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Letters & Opinions

Tragedy and redemption

I’m grateful to Edith Hall for a detailed, if severe, review of my essay on tragedy (“When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on…,” December 2016). She is right, I think, to challenge my version of Aristotle on Euripides (though I’m not quite convinced by her reading either); and she equally rightly notes a careless phrasing about the chronology of the major tragedians, and my embarrassing failure to spot a glaring mistake relocating Medea to Thebes— though every other mention of the play refers to Corinth. It is not quite fair to suggest that I have ignored Artaud, as there are some pages (admittedly brief) explicitly discussing his work.

There are other points where I’d want to argue further, not least on King Lear. Hall says that I ignore both the specific historical context and the various clues to transcendental reconciliation that have been discerned in the play. But Shakespeare deliberately gave the story a catastrophic ending quite at odds with the other versions of his day—which might warn us against too rapidly finding clues to a conventionally redemptive reading. What redemptive possibilities are left is one of the questions I have tried to think through in the book.

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In Prospect’s January issue: Adam Tooze and Francis Fukuyama examine the “American Century.” Tooze says that the 1917 opened the door to the future because the US seized the chance to lead, rather than for the Russian Revolution. Fukuyama says that the US has fallen from its perch, a change embodied by the election of Donald Trump. Anna Blundy puts Samuel Pepys on the couch and uses his diaries to psychoanalyse the Restoration’s chronicler. Also in this issue: Chris Bickerton examines the rise of populist parties across Europe, Peter Tatchell and Malcolm Rifkind debate whether the Uk should stop pretending Trump’s US can be its best friend, Philip Collins reviews a collection of Brexit books and DJ Taylor examines Alan Bennett’s diaries.