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Thinking with Tragedy: Ancient Genres and Their Influences

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number ELEC-GG2830
Section 001
Instructor Susanne Wofford, Laura Slatkin
Days W
Time 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level G


Same as COLIT-GA 2821 and POET-GA 2001. Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (


This course will explore the nature and influence of the Greek tragic theater in generating theatrical forms that enabled writers in later periods to dramatize tragedy’s central philosophical and theoretical questions, and to theorize drama itself. Athenian State Theater developed a dramatic form -- tragedy -- that paid its dues both to epic and to ritual, and formalized a space for exploring the complex relations of kinship, eros, gender, the polis, thought and desire. This course grounds itself in ancient Greek tragedy and pursues its afterlives and aftershocks in the early modern and modern periods, in drama, philosophy, and film. Tragedy was never without its others—its accompanying satyr play, comedy, philosophy: Euripides in particular is among the most influential explorers and exploders of the genre, and the course will take a special look at his role in shaping early modern ideas of tragedy and tragicomedy. Throughout we will attend to historical situation, rhetorical resources, genre as category, and questions of the mediation of the tragic in later periods. As a space for our own speculations about the intersections of theory and drama, the course will include readings from Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Shakespeare, Racine and Beckett, and will give some attention to modern film interpretations of works by these playwrights, including Pasolini’s Medea , Kozintsev’s King Lear , and Kurosawa’s Ran ; theoretical readings will include Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, Vernant, and Butler. The idea of “Thinking with Tragedy” is to build in a space for uncovering the exfoliations of tragedy into other genres and forms, and for speculation on the generative power of tragedy for aesthetic theory.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)