Tragedy and Philosophy around 1800
This introductory chapter provides an overview of tragedy. Tragedy is the most philosophical of art forms. However, tragedy has not always been philosophical in the same way. Around 1800, tragedy's way of meaning underwent a major shift, with broad consequences for thought on literature and philosophy. Through the eighteenth century, tragedy had been considered primarily in rhetorical terms as a way of producing a certain emotional effect, but since 1800 it has more often been considered in speculative terms as a way of making sense of the human world. It is only since around 1800 that works of art have been considered in such philosophical and often metaphysical terms. Greek tragedy played a leading role in this development, as the foundation for elaborating a concept of “the tragic” that extended far beyond an aesthetic context, encompassing history, politics, religion, and ontology.
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