The Ethics of Teaching Tragic Narratives

  • Sean McEvoy
Part of the Teaching the New English book series (TENEEN)


Should we not reflect more on the ethical consequences of taking narratives of violent death, mutilation, pain and degradation—often with no sense of redemption—into a room full of impressionable young people? In the ancient world, Plato and Aristotle clashed over the issue of the moral effects of tragedy upon its readers and audiences. Having considered their arguments, I go on to discuss how effective (and ethical) modes of teaching tragedy may be where role play and distancing techniques are employed. I survey political critiques of the genre, including some contemporary claims that certain texts can cause psychological harm to students. I conclude that when we teach tragedy we are actually conducting a philosophical exploration into the nature of value itself in an open-eyed, honest way which can only be of benefit to us all.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean McEvoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Varndean CollegeBrightonUK

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