The Tomb of Oedipus

The Tomb of Oedipus:Why Greek Tragedies Were not Tragic

  • Paperback

    + free ebook

    Regular price $29.95 Sale price $20.97
    Page redirects on selection
    Add to cart
    30% off
  • Ebook

    Regular price $9.99 Sale price $7.00
    Page redirects on selection
    Add to cart
    30% off

Nearly Everything We Think We Know about Greek Tragedy Is Wrong. This Is Why.

If Greek tragedies are meant to be so tragic, why do they so often end so well? Here starts the story of a long and incredible misunderstanding. Out of the hundreds of tragedies that were performed, only 32 were preserved in full. Who chose them and why? Why are the lost ones never taken into account? This extremely unusual scholarly book tells us an Umberto Eco-like story about the lost tragedies. By arguing that they would have given a radically different picture, William Marx makes us think in completely new ways about one of the major achievements of Western culture. In this very readable, stimulating, lively, and even sometimes funny book, he explores parallels with Japanese theatre, resolves the enigma of catharsis, sheds a new light on psychoanalysis. In so doing, he tells also the story of the misreadings of our modernity, which disconnected art from the body, the place, and gods. Two centuries ago philosophers transformed Greek tragedies into an ideal archetype, now they want to read them as self-help handbooks, but all are equally wrong: Greek tragedy is definitely not what you think, and we may never understand it, but this makes it matter all the more to us.


  • William Marx doesn’t take anything for granted. Here, his thoughts take us to the most established concept in literature, "Greek tragedy", and then undermines it. His tools: the integration of in-depth historical analysis, detailed understanding of the antique plays, studying the traces of lost plays, and a rethinking of what always seemed obvious but is in fact anachronistic. He questions the very concept of the tragic, revises other basic concepts such as catharsis, and offers a fresh reading of those texts that re-become vital for the history of literature and our contemporary world.

    Mieke Bal
  • This is an immensely enjoyable book on Athenian tragedy, written in lyrical prose and elegiac mode.

    Johanna HaninkThe Classical Review
  • Thus, from one book to the other, William Marx proposes a research path that will enjoy a bright future: "Catching literature by using what escapes literature."

    Jean-Louis JeannelleLe Monde