The dynamics of Georg Lukács’s development and divergent scholarly perspectives are reconsidered in light of his little-read 1909 dissertation, The Developmental History of Modern Drama. This long early work, with its detailed methodological apparatus, establishes a baseline of comparison for his later and better-known works, especially in Soul and Form (1911), The Theory of the Novel (1916), and History and Class Consciousness (1923). This framework can reconnect Lukács’s early theory of literary genres to contemporary debates on form in literature, epistemology, and political and social theory. Attention to the systematics of Lukács’s earliest historical-transcendental criteria of literary form allows his genre poetics to be understood more flexibly than has often been assumed. The difference between novel and modern drama, for example, is not categorical but functions as a differential of protagonists’ possible forms of agency and autonomy in a world defined by passivity and heteronomy. The political subtext of Lukács’s early theory of the tragic pursues a double agenda of historical symptomatics (defining tragedy as the genre of a class achieving consciousness of its own decline) and existential radicalization (totalizing onstage and offstage tragedy as the pinnacle of aesthetic experience and the heroic rupture into a new historical era).
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Research Article| August 01 2023
Criteria of Tragic Form: Toward a Reconstruction of Lukács’s Earliest Critical Theory
New German Critique (2023) 50 (2 (149)): 9–35.
Kirk Wetters; Criteria of Tragic Form: Toward a Reconstruction of Lukács’s Earliest Critical Theory. New German Critique 1 August 2023; 50 (2 (149)): 9–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-10459912
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