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The Stories We Tell: A Comparison of How Attic and American Tragedy Have Shaped Cultural Narratives

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The purpose of this paper is to explore what can broadly be described as the "American cultural narrative" by investigating and analyzing a particular element of American culture, the tragic play. In this paper, fifth-century Athenian and twentieth-century American tragedies

The purpose of this paper is to explore what can broadly be described as the "American cultural narrative" by investigating and analyzing a particular element of American culture, the tragic play. In this paper, fifth-century Athenian and twentieth-century American tragedies are placed side by side, investigated, and analyzed with the hope of discovering aspects of the genre that are unique to American playwrights and might teach us something about the way in which we, as Americans, are separated culturally from others. The paper begins by analyzing the nature of the tragic genre before detailing how it has played a similar role here in the United States as it played in fifth-century Athens. Then, by analyzing primary texts, I seek to identify those unique aspects of the American form of the genre that reveal new insight into the American cultural narrative. The paper concludes by suggesting that the greatest insight that the tragic genre has to offer is that personal redemption and individualism are unique to American tragedy, suggesting that they might be unique aspects of the American cultural narrative.

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Date Created
2018-05