The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre run jointly between the Departments of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths University, London


Tragedy and Philosophy

About the Seminar

CPCT’s annual research seminar meets on a bi-weekly basis and is open to centre members, graduate affiliates, and other interested staff and students at Goldsmiths and beyond. It aims to serve as a forum for philosophical work and dialogue at Goldsmiths.

This year’s seminar is dedicated to the encounters between philosophy and tragedy, spanning from Ancient Greece to the decolonizing Caribbean. Ever since its infamous exclusion in Plato’s Republic and its theorisation in Aristotle’s Poetics, tragedy has played a number of often contrasting roles in philosophy’s own self-understanding. Tragedy has variously been conceived as an origin of philosophical (and dialectical) thought, as a limit to philosophy’s efforts at intellectual sovereignty, as well as a constant source of ethical exemplification and conceptual instruction. While conscious of the stakes of philosophy’s image of tragedy, this seminar series will try to expand its purview to look beyond and beneath a late-eighteenth early-nineteenth century idea of the tragic which has often come to saturate reflection on this relationship. We will therefore also seek to consider a variety of themes that transcend the equation between tragedy and the tragic, including: the contribution of anthropology and history to an understanding of the specificity of Greek tragedy; the place of femininity, lament and conflict in ancient Greek tragedies; the relation between music and words in tragedy, and its philosophical significance (including in tragedy’s repetition by modern opera); the early modern emergence of a poetics of tragedy irreducible to Aristotelian and Idealist or Romantic variants; tragedy as a reflection on sovereignty; tragedy as an art intimately linked to moments of crisis and transition.

Convened by Alberto Toscano (a.toscano [at]

All meetings will take place on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00pm in Laurie Grove Baths Council Room.

A detailed session plan including further readings and links to PDFs is available here.



Oct 2 — Aeschylus, The Eumenides, in The Oresteia, trans. George Thomson (New York: Everyman’s Library, 2004)

Oct 16 — Aristotle, Poetics

Oct 30 — Jean-Pierre Vernant, “Tensions and Ambiguities in Greek Tragedy” and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “Hunting and Sacrifice in Aeschylus’ Oresteia”, in Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece, trans. Janet Lloyd (New York: Zone Books, 1990)

Nov 20 — Nicole Loraux, The Mourning Voice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002)

Dec 4 — Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greek Music Drama, trans. Paul Bishop, introd. Jill Marsden (New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2013)



Jan 15 — Lucien Goldmann, The Hidden God: A Study of Tragic Vision in the Pensées of Pascal and the Tragedies of Racine (London: Verso, 2016)

Jan 29 — Euripides, Hecuba / Shakespeare, Hamlet

Feb 12 — Carl Schmitt, Hamlet or Hecuba: The Intrusion of Time into the Play, trans. David Pan and Jennifer Rust (Candor, NY: Telos Press, 2009)

Feb 26 — Friedrich Hölderlin, ‘The declining fatherland…’, ‘The meaning of tragedies…’, ‘Notes on the Oedipus’, ‘Notes on the Antigone’, in Essays and Letters, ed. and trans. Jeremy Adler and Charlie Louth (London: Penguin, 2009)

Mar 11 — Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, ‘The Caesura of the Speculative’, in Typographies: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, ed. Christopher Fynsk (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989)



Apr 29 — G. W. F. Hegel, Natural Law, trans. T. M. Knox (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975)

May 13 — Georg Lukács, ‘The Metaphysics of Tragedy’, in Soul and Form (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)

May 27 — C.L.R. James, Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History; A Play in Three Acts, ed. Christian Høgsbjerg (Durham, NC: Duke University Press)

Jun 10 — David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014)