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Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr Michael Mack

Mack, Michael (2016). Contaminations of Modern Tragedy from Benjamin via Strindberg, Darwin, Nietzsche and Kafka to Beckett and Wallace. Avello 1(6).

Author(s) from Durham


Building on my recently published book Contaminations: Beyond Dialectics in Modern Literature, Science and Film, this article questions various critical approaches that assume that the modern and the tragic are mutually exclusive. The theoretical proposition of this article is that the exclusion of the tragic from the modern can be most convincingly circumvented via a theory of contaminations. As J M Bernstein has recently pointed out, philosophical systems such as Hegel dialectics attempt to marginalize the impact of the tragic on social life:

Philosophy could only begin its authorizing of a rational world by excluding tragedy, or by following the magnificent examples of Aristotle and Hegel, who saw clearly the claim of tragedy and sought to include it within philosophy’s serene rational construction of the world. But tragedy -- the slaughter-bench and human wreckage -- cannot be excluded or included because our disasters and sufferings are not external accretions to our triumphs; as Walter Benjamin puts it, “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarity

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