The Tragic Paradox

The Tragic Paradox

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How do an author's techniques establish the recurring paradox raised by the tragic genre? I have called upon the valuable arguments offered by Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and Nietzsche to help the student and lay reader understand the operation of basic literary languages. But fiction is not philosophy. My study focuses on the narrative sequence, im-ages, and rhetorical devices that embody a dilemma envisioned by prominent tragedians in both the ancient and modern worlds.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 262 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 22.86mm | 589.67g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 0739171216
  • 9780739171219

Review quote

With The Tragic Paradox, Leonard Moss succeeds admirably in demonstrating how major tragic figures in Western literature are defined not by monolithic grandeur, but by self-contradiction. Shakespeare's phrase in Coriolanus-'Strengths by strengths do fail'- encapsulates the paradox at the heart of tragedy: it is not exterior forces or inner weakness but rather the striving for greatness itself that causes the tragic protagonist to fall. In some cases it is a stubborn adherence to a model of masculinity, in others a threat to pride or position that triggers an emotional blindness. Discussing major theoreticians of tragedy (Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and Nietzsche) as well as major practitioners (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, and Milton), Moss works on both the macro and the micro level. In the first part of the book, titled 'The Narrative Language,' he shows how narrative design in tragedy carries out the paradox and in the second two parts, 'The Metaphorical Language' and 'The Rhetorical Language,' he analyzes how paradox functions on the level of figures and images. On both levels, Moss's readings illuminate a fruitful approach to the understanding of tragedy. -- Mary Anne Frese Witt, author of "The Search for Modern Tragedy: Aesthetic Fascism in Italy and France" (Cornell UP, 2001)
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About Leonard Moss

Leonard Moss attended three state universities (Oklahoma, Indiana, and California), then taught American and European literature at a fourth (SUNY at Geneseo), where he directed a program in comparative studies until his retirement. The best part of teaching, he felt, was swapping ideas with his students; he learned as much as they did from the lively give-and-take of guided discussions. As a Fulbright professor he chaired the English Department at the University of Athens in 1976-77, and taught graduate English majors at the Foreign Studies University in Beijing in 1985-87 and again in 1993-94. In Beijing he met and married, after surmounting formidable bureaucratic obstacles, Shaoping Wu, a spirited English teacher. Recalling their courtship, travels, and dealings with difficult officials, they co-authored a memoir entitled China Was Paradise, China Was Hell! They also co-authored a son, now a bio-tech craftsman in Boston. Professor Moss has written books on Arthur Miller, Joseph Conrad, literature and evolution, and tragedy and philosophy. He edited the journal of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association in Providence from 1998 to 2004. Now he lives in happy retirement with his wife in Walnut Creek, California (
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Table of contents

Introduction: The Languages of Paradox Part I: The Narrative Language Chapter 1: The Masculine Model Chapter 2: The Tragic Female Chapter 3: The Tragic Sequence Chapter 4: Shakespeare's Dangerous Companion Chapter 5: The Relevance of Hegel Part II: The Metaphorical Language Chapter 6: The Artistry of Flux Chapter 7: The Logic of Dreams Part III: The Rhetorical Language Chapter 8: Plato's Paragon Chapter 9: Milton's Potpourri Chapter 10: Shakespeare's Paradox Conclusion: The Truth of Tragedy Notes Two Checklists, 1900-2010 The Theory of Tragedy Plato and Aristotle on the Craft of Literature (Annotated)
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