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Friend, Stacie. The pleasures of documentary tragedy
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir
Abstract: Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features.

Comment: This is a clearly written paper that can be used in teaching a wide array of topics in aesthetics, especially the literatures on emotional engagement with art, and documentary film. Friend does not presuppose much background knowledge on these issues. As such, this paper would make for an excellent addition to an introduction to aesthetics module, perhaps being used as a main reading for units on emotion and art. A more focused upper-division module on a subject such as philosophy of film could also benefit from this paper's inclusion.

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