Thursday, 13 March 2008

Death of tragedy

Let’s say tragedy is about death; so that we might ask ourselves … what dies? Which is to say: what can die? The first answer to come to mind, of course, is—people. And it is the death of people that most often informs tragic drama. But other things can die too: hope, for instance. A marriage can die. A community can die. Then again: does it seem odd to you that we never use that idiom to describe recovery? ‘My depression died, I am happy to say.’ ‘My cancer died, leaving me healthy again.’ Why not?

The death of tragedy? But tragedy is about ends; and the greatest of endings has marked our time, the end of history. The end of history has been a contested concept of course, denied by many, but we might say: perhaps history does not end as Fukayama originally imagined, elevated in the broad, sunlit uplands of continually ameliorating liberal-capitalism. Maybe it ends in war; and being out of history means finding ourselves in an endless, illdefined war against ‘terror’—the war against fear, the war against otherness. Tragedy is the art of that state of existence. The twenty-first century is the era of a new dawn of tragedy as a mode of art. The rebirth of tragedy.

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