Tragic Method and Tragic Theology
Evil in Contemporary Drama and Religious Thought
By (author) Larry D. Bouchard
Publication date:15 September 1989
Length of book:296 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
The book moves in a nonreductive way between literary and theological criticism to show how drama and religious thought discern the experience of evil. "Tragic method" refers to how tragic art functions as inquiry; "tragic theology" refers to how drama and theology render in thematic or symbolic form certain irreducible dimensions of evil and negativity. Bouchard defines no single tragic method or any single view of evil but searches for the distinctive interplay of tragic method of theology in each dramatist.
The work opens by scrutinizing certain important interpretations of Greek tragedy. Paul Ricoeur's interpretation of "the Wicked God and the Tragic Vision" receives major focus, as does Sophocles, who as a tragedian dramatized the action of inquiry and interpretation.
Bouchard then examines Augustine's views of evil and sin, Reinhold Niebuhr's critique of the ironies of history, and Tillich's conceptions of the demonic. By interpreting tragedy in terms of sin or the effects of sin, each theologian resists implications in his own thought pointing to a less resolvable tragic theology. And yet these theologians also contribute very creative understandings of the irreducible character of evil and tragic experience.
Substantive and original readings of three playwrights are offered: Rolf Hochhuth's tragedy of vocation, The Deputy, Robert Lowell's trilogy of American historical blindness, The Old Glory, and Peter Shaffer's dreams of tragic awareness and accountability in Equus and Amadeus, revealing new permutations of the irreducibility of evil in contemporary Christian and Jewish religious thinkers who may be helpful in this task, and concludes with a description of the experience of perplexed thought, self-critical in view of tragedy's witness to irreducibility of evil.