Tragedy's Figures: Aesthetics, Politics, Philosophy

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Module code


Why has philosophy and critical theory been so preoccupied with tragedy? Why has tragedy as a genre been given a particular privilege and cultural weight in the West? Examining the place of tragedy in some key thinkers of the Western philosophical tradition, this module also invites us to consider why the questions with which tragedy has itself struggled remain pertinent and urgent.


This module is assessed either by:

  • 2 x Essay (3,000 words) each are 50% of overall mark each.

ALTERNATIVELY, students have the following option:

  • 1 x applied art project and 1 x 2,000 word project description (each are 50% of overall mark each).
  • Students auditing the course have the option of submitting the essay as formative work.
  • In keeping with School Policy, where a student is deemed by the Philosophy Examination Board to have failed a module due to mitigating circumstances and is therefore recorded as taking the resit as their first attempt, the Examination Board may take previous coursework into account (where considered appropriate and where it is to the students' advantage) or require outstanding coursework by submitted (where considered appropriate).

Intended learning outcomes

  • Students will become acquainted with major developments in both the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy.
  • Students will appreciate how theories covered fit into our contemporary cultural, political, and socio-economic context.
  • Students will gain an ability to critically assess key concepts, and to apply them to creative work in Philosophy and, where relevant, other fields.
  • Students will acquire enhanced skills in the reading of philosophical texts.
  • Students' capacities for critical thinking will be significantly enhanced.
  • Students will develop their skills in analysing and engaging with complex positions and arguments.

Intended learning outcomes

The aims of this module are:

  • to provide an in-depth understanding of some of the main strands in the tradition of thinking about Western tragedy.
  • to examine why tragedy has been so central to Western thought.
  • to demonstrate the practical applications of philosophical theory as a source of inspiration for creative practices.
  • to address key questions about the relationship between creative work and the critical frameworks through which that work is understood.
  • to use a wide repertoire of cultural sources to provoke and focus imaginative and creative philosophical thinking.
  • to understand contemporary developments in diverse philosophical fields, and to think the relation to philosophy's 'outside' (literature, pathos, negation, and so on).
  • to complement the extant Philosophy postgraduate programme, and postgraduate programmes across the University more broadly, including those in Humanities and at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College (DJCAD).


Professor Mark Robson


Students will attend weekly seminars of two hours in length. 

Assessments will develop and test skills in close and analysis, contextual analysis, independent research, and recall of key ideas and concepts, but also offer opportunities for creative responses.  Teaching will also stress the oral participation of students.