January 28, 2010

Giorgio Agamben, “Comedy,” in The End of the Poem: Studies in Poetics, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, (Stanford: Standford UP, 1999): 1-22.

Agamben is concerned with the shifts of paradigms in what he calls categories: here specifically, the shift in the meaning of comedy from the classical period to Dante’s era, and how that shift has affected Western thought. Two texts frame the argument that Dante has retooled the idea of comedy from his predecessors: Dante’s Comedy and his letter to Cangrande.

Agamben delves into how the Church Fathers’ reckoning of original (natural) sin and personal sin affected the worldview and notions of personhood of the mediaeval era that Dante hailed from, thus affecting how forms like tragedy and comedy could function, affecting how we today conceive of ourselves:

“From this point of view, it can even be said that the moral person-subject of the modern culture is nothing but a development of the ‘tragic’ attitude of the actor, who fully identifies with his ‘mask’”(20).

An interesting essay. Aimed at people with a good grounding in classical and mediaeval thought.


Post a Comment

<< Home