The Tragic, Pragmatism and the Postmodern

K. M. Newton

in Modern Literature and the Tragic

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780748636730
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652082 | DOI:
The Tragic, Pragmatism and the Postmodern

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This chapter concentrates on the opposition between the tragic and the postmodern as represented by anti-foundationalist thinking, with Anthony Trollope's The Warden being discussed as a proto-postmodern work that is both anti-tragic and anti-foundationalist in several respects. A description of the archdeacon's breakfast parlour in Chapter 8 of The Warden is one of the most intriguing passages in Trollope's fiction. The conflict which is most central to The Warden and which creates a potentially tragic situation is a political one in which there is a power struggle between conservatism and radicalism and their irreconcilable philosophies, and language is a significant aspect of this conflict. The Warden's position is essentially pragmatist in the sense favoured by Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish: it does not matter that one cannot transcend the political as long as one avoids becoming trapped within a fixed set of political principles.

Keywords: tragic; postmodern; Anthony Trollope; The Warden; anti-foundationalist; anti-tragic; power struggle; Richard Rorty; Stanley Fish

Chapter.  8353 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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