Tag Archives: Tragedy

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Self-Destruct

Since I recently wrote a post on tragedy, and am currently in the middle of writing another lesson on tragedy (Things Fall Apart), I felt it was high time to compile a list of my favorite characters who self-destruct. And this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, gave me the perfect excuse to do so. I ran out of time and didn’t quite make it to ten, but that just gives me more room to play in the future. Continue reading

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(Sort of but Not Really) Reviving the “Tragic Flaw”

Being (I guess) a morose kind of person, I spent a large chunk of my time in graduate school researching tragedy. I was specifically interested in the concept of gendered tragedy in George Eliot’s novels—a kind of tragedy in which the protagonist’s agency is always already radically curtailed by virtue of her sex. What would hamartia—the “error” made by the prototypical tragic protagonist—look like in such cases?

Of course, one of the first things I discovered while researching was the fact that the pop culture understanding of tragedy—and of hamartia in particular—is grossly misinformed. Most of us, I think, were told sometime in junior high that a tragic hero has a tragic flaw—some kind of moral failing that precipitates his downfall. This, as it turns out, is almost certainly not what Aristotle had in mind when he wrote the Poetics; though hamartia can refer to an error in moral judgment, it can just as easily refer to an error with no readily discernable moral dimensions. And even if we do take Aristotle to mean the former, it strikes me that this is not quite the same as a character flaw: the emphasis is on a discrete moment in time in which the character made a mistake rather than on an inherent tendency (or, at the very least, a pattern of behavior). Continue reading

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