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3.9 out of 5 stars8
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 2 May 2014
By its nature as "a very short introduction" this book is not all encompassing, and may well read as a compression of a larger work, so I'm surprised by some of the criticism (but have seen this criticism of other books in the series). Coming to the subject without much real knowledge of it, other than having read some shakespeare's tragedies I found it a fascinating starting point that makes me want to both read more tragedies and read more on the topic. Key area that caught my attention was the discussion about the ages that produced tragedy and why, and what they have in common, particularly the relevance of attitudes to the divine, and then the contrast between classical tragedy and what came after. There is so much in here, so much food for thought that the book probably requires a second reading.
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on 17 March 2010
I'm afraid I have to disagree with the reviewer who remarked that this is fragmented and unsatisfactory. For me it is without question the best book I have read in this series to date. Having a Masters degree (with distinction) in Literary Theory from one of the world's top universities, I had my doubts as to whether this book could hold my attention, but it was full of interesting insights. The other reviewer is perhaps too narrow in focussing only on Shakesperean tragedy; this book is not simply about tragedy as a genre in general or as a genre in the hands of one poet, but is also about tragedy as a broad philosophical concept. It is this lit. crit. focus among the English (where theory has been but a ripple within the subject of the all too anglocentric subject of English Literature) that detracts from their understanding of wider theoretical concepts. The reason this book is so good is that it really tackles tragedy as a concept, drawing on necessarily brief analysis of the origins of the concept in Ancient Greek works, tackling theorists from Aristotle to Nietzsche and managing to provide a concise yet stimulating overview that is both historical and theoretical. Changing views of the concept of tragedy are tested in particular instances of literature, rather than the typical English Lit. method: "What does Milton mean when he says this? Why does that make the work a tragedy?" (As if tragedy were a fixed genre and the sole aim of reading were to establish 'meaning' and pin works to genres.) Best of all, however, this book is a cracking read. I was enthralled from start to finish. In short, for me, this is an outstanding VSI.
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on 3 October 2011
Brilliantly written, my favourite in this series so far. This in part might be because I have a solid understanding of the subject already and while the book did teach me some new things and made me think about the subject in a different way, the main benefit came from being able to reconnect to the subject and feel Poole's passion for the subject come through on every single page. Unlike other Very Short Introductions where I've known relatively little, if anything on the subject, this one was different and gave me room to appreciate the style more than the content. A great introduction for anyone interested in tragedy.
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on 11 June 2013
This is exactly what the title suggests, a general tour of the outlines of tragedy, and a good introduction to the subject
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on 29 April 2013
Was recommended this from my lecturer at Durham; which I found surprising ..... but I shouldn't have been because it's an awesome little book and I am incredibly happy I bought it! Love and adoration GALORE!!!!
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I bought this book because I am studying Shakespearean Tragedy and wanted to get a handle on the bigger picture. Adrian Poole seems very knowledgeable about his subject, but I think that this format doesn't do his work justice, which is frustrating for me at least.

I get the impression that this book is a compression of a much larger work. This suffers because in my opinion it is rather bitty and unformed. The chapters are a little woolly and don't really seem to have much structure to them in terms of narrative. I was really frustrated because what he writes is comprehensible and indeed sensible, but it is very fragmented. There are lots of lists, lots of allusions, lots of inferences, but not much meat on the bones. What I wanted was for Poole to set the agenda and then take me on a journey from A to B. To be fair to the man he did set the agenda, but it remained fragmented and incoherent for much of the time.

I ended the book with a lot of vague ideas about tragedy, but not much more to say about it than when I set off. I understand that these books are introductions to whet the appetite for further study. I have read many of these OUP series and found them extremely helpful on numerous occasions, leading me to further study in a coherent and structured way. This didn't work that way and I felt that I would have been better served just reading whatever work this was compressed from. It was a real shame.
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on 5 April 2010
Very good introduction to the study of tragedy- it gives you an overview so that you can go look up more detailled stuff in other books in that areas of interest to you. Doesn't present it in a patronising way either.Useful.
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on 2 August 2012
I bought this as just starting on an Open University Arts course I thought it would be a nice introduction to my subjects . Being both a "short" and "brief" introduction I felt safe that it would be understandable. I was so wrong... as early as page 17 we have "The phenomenal world is itself a shadow of the Ideas(sic, capital I) of his transcendental sphere, and the wretched poet's fictions are just the shadow of a shadow. Neo-Platonists ....would ty to rescue poetry by claiming for it direct access to the golden domain of transcendental reality..."
What on Earth does this mean?
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