This article examines how rhetoric bears on Hegel’s presentation of comedy. Although comedy succeeds tragedy in his catalogue of “romantic” arts, Hegel says little about it, a paradox mirrored in the secondary literature. Moreover, while Hegel’s dialectic attests to his education in rhetoric in its staging of the multivalent image and its tracking of ironic, chiastic reversal of significance, the Aesthetics downplays any such performative element. I note Hegel’s praise of Aristophanes, at odds with the dominant line of New Comedy: following the romantics, Hegel foregrounds human subjectivity in both action represented and audience reception. I summarize his position and then contrast its thematic bias with the Phenomenology’s attention to form and pragmatics. Comedic discovery of self in “Art-religion” (chapter 7) pre-figures self-presentation in the philosophical Idea, and confirms Hayden White’s filing of Hegelian historiography under comedy. Anticipating Bergson, Hegel locates comedy on the margin between art and life, as philosophical regard merges with its object.


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pp. 196-220
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