Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Expansion of My Thesis: Introduction.

I am finally getting around to expanding upon my little (only 81 pages) thesis that I wrote for my M.A. in English. It is entitled "Romantic Tragedy and the Redemptive Catharsis."

Since I will be quoting frequently from the original work, I thought that I might provide, for those so inclined, links to the citation information for my thesis on the left-hand sidebar of this blog, right above the Twitter button. My thesis is available online through UMI (ProQuest,) and the UMI Microform Document Number is 1446341. Or, if you'd like to peruse the printed copy, you can find it in the stacks of the Mary & John Gray Library at Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas. The call number is PN1892 .A55 2006 Copy 2.

For those readers who do not wish to consult the original document, I have provided the following summary, which should prove to be sufficient to allow the reader to easily follow discussions and possible augmentations set forth in future posts. 

Essentially, my thesis proposes the following tenets:

1. Aristotle's model of Tragedy achieves Catharsis through a process which I call Sobering Melancholy.

2. Aristotle's model of Tragedy forms the fundamental core of a larger dynamic, whose permutations allow multiple and varied methodologies for the achievement of Catharsis,  through the continuation of Aristotle's model past the expected point of conclusion, albeit through emotional processes other than those prescribed by Aristotle (i.e., processes other than Sobering Melancholy.)

3. The permutation for which my thesis proposes a structural model is a type of Tragedy that I refer to as Romantic Tragedy. Other scholarly works before mine have used this term to describe elements of Aristotle's model of Tragedy which are romantic, but to my knowledge, such works still place the responsibility for Cathartic achievement within the realm of melancholy. My use of the term also describes romantic elements within Aristotle's model, but the point of deviation is this: If the playwright allows these romantic elements to form the basis of Catharsis, rather than relying upon melancholy, a different, yet equally fulfilling Catharsis becomes possible.

4. The emotional process through which my version of Romantic Tragedy achieves Catharsis is called Joyful Satisfaction.

5. In the model prescribed by Aristotle, Tragedy is composed of a beginning (a), a rise of action (b), a perepeteia or turning point (c), a decline of action (d), and lastly, a tragic fall (e).

6. In the model proposed by my thesis, Romantic Tragedy is composed of a beginning, a rise of action, a primary perepeteia which is characterized by a grievous mistake or error in judgment, a decline of action, a secondary perepeteia which is characterized by the occurrence of one or more tragic events which are the direct result of the primary perepeteia (e), a redemptive rise of action characterized by actions of atonement (f), and lastly, a conclusion which results in Joyful Satisfaction, through the partial (never complete!) redemption of the tragic hero (g).

7. Romantic Tragedy is not Comedy, because it does not reverse nor prevent the fall of the tragic hero; the grievous error of the primary perepeteia and the tragic event(s) of the secondary perepeteia still carry their full weight and consequence, but instead of a complete fall, the nobility of the tragic hero allows him to perform some action of atonement, which results in his partial redemption.

8. The most common genre for the occurrence of Romantic Tragedy among modern dramatic forms is that of the American "Western" film.

The definition that my thesis uses as its "official" definition of Tragedy is a combination of two translations. The translations used are those of S.H. Butcher, and Malcolm Heath. The result is the following "hybrid" definition:

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of its species separated into different parts [of the play]; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through [the experiencing of] pity and fear the proper purification of these emotions.

In the posts that follow this one, I will be consulting other scholarly resources on both Tragedy and Romanticism. I will also be applying my methodology to various films, showing the Tragic structure and Cathartic process as it unfolds in each film.

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