GABlog

May 14, 2007

Chronicle 345: Tragedy and Christianity: Minimal and Maximal Faith

Filed under: GA — ericgans @ 5:11 am

Chronicle 345, which explores the relationship between the varieties of firstness, is now available.

-eric gans

1 Comment »

  1. I find this an interesting chronicle on several counts. First, a nice justification for firstness as a necessary component of the originary hypothesis.

    Second, a more rigorous analysis of the anthropological content of the Christian revelation in terms of firstness.

    Third, Gans addresses the problem of why tragedy returns in the Renaissance, which becomes an issue when the conventional reading of the Renaissance in terms of a simple rediscovery of classical texts is rejected. Why does tragedy become necessary again? Why is medieval Christianity unable to defer adequately the popular resentment towards those in authority?

    As I understand the argument: by revealing the human identity of the sacred, Christianity has a desacralizing, democratizing force which tends to erode the sacrality of human rulers and makes possible the gradual evolution of a market economy and a bourgeois class. As Gans writes, “Christian Europe‚Äôs advance in social organization . . . would eventually generate modern bourgeois society.”

    The erosion of the medieval cosmos in turn makes possible the discovery of the “social necessity of firstness in human relations, [so that] The functioning of the social order would be increasingly less compatible with directing all resentment to the divinity as its universal mediator.” In other words, new forms of human difference emerge which are still sufficiently aristocratic in nature (the “society’s surviving ritual order”) that the resentment they inspire can be purged through tragedy. These new forms of human difference include Hobbes’ Leviathan on the one hand, and the bourgeois freed slave on the other; as I understand the reference to the freed slave, the audience itself becomes more resentful and more in need of catharsis.

    Gans doesn’t explain here why tragedy so suddenly declines after the Renaissance, but his analysis would suggest that when the divinity of the aristocracy is completely demystified, a la Hobbes, then tragedy becomes unnecessary and impossible. There is no sacred “fate” left to bring about the protagonist’s downfall, only personal and contingent reasons. The authoritative position of the artist in tragedy also becomes problematic.

    Comment by Q — May 15, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

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