Tragedy and Comedy

A Systematic Study and a Critique of Hegel

By Mark William Roche

Subjects: Aesthetics
Series: SUNY series in Hegelian Studies
Paperback : 9780791435465, 450 pages, October 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435458, 450 pages, November 1997

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Table of contents


Abbreviations, Translations, Gender

1 Introduction

Historical Considerations in Generic Studies

Systematic Considerations in Generic Studies

Hegel and Intersubjectivity

Art and Truth

Art and History

Art and Emotions

Drama, Novel, and Film

Framework of This Study

A Note to the Reader

2 A Study of Tragedy

The Tragedy of Self-Sacrifice (1)

The Tragedy of Stubbornness (2a)

The Tragedy of Opposition (2b)

The Tragedy of Awareness (3)

The Drama of Suffering

Paratragedy or the Tragedy of Suffering

Heuristic Value and Elaboration

Schiller's "Don Carlos"

Bolt's and Joffe's "The Mission'

3 A Study of Comedy

Hegel on Comedy

The Comedy of Coincidence (1)

The Comedy of Reduction (2a)

The Comedy of Negation (2b)

The Comedy of Withdrawal (2c)

The Comedy of Intersubjectivity (3)

The Comedy of Absolute Irony and the Hermeneutics of Interpretation


Hofmannsthal's "The Difficult Man"

More Difficult Cases

4 On the Drama of Reconciliation

Tragedy, Comedy, Reconciliation

Speculative Drama

Melodrama, the Problem Play, and the Drama of Reconciliation

Neighboring Terms, Forms, and Issues

Hitchcock's "I Confess"

Contradictions in Aristotle and Hegel

Post-Hegelian Discussions of the Drama Reconciliation

Varieties of Sublation

Tragedy versus Reconciliation

5 The Dialectic of Genreā€”or: Transitions and Interrelations

Comedy as the Truth of Tragedy


Interrelations between Tragic and Comic Subgenres

6 Tragedy and Comedy Today

The Disappearance of Tragedy

Comedy, Despair, Finitude

Comedy and the Negation of Negativity

Comic Harmony and Cooperation

7 Afterword

An Invitation for Further Work

Appendix A. Tragedy

Appendix B. Comedy

Appendix C. Drama of Reconciliation


Works Cited


The first evaluation and critique of Hegel's theory of tragedy and comedy, this book also develops an original theory of both genres.


In the first evaluation and critique of Hegel's theory of tragedy and comedy in any language, Mark William Roche points out the strengths and weaknesses of Hegel's positions while developing an original theory of both genres. Along with its theoretical discussions, the book weaves together in an entertaining and provocative way commentary on an array of artworks, from Greek drama to contemporary American cinema, with a particular focus on modern European and especially German drama. What emerges from this study is not only a clearer picture of Hegel's strengths and weaknesses but an original study of tragedy and comedy that will be studied along with other modern classics such as those of Peter Szondi and Northrop Frye.

Mark William Roche is I. A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, the Reverend Edmund P. Joyce, C. S.C. Professor of German Language and Literature and Concurrent Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Roche is the author of Dynamic Stillness: Philosophical Conceptions of Ruhe in Schiller, Holderlin, Buchner, and Heine and Gottfried Benn's Static Poetry: Intellectual-Historical and Aesthetic Interpretations.


"The book displays immense learning and contains a multitude of insights, both about Hegel's theory of genres and about genre theory in general. I especially liked the author's ability to range over cinematic as well as literary examples, in encyclopaedic fashion and in a way that is both entertaining and provocative. He does full justice to the now-forgotten legacy of the nineteenth-century Hegelians, and clears up the misconception that for Hegel tragedy was the 'highest' genre, while at the same time having a great deal to say about Hegel's neglected theory of comedy. I became very enthusiastic about the book the further I read: the proof of the pudding is very much in the eating, and it is a rich feast. It is the first proper study of Hegel's theory of genres and its applicability today. " -- Martin Donougho, University of South Carolina

"Roche has a wide command of the philosophical literature related to Hegel, in English, German and other languages. In addition he shows an extremely impressive range of reference to literary works. He is thorough in his approach, balanced in his insights, and provides a good systematic framework within which to interpret Hegel and rethink the issues of tragedy and comedy. " -- William Desmond, author of Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics

"Anyone who these days not only defends the intelligibility of a genre analysis of drama in the tradition of Hegel but also offers the kind of sophisticated and highly calibrated version provided by the author is engaged in a fruitful and important enterprise. " -- Cyril O'Regan, author of The Heterodox Hegel