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Tragic Realism and Modern Society

The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1977, 2nd expanded edition, 1989

Drawing on the analysis of modern tragedy by Raymond Williams and Erich Auerbach, and using the varied insights of Mikhail Bakhtin, Northrop Frye and Rene Girard, John Orr constructs a challenging theory of the novel in the vein of the ‘new historicism.’ He criticises anti-mimetic responses to the Real and discusses passion and community as the central structures of feeling in tragic realism, tracing their origins to Stendhal, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and discussing their contemporary eclipse in the West. Tragic realism is seen not as a function of the ‘political unconscious’ but as the literary form of the passionate political.

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