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Cognitive Theories of Genre: The Prototype Effect and Early Modern Spanish Tragedy

From: Bulletin of the Comediantes
Volume 64, Number 2, 2012
pp. 153-170 | 10.1353/boc.2012.0033



This essay analyzes recent developments in the field of genre-oriented theories of tragedy, such as the materialist and postmodern approaches offered in Terry Eagleton’s Sweet Violence and Rita Felski’s Rethinking Tragedy. It also incorporates recent advances in the cognitive sciences about taxonomical activity, such as the prototype effect, that can inform genre theory. Prototype theories of categorization provide insights into both the history and current status of tragedy theory, illuminating such diverse aspects as the enduring legacy of Aristotelian approaches, how the canon of prized tragedies changes over time, and the status of hybrid dramatic forms. The anthology Hacia la tragedia áurea: Lecturas para un nuevo milenio (2007) serves as a point of departure for exploring the nexus of early modern Hispanism and genre theory as a literary and cognitive endeavor.

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