Tragedy in Literature OpenCourseWare: A Free Undergraduate Literature Course by MIT

Published Feb 07, 2009

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Explore the relationship between literary and human tragedy in this free course from MIT. In 'Tragedy,' students analyze prominent themes of tragedy in literature and life through readings of major literary works, such as Aeschylus's 'The Oresteia' and F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.' This undergraduate-level OpenCourseWare is recommended to students looking to study Literature, History or Philosophy.

Tragedy: Course Specifics

Degree Level Free Audio Video Downloads
Undergraduate Yes No No Yes

Lectures/Notes Study Materials Tests/Quizzes
Yes Yes No

Tragedy: Course Description

In MIT's 'Tragedy' OpenCourseWare, Professor Alvin Kibel suggests that tragedy has a unique dual relationship with life and the literary arts, framing a particular world view. Through selected readings that explore tragedies from ancient warfare to modern concentration camps, students analyze three prominent archetypes from literary tragedies that inform our relationship with tragic experience. These archetypes include the scapegoat, a protagonist who is martyred in the commission of a heroic deed, and the tragic subject confronted with an ethical dilemma that is complicated by conflicting values and authority. Students will examine these tropes in a broad survey of tragic literature, including plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Shakespeare. Other works studied include Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Albert Camus's The Stranger. Further context is provided through the literary theory and philosophy of Aristotle and Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as a suggested viewing of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather.

Readings and paper assignments are available for download on the course website, in addition to a collection of notes and questions to help guide your reading of the texts. To learn more, visit the tragedy in life and literature course page.

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