ENGL 235
Comedy/Tragedy Fall 2009
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 234 / ENGL 235
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Class Details

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole cover and die.” Critics have long sought to define comedy and tragedy against each other, yet, as Mel Brooks’ joke suggests, the relationship between the two is complicated, even disturbing. In this course we will read tragedies by Sophocles and Racine, comedies by Shakespeare and Molière, and works that do not easily fit either classification by Chekhov, Beckett and Stoppard. We will consider how in different periods the distinction between the two forms has been understood and their antithetical effects accounted for. We will discuss the essential if also problematic link between suffering and pleasure, and ask why it is that comedy persists while tragedy, at least in its classical expression, no longer seems possible. Critical readings will include Aristotle’s Poetics, Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, and Bergson’s Laughter.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1646
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four or five short essays, including at least one revision; there will also be periodic film screenings
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students, sophomores, and English majors who have yet to take a Gateway
Unit Notes: meets Gateway and Criticism requirements in English major only if registration is under ENGL
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 234 Division I ENGL 235 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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