Cover of The Tragedy of Origins by John D. Lyons
The Tragedy of Origins
Pierre Corneille & Historical Perspective
John D. Lyons


256 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9780804726160
Digital ISBN: 9780804764858



Studying the relationship between tragedy and history in early modern France, this book focuses on the work of Pierre Corneille. The writing of a tragedy takes place within a social context that deeply influences what constitutes 'history', 'tragedy', 'authority', and 'poetics'. Yet such concepts are also practices that in turn shape the society in which they occur. We cannot look to drama for a kind of fossilized footprint or photographic plate of the period in which a play was written nor can we assume that a playwright's images are simple escapes from a reality outside the theatre. The author's readings of five Cornelian tragedies - Horace, Cinna, Polyeucte, Sertorius, and Attila - lead to a sustained reflection on the tragic structure as a confrontation between the present and the past.

About the author

John D. Lyons is Commonwealth Professor of French at the University of Virginia. He is the author, most recently, of Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early-Modern France and Italy (Princeton, l990), and he has co-edited several volumes on early-modern literature and culture.