Suffering in tragedy: an exploration guided by Berdyaev

Runswick, Adrian Lester (2009) Suffering in tragedy: an exploration guided by Berdyaev. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis document] PDF (Thesis document) - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



Although most literary critics tacitly acknowledge that suffering is the ground of all tragedy, I have not seen a satisfactory examination of this idea's implications. My aim, while not challenging that basic assumption, is to explore whether a reasonably systematic questioning of the implications can help our understanding and appreciation of tragedy and, more importantly, of individual tragedies.
I have found most help in philosophical writings, not so much by those who have written directly about literary tragedy as by those who have written with illumination about suffering in life. Amongst them I have found the greatest help from the Russian Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948), whose books deal with the varying causes of the suffering entailed in
the human condition, the possible responses of the sufferer and the possible effects of those responses. The thesis is an attempt to find whether his various approaches to and comments on life's suffering can be transferred to and illuminate literary tragedy. I begin by examining those aspects of Berdyaev's philosophy that seem most likely to achieve such illumination and then, chapter by chapter, to discover whether one particular aspect of his philosophy (cause, response, or effect) can cast light on a particular tragedy or sometimes a group of tragedies, the aim being always to concentrate on
individual tragedies, so seeking depth rather than breadth. In two senses the entire thesis can be claimed to be original, in that no critic has made an adequate attempt to analyze suffering in tragedy, nor has anyone applied Berdyaev's philosophy of life's suffering to literature. In addition I would claim that some of the resulting interpretations of individual tragedies make a contribution to critical discussion. Lastly, it may be thought that the examination of the reader/audience tragic response that features throughout and forms the basis of the Conclusion provides a distinctive focus for the thesis and can inform future debate.

Repository Staff Only: item control page