Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy
Author: Mario Telo
Do we take pleasure in reading ancient Greek tragedy despite the unsettling content or because of it? Does a safe aesthetic distance protect us from tragic suffering, or does the proximity to death tap into something more primal? Aristotle proposed catharsis, an emotional cleansing—or, in later interpretations, a sense of equilibrium—as tragedy’s outcome, and Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, grand theorists of the forces of anti-mastery in human and nonhuman existence, surprisingly agreed. Notwithstanding this deferral to Aristotle, their theorizations of the death drive—together with Jacques Derrida’s notion of the archive as a place of conservation that inevitably fails—provide the groundwork for a radically new way of understanding tragic aesthetics.