On Greek Tragedy and the Kantian Sublime


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In the past ten years, criticism of Greek tragedy has begun to show the influence of structuralist and post-structuralist inquiries into the humanities. The work of Marcel Detienne, Jean-Pierre Vemant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Piero Pucci, and Charles Segal, among others, has opened new paths of approach to traditional philological problems in the plays of the fifth-century dramatists and encouraged classicists to tum their attention to the potential contributions of critical developments that have already had a major impact on other areas of literary study.1 Perhaps one of the most notable trends in. these recent discussions has been the targeting of a concept that figures prominently in twentieth-century views of Greek tragedyheroic individualism. As Segal says in his recent introduction to a collected group of essays by the late Cedric Whitman, The Heroic Paradox, there is a "major movement in contemporary criticism which seeks to replace the person with the discourse of the person and to deconstruct the individual into mental categories, strategies of representation, and linguistic forms."2 The dismantling of a humanistic model of classical tragedy, through semiological and linguistic tools, is likely to be met with skepticism or hostility by some scholars in the field, who would regard such efforts as disruptive of a central body of cherished beliefs about the great plays that have come down to us from antiquity. Nonetheless, a systematic evaluation of this model of interpretation is needed, not only because of the challenges coming from new quarters of critical thinking, but also for other important reasons.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.