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Postmodern Tragedy, Contingency, and Culpability

Larry D. Bouchard

Oklahoma City bombing memorial by Daniel Mayer; Wikimedia Commons.

How does tragedy work in a postmodern world?

Is the postmodern post-tragic? The question is both about our times and about our terms. It is not a new question, having been posed often since World War II and probably since Nietzsche, depending on when one thinks modernity began to end.

When the question is posed seriously—when it asks whether witnesses to suffering and evil in our days are in continuity with other pasts and futures—then the question may help us respond to some of the fragments of art and testimony we encounter. The question simply asks whether “tragedy” and “the tragic” will continue to be resources for understanding and critical explanation.

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