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Marina Berzins McCoy

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672783

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672783.001.0001

Tragedy, Katharsis, and Community in Aristotle’s Poetics

(p.168) (p.169) 7 Tragedy, Katharsis, and Community in Aristotle’s Poetics
Wounded Heroes

Marina Berzins McCoy

Oxford University Press

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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