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Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us

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Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us by Simon Critchley
Hardcover $26.95
Apr 16, 2019 | ISBN 9781524747947

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“A valuable corrective . . . in [a] brash, freewheeling style. . . . Lively. . . . Critchley’s inquiry offers many surprises, but most unexpected is his interest in the Greek sophists.” —James Romm, The New York Review of Books

“Frank, personal readings of hallowed plots, including Euripides’ Trojan Women and Aeschylus’ Oresteia. . . . Pay attention and you can reinvent your life.” —The New Yorker

“A striking portrayal of Greek tragedy. . . . A well-pitched and paced primer, which is fun to read” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“A thrill . . . riveting. . . . A rather intoxicating dance with words, ideas, texts, the vortex of the life of the mind in the world, and perhaps beyond it. Critchley is an authoritative reader, and, though not a classicist, he proves an erudite, scholarly guide through layers of myth, reason, history and their interpretation, and overall a truly beguiling one . . .  Often reminiscent of Arendt, Adorno or even Levinas, verbally affluent, muscular and provocative . . . He is a particularly gifted wordsmith, an astute orator, a shrewd and learned disputant. Those who encounter tragedy for the first time on the pages of his book will not fail to be bewitched.” Bookanista

“Stirring. . . . Refreshing. . . . Irreverent. . . . Critchley writes with laudable directness and erudition” NPR

“Substantial introductory material on tragedy and ancient philosophy; it is energetic, engaging and thought-provoking without too much abstraction and with just enough detail to add flavor. . . . It has something of the chatty vigor of a successful seminar discussion. . . . Infectiously enthusiastic. . . . Genuinely invigorating.” New Statesman

“Critchley finds a perspective on tragedy open to its revelatory and transformative power. Readers feel that power as they probe the dazzling words and tempestuous emotions in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and—above all—Euripides. . . . Postmodern philosophy collides with ancient drama, generating the heat of passion, the sparks of illumination.” —Booklist [starred]

“[An] intelligent, rigorous book. Dedicated readers will have the sense of being at a thoughtful scholar’s side as he works through an intractable intellectual problem.” —Publishers Weekly

“An erudite reconsideration of Greek tragedy. . . . For students of Greek drama, a revelatory contemplation of the theater’s enduring power. ” —Kirkus Reviews

“Combining a thorough knowledge of Attic drama, fluency with the scholarly literature, and an engaging wit, Critchley’s treatment is sophisticated yet accessible to thoughtful general readers.” —Library Journal

“Engaging and congenial . . . [Tragedy, The Greeks and Us] makes the cogent, compelling argument that we ignore Greek Tragedy at our own peril.” New York Journal of Books

Table Of Contents

Part I Introduction
1 Feeding the Ancients with Our Own Blood 3
2 Philosophy’s Tragedy and the Dangerous Perhaps 9
3 Knowing and Not Knowing: How Oedipus Brings Down Fate 12
4 Rage, Grief, and War 17
5 Gorgias: Tragedy Is a Deception That Leaves the Deceived Wiser Than the Nondeceived 21
6 Justice as Conflict (for Polytheism) 25
7 Tragedy as a Dialectical Mode of Experience 28
Part II Tragedy
8 Tragedy as Invention, or the Invention of Tragedy: Twelve Theses 33
9 A Critique of the Exotic Greeks 36
10 Discussion of Vernant and Vidal-Naquet’s Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece 41
11 Moral Ambiguity in Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes and The Suppliant Maidens 48
12 Tragedy, Travesty, and Queerness 53
13 Polyphony 57
14 The Gods! Tragedy and the Limitation of the Claims to Autonomy and Self-Sufficiency 63
15 A Critique of Moral Psychology and the Project of Psychical Integration 72
16 The Problem with Generalizing about the Tragic 75
17 Good Hegel, Bad Hegel 79
18 From Philosophy Back to Theater 84
Part III Sophistry
19 Against a Certain Style of Philosophy 91
20 An Introduction to the Sophists 93
21 Gorgiasm 98
22 The Not-Being 101
23 I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It 105
24 Helen Is Innocent 109
25 Tragedy and Sophistry—The Case of Euripides’ The Trojan Women 114
26 Rationality and Force 119
27 Plato’s Sophist 121
28 Phaedrus, a Philosophical Success 123
29 Gorgias, a Philosophical Failure 128
Part IV Plato
30 Indirection 137
31 A City in Speech 141
32 Being Dead Is Not a Terrible Thing 146
33 The Moral Economy of Mimesis 151
34 Political Forms and Demonic Excess 155
35 What Is Mimesis? 160
36 Philosophy as Affect Regulation 167
37 The Inoculation against Our Inborn Love of Poetry 171
38 The Rewards of Virtue, or What Happens When We Die 177
Part V Aristotle
39 What Is Catharsis in Aristotle? 187
40 More Devastating 193
41 Reenactment 196
42 Mimesis Apraxeos 199
43 The Birth of Tragedy (and Comedy) 201
44 Happiness and Unhappiness Consist in Action 204
45 Single or Double? 209
46 Most Tragic Euripides 213
47 Monstrosity—Or Aristotle and His Highlighter Pen 216
48 The Anomaly of Slaves and Women 220
49 Mechanical Prebuttal 223
50 The God Finds a Way to Bring About What We Do Not Imagine 227
51 Misrecognition in Euripides 229
52 Smeared Makeup 233
53 Sophocles’ Theater of Discomfort 237
54 Vulgar Acting and Epic Inferiority 241
55 Is Aristotle Really More Generous to Tragedy Than Plato? 245
56 Poetics II—Aristotle on Comedy 251
57 Tormented Incomprehensibly—Against Homeopathic Catharsis 256
58 Aristophanes Falls Asleep 260
59 Make Athens Great Again 265
Part VI Conclusion
60 Transgenerational Curse 271
61 Aliveness 278
Acknowledgments: Why This Book Was Hard to Write—and Thanks 283
Notes 287
Bibliography 301
Index 307

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