Margins of Genre: Walter Benjamin and the Idea of Tragedy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Although Walter Benjamin is often omitted from discussions of the concept of 'the tragic' and viewed as rigorously historicizing in his approach to tragedy, this chapter argues that his 1928 Origin of German Trauerspiel is importantly involved in thinking through the legacy of German Idealism and constructing a method of philosophical criticism. Benjamin rejects Idealism's assumption that the genre of tragedy is continuous from antiquity to modernity, and instead focuses on the philosophical significance of particular historical forms of drama. He elaborates a method of understanding genre from its margins- looking beyond both the geographical and the temporal limits of his object of investigation, and constructing a 'constellation' from points in heterogeneous times and places. This constitutes a novel approach to genre in general, and a significant challenge-as well as continuation-of the philosophical tradition of reflection on tragedy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTragedy and the Idea of Modernity
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191800672
ISBN (Print)9780198727798
StatePublished - May 21 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Baroque
  • Calderon
  • German Idealism
  • Greek tragedy
  • Shakespeare
  • Trauerspiel
  • Walter Benjamin


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