Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy
Publisher: OSU Press
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.
With bold readings of thirteen plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, including the Oedipus cycle, the Oresteia, Medea, and Bacchae; an eclectic synthesis of Freud, Lacan, Derrida, Žižek, Deleuze, and other critical theorists; and an engagement with art, architecture, and film, Mario Telò’s Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy locates the genre’s aesthetic allure beyond catharsis in a vertiginous sense of giddy suspension, in a spiral of life and death that resists equilibrium, stabilization, and all forms of normativity. In so doing, Telò forges a new model of tragic aesthetics.