The Tragedy of Early Literary Theory

Michał Mrugalski


In my article, I describe the tragedy of early modern literary theory in Russia and Poland – both as a set of believes concerning the literary genre and as a metahistorical scheme, which was and still may be applied to the intellectual history of the humanities in Eastern and Central Europe. My claim is that the critical theory of tragedy, which has its roots in German philosophy at the end of the 18th century, may be perceived as a mediator between external and internal history – genesis and evolution – of early modern literary theory. The article provides, firstly, a short overview of the Russian formalist theory of tragedy and the tragic as it emerged in the context of the revolution and its grand festivals. Then, in the second step, I reconstruct how the central themes of the theory of tragedy resonated in the main tenets of formalist literary history. As a final point, I dwell on how our narratives on the history of modern literary theory develop along the lines of the tragic fables as they were identified by tragic theory.

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