The Philosophy of Tragedy: A Free Course on the Philosophy of Great Greek Tragedies

This course fea­tures lec­tures by Michael Davis, Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy, deliv­ered in the fall semes­ter of 2018 at Sarah Lawrence Col­lege. All 28 lec­tures in this course can be viewed above, or on this YouTube playlist. This course is now added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Pro­fes­sor Bio:

Davis works pri­mar­i­ly in Greek phi­los­o­phy, in moral and polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, and in what might be called the “poet­ics” of phi­los­o­phy. He is the trans­la­tor, with Seth Benardete, of Aris­totle’s On Poet­ics and has writ­ten on a vari­ety of philoso­phers from Pla­to to Hei­deg­ger and of lit­er­ary fig­ures from Homer and the Greek trage­di­ans to Saul Bel­low and Tom Stop­pard.

Course Descrip­tion:

Greek tragedy has been per­formed, read, imi­tat­ed and inter­pret­ed for twen­ty-five hun­dred years. From the very begin­ning it was thought to be philo­soph­i­cal­ly significant—somehow point­ing to the truth of human life as a whole (the phrase the “tragedy of life” first appears in Pla­to). As a lit­er­ary form it is thought espe­cial­ly reveal­ing philo­soph­i­cal­ly by Aris­to­tle, Hegel, Niet­zsche and Hei­deg­ger to name only a few. Among oth­ers, Seneca, Corneille, Racine, Voltaire, Goethe, Shel­ley, O’Neill and Sartre wrote ver­sions of Greek tragedies. And, of course, there is Freud. Greek tragedy exam­ines the fun­da­men­tal things in a fun­da­men­tal way. Jus­tice, fam­i­ly, guilt, law, auton­o­my, sex­u­al­i­ty, polit­i­cal life, the divine—these are its issues. The lec­tures that fol­low treat three plays by each of the great Athen­ian tragedians—Aeschylus, Sopho­cles and Euripides—with a view to under­stand­ing how they deal with these issues and with the ques­tion of the impor­tance and nature of tragedy itself.

Trans­la­tions Used:

Aeschy­lus, The Oresteia, Hugh Lloyd-Jones trans.
Sopho­cles I, Grene and Lat­ti­more eds.
Ten Plays by Euripi­des, Moses Hadas trans.


Lec­ture 1: Intro­duc­tion
Lec­ture 2: Aeschy­lus’s Agamem­non
Lec­ture 3: Agamem­non
Lec­ture 4: Aeschy­lus’s Liba­tion Bear­ers
Lec­ture 5: Aeschy­lus’s Eumenides
Lec­ture 6: Eumenides
Lec­ture 7: Eumenides
Lec­ture 8: Eumenides
Lec­ture 9: Eumenides
Lec­ture 10: Sopho­cles’ Oedi­pus Tyran­nus
Lec­ture 11: Oedi­pus Tyran­nus
Lec­ture 12: Oedi­pus Tyran­nus
Lec­ture 13: Sopho­cles’ Oedi­pus at Colonus
Lec­ture 14: Oedi­pus at Colonus
Lec­ture 15: Oedi­pus at Colonus
Lec­ture 16: Oedi­pus at Colonus
Lec­ture 17: Sopho­cles’ Antigone
Lec­ture 18: Antigone
Lec­ture 19: Antigone
Lec­ture 20: Euripi­des’ Bac­chae
Lec­ture 21: Bac­chae
Lec­ture 22: Euripi­des’ Iphi­ge­nia among the Tau­ri­ans
Lec­ture 23: Iphi­ge­nia among the Tau­ri­ans
Lec­ture 24: Iphi­ge­nia among the Tau­ri­ans
Lec­ture 25: Iphi­ge­nia among the Tau­ri­ans
Lec­ture 26: Euripi­des’ Hip­poly­tus
Lec­ture 27: Hip­poly­tus
Lec­ture 28: Con­clu­sion

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