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Wangh, M. (1963). Psychology of Literature. A Study of Alienation and Tragedy: By Ralph I. Hallman. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1961. 262 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 32:441-442.

(1963). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:441-442

Psychology of Literature. A Study of Alienation and Tragedy: By Ralph I. Hallman. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1961. 262 pp.

Review by:
Martin Wangh

The author attempts first to establish and thereupon to elaborate the following thesis: tragedy is a literary form which presents the conflictual and 'inevitably tragic' human condition. This tragic condition is made inevitable by the fact that intelligence alienates man from his drives and prevents him from merging with the stream of life of the tribal community. Because conceptions of divinity and the cosmos are the result of drive projection, man's intelligence also alienates him from divine or cosmic unity. Intelligence, fostered by the need for provisions, sees flaws in the divine, paternal, or traditional order; it rebels and demands reforms. This produces anxiety and guilt. The tragic hero dares openly to undertake this rebellion, or is torn in his temptation to rebel, thereby acting out or ventilating what is buried in every spectator. If the hero accomplishes his task, his own new order will in turn be exposed to destruction; if he fails, he gives up his autonomy and submits to the old order. Either way, the ultimate outcome is death.

While in the Dionysian ritual, from which the classic Greek tragedies developed, death is accepted as the road to rebirth, intelligence always rebels against death. In the light of intelligence death is senseless and thus the hero's death becomes tragic. Yet the dynamics of the æsthetic experience of the play must somehow make this outcome acceptable. Basically, Hallman follows Nietzsche by contrasting the Apollonian with the Dionysian, and Freud by setting Eros against Thanatos in his explanation of the sources of conflict in tragedy.

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