthetic but also a political and philosophical function.
Keywords: aristotle, catharsis, katharsis, purgation, poetics, tragedy, narrative, pity, fear, reversal, imagination, practical reasoning, greek medicine, health, polis, theatre, performance, character, community
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