Skip to main content

PH968 Tragedy

Tutor: Professor Stephen Houlgate
Spring Term: Monday 11-1



In this module we will examine three of the most important philosophical theories of tragedy: those of Aristotle in the Poetics, Hegel in the Lectures of Aesthetics and Nieetzsche in The Birth of Tragedy. These theories will be discussed in conjunction with a selection of tragic dramas, including Sophocles' Antigone and Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Attention will be paid to differences between Aristotle, Hegel and Nietzsche concerning the philosophical understanding of tragedy and the 'tragic': is tragedy engendered by particular human and divine actions, or is it built into the fabric of being itself? We will also consider to what extent philosophical theories of tragedy help us better understand specific tragic dramas.