Modern tragedy in the absence of God : an analysis of Unamuno and Buero Vallejo

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Heil, Katrina Marie, 1976-

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This dissertation argues that tragedy, which appears to be dying, faces new possibilities of perseverance as a genre that stem from the doubts brought forward in Existentialism about God’s existence and the meaning of human life. Miguel de Unamuno and Antonio Buero Vallejo lend themselves particularly well to an analysis of modern tragedy. Unamuno portrays the tragic condition of man after the loss of faith in God in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida. Buero, one of the most important Spanish dramatists in the twentieth century, applies Unamuno’s philosophy to his theory of the tragedy of hope, which describes a tragic cycle between hope and doubt. In his tragedies, Buero represents tragic hope in the human struggle between necessity and free will, burdened by the difficulty of belief in what seems rationally impossible. Through an analysis of classic tragedy and Aristotle’s Poetics, I conclude that the creation of tragedy consistent with Aristotelian requirements of this genre is indeed possible today. My analysis of Del sentimiento considers Unamuno’s description of a modern tragic view that is neither too optimistic, as Steiner claimed the modern age is, nor too pessimistic. My analysis then shows the extent to which three Unamunian tragedies, La Esfinge, La venda and Fedra portray the themes of Del sentimiento while adhering to classic requirements for this genre. I then consider Buero’s theory of the tragedy of hope, which is remarkably consistent with the Poetics and heavily influenced by the Unamunian tragic sense of life. Through an analysis of two Buerian tragedies, En la ardiente oscuridad and La tejedora de sueños, I conclude that Buero more successfully portrays the tragic view described in Del sentimiento by expanding the principle arguments of Unamuno’s essay to cover a far broader range of potential objects of tragic hope as well as by showing greater skill as a dramatist. In spite of Buero’s superiority as a dramatist, however, this dissertation concludes that modern tragedy is heavily indebted to Unamuno for introducing into modern Spanish thinking a tragic view of the world that reflects the difficulty of faith in the age of reason.



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