Tragediens skjebne i romanens tidsalder: Tradisjonssonderinger i lys av Thomas Hardy og William Faulkner
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The aim of this dissertation is to address and tentatively answer two interrelated questions, namely “what is a tragedy?” and “how can a novel be tragic?” In order to make the endeavor as concrete as possible, I shall center the discussion around two – presumably tragic – novels: Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!
In the course of my investigation, I shall try to find viable ways to question George Steiner’s claim, put forward in his seminal book The Death of Tragedy; that genuine tragedies are not – and cannot be – imagined nor written anymore. My motivation for doing so is the conspicuous discrepancy between Steiner’s thesis and the empirical fact that the word “tragedy” (and terms pertaining to it) is commonly employed in descriptions of modern literature. There are numerous examples of tragic status being bestowed not only upon Greek and Shakespearean dramas, but on novels also. Consequently, if Steiner is right, there must be something wrong with current usage of the venerable word. Can this conceptual problem be overcome? This study is a contribution to that end.
As my initial questions concern reading of literary texts, I shall apply and test the insights of the conceptual discussion in practical literary criticism. This dissertation is, thus, first and foremost, an interpretation of two canonical novels within the framework of a tragic tradition.