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Tragedy: A Complete History

12. Tragedy and Technology 2: The Camera

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In this module, we turn to the second piece of technology that has become a medium for tragedy: the camera. As we move through the module, we think about photos taken during the Battle of Balaclava (1854) and the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) – both of which turned out to have bene staged – before moving to five iconic photographs from the twentieth century, including work by Robert Capo, Arthur Fellig (AKA 'Weegee'), Eddie Adams, Nick Ut, Hartmut Reeh and Kevin Carter.

Reading list:
– Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)
– Paul Scott, A Division of the Spoils (1975)
– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) – Richard Whelan, This is War! Robert Capa at Work 1936-45 (2007) – Jenny Wallace, The Cambridge Introduction to Tragedy (2007)

– Alexander Gardner, 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg'
– Robert Capa, 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936'
– Eddie Adams, photo of 1 February 1968, General Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner, Nguyễn Văn Lém
– Nick Ut, photo of 8 June 1972, Phan Ti Kim Phuc running towards his camera with severe napalm burns
– Hartmut Reeh, photo of 18 August 1988, Dieter Degowski looking through binoculars while he holds a gun to the chin of Silke Bischoff
– Kevin Carter, photo of March 1993, a vulture eyeing a starving African child


In this course, Professor John Lennard explores the history of tragedy from its origins in ancient Athens to the present day. In the first three modules, we think about the tragedy of Classical Athens, looking in particular at the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, before turning in the fourth module to Roman tragedy and Seneca the Younger. In the fifth module, we think about how the arrival of Christianity of Europe may have impacted people's views of tragedy in the Middle Ages, before turning in the sixth, seventh and eighth modules to the tragedy of the Renaissance period – including Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kyd, Marston, Webster. After that, in the ninth module, we think the Restoration Tragedy of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, before moving on in the tenth module to consider the intersection between tragedy and Romanticism – looking especially at works of Lessing, Schiller, Goethe and Kleist. In the eleventh and twelfth modules, we think about the impact on tragedy of first a new medium – the novel – and then a new technology – the camera. In the thirteenth module, we think about tragedy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, looking especially at the work of Henrik Ibsen, before moving on in the fourteenth module to think about the relationship between tragedy and war – especially the First World War (1914-18). In the fifteenth module, we think about the tragedy and Modernism, looking in particular at the plays of Bertolt Brecht and novels of William Faulkner, before turning in the sixteenth module to think about how tragedy has represented the Sho'ah, i.e. the Holocaust. In the seventeenth module, we return to Modernism by thinking about the works of Lorca and Beckett, before moving on in the eighteenth module to look at tragedy in film and television. In the nineteenth module, we think about tragedy written by non-Western writers and in non-Western contexts, looking in particular at Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan (1956) and the works of the Yoruban writer, Wole Soyinka, before turning in the twentieth and final module to tragedy today and in the future.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

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APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Tragedy: A Complete History - Tragedy and Technology 2: The Camera [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Tragedy: A Complete History – Tragedy and Technology 2: The Camera." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,