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Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning

Olga Taxidou


This powerful reinterpretation of Greek tragedy focuses on the performative - the physical and civic - dimension of tragedy. It challenges the idealist, humanist, and universalist approaches that have informed our most cherished philosophical, psychoanalytical, and modern interpretations of Greek tragedy and, in doing so, asks us to renew our relation to these works and to our literary and philosophical inheritance.

The book reassesses tragic form in relation to Athenian democracy and links it with a performative discourse that both excludes the feminine and relies on civic and private forms of mourning. At the same time, it explores the centrality of tragedy for thinkers of Modernity such as Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Hegel, Freud, Brecht and Benjamin. Through a persuasive analysis of both classical theorists - Plato and Aristotle - and modern theorists - Benjamin, Lacan, Kristeva, Derrida and Butler - the book significantly shifts the emphasis from a Sophoclean model of tragedy to a Euripidean one. Close readings of the performance aspects of Greek play-texts help illuminate these ideas.


  • Compelling new interpretation of Greek tragedy
  • Performance based
  • Attentive to issues of gender


1.The Allure of Antigone or Antigone and the Philosophers
2. Oedipus/Anti-Oedipus: the Philosopher, the Actor and the Patient
3.Trauerspiel, Tragedy and Epic
4. Euripides and Aristotle: Friends in Mourning
5. The Heroism of Hercules and the Beauty of Helen
6. Mourning and Tragic Form
7. Brecht, Beckett, Müller: Modern Tragedy and Engagement.

About the Author

Olga Taxidou is Professor of Drama at the University of Edinburgh. She is author of The Mask: A Periodical Performance by Edward Gordon Craig (Routledge, 1998) and of Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) and co-editor of Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (Edinburgh University Press, 1998) and of Post-War Cinema and Modernism: A Film Reader (Edinburgh University Press, 2000).


Much of what is so impressive in Taxidou’s argument has to do with the ways in which, through a series of meticulously close readings of Athenian tragedy, she revises our understanding of these plays but also our understanding of the modernist project in all its contradictions.
- Eduardo Cadava
The most persuasive and far-reaching alternative approach to Greek tragedy that we have.
- Liana Theodoratou
The book’s central arguments are for an understanding of Greek tragedy as a structure of performance linked to mourning and the feminine, and deeply shaped by tensions in the homosocial structure of Greek thought with its dependence on the repression of a 'monstrous' feminine…Taxidou engages deeply with psychoanalysis and brings a consistently challenging feminist perspective to philosophical debates.
- John Frow
'Taxidou has written an exceptionally challenging and thought-provoking book. Her scope is extensive, questioning the very meaning of tragedy itself…T[axidou]'s exciting new readings provide an excellent basis for scholars to further exploit this interesting research area