Now we come to the next problem in aesthetics. What of plays and novels in which there IS action, and there ARE characters and people that are either lovable or loathable. What of the desire and loathing situation here? How can we achieve stasis in a kinetic art form as in the dramatic?
For the answers to these questions, Joyce turns to Aristotle and his Poetics. Aristotle speaks to us of the tragic emotions: Pity and Terror. (The comic is not mentioned, but Joyce does so in an earlier work, Stephan Hero)
The static emotions of the tragic are Pity and Terror.
The static emotion of the comic is joy! Joy in what you are experiencing. No desire, no loathing- just delight.
DefinitionsPity is the emotion that arrests the mind (aesthetic arrest) before whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with the human sufferer.
Terror is the emotion that arrests the mind before whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with the SECRET CAUSE.
Now these are important definitions to our understanding of how stasis is achieved in the dramatic. Pity is the emotion that arrests the mind- "static arrest", before whatsoever is grave and constant-"cannot be changed", in human suffering, and unites it with the human sufferer. I stress that the words are human sufferer- not Hispanic suffer, black sufferer, economically stressed sufferer, but the human suffer. We are united with the tragic hero as a human being; not as a human being with a certain social characteristic.
Terror is the emotion that arrests the mind, "static arrest", before whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering, "cannot be changed", and unites it with the SECRET CAUSE. Our mortality is the great secret cause. We are all going to die. It is the mystery of the relationship between a man's death and the function of his life that becomes the SECRET CAUSE. It is what is grave and constant in human suffering. If you haven't gotten through to the constant, than you have not gotten through to the tragic work. This is what opens us up to transcendence. We experience the life of the tragic hero on the stage and this is what purges us (catharsis) of the kinetic emotions of desire and loathing. All of the processes of life are this way. They should not be corrected. If this does not happen, then the experience closes us up and we are in a sociological melodrama which is no tragedy.
In his book, Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller states, "The tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life [without fear] to secure one thing... his personal dignity". I use for example, Miller's play The Crucible. If we examine the play as a complaint against a strict, overzealous, puritanical society, then we are in a sociological play, not a tragedy. If we see how John Proctor's suffering and ultimate death was as much a part of his living, then we have broken through to the grave and constant.
When we have broken through the instrumentality and experience the SECRET CAUSE, then the sufferer is not an Hispanic man, a black man, an economically deprived man, or any person with a particular social characteristic- he is a man.