The House of Sand and Fog as Tragedy
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1. The German philosopher Hegel said of tragedy that it is not a matter of right versus
wrong that creates tragedy but rather right versus right! How does this apply to The
House of Sand and Fog? Which characters represent each “right.”
2. What is Kathy’s argument for the house? Consider how she lost it, what it means
practically to her not having it and how it connects her to her father.
3. What is Colonel Behrani’s argument for the house? Consider how he obtained the
house. Why does he want it? What is his long-range goal for it? Consider his life before
he came to America versus the one he has now. How does that figure into why he wants
4. Hegel would say that Colonel Behrani and Kathy have the same flaw. Remember my
lecture on Hegel. What makes the hero great can also be his or her flaw? What do both
characters reveal as the same flaw in regard to their actions about the house?
5. Hegel says the heroes – the two “goods” - collide, which causes a downfall for each?
What is that downfall for each hero?
6. Nietzsche said tragedy originates in the collision between the Apollonian and
Dionysian of human nature in which rationality collides with irrationality. Who
represents each in the film? One changes, though, towards the end of the film and goes
from Apollonian to Dionysian? Who is it?
7. For Nietzsche the tragic collision between the Apollonian and Dionysian results in a
downfall as one - the Apollonian or Dionysian – overwhelms the other. Which one does
this in the film and how do we see it in the heroes?
6. Does each character have a moment of recognition? What is the significance of Kathy
crawling into bed with the Behranis? For Kathy how do her final words show
recognition? Where for Behrani does he realize the consequence of his actions?
8. Submit two quotes from the House of Sand and Fog with explanation and relation to
G.W Hegel’s Theory of
Hegel is pronounces Hay-gull
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on August 27, 1770,
in Stuttgart, Germany. He is considered one of the great
philosophers and wrote about every thing from psychology,
to the state [politics], history, art, religion, and philosophy.
Hegel’s Aesthetics 1835: he wrote about tragedy as an
Lectures on Aesthetics is a compilation of notes from
university lectures on aesthetics given by Georg
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. It was compiled in 1835 by
his publisher Heinrich Gustav Hotho, using Hegel's
own hand-written notes and notes his students took
during the lectures
Hegel's Aesthetics is regarded by many as one of the
greatest aesthetic theories to have been produced
since Aristotle. Heidegger calls Hegel's Lectures on
Aesthetics "the most comprehensive reflection on the
essence of art that the West possesses”.
Hegel’s view of the world and theory of tragedy was
He believed in an Absolute Spirit as the essential
source of all ideas or concepts. In other words, all
ideas come from God.
Since all ideas or concepts come from the Absolute,
taken together they could create a perfect world.
In other words, a concept like democracy, for
example, comes from the Absolute.
This is his religious view of the universe
In the course of history, Hegel felt that essential ideas
emerge and become real [come alive] and are often
represented as positions by one person or a country or a
religious group etc.
As the essential ideas are put into practice, they form the
basis of knowledge. Democracy is an idea; put into
practice – the US Constitution – it becomes knowledge
Through art and specifically dramatic tragedy, Hegel
believed people could see this happening. The ideas and
concepts of the absolute are represented by characters.
For Hegel history moves forward when one idea or
concept is challenged by its opposite. One idea is pushed
aside and another comes into being: Kingdoms [old] and
Hegel called this dynamic “dialectics”; its result is a
synthesis of the former idea and the new one. In a sense
one idea dies at the expense of another. Change in this
view is tragic The future challenges and defeats the past.
As history progressed knowledge would improve in this
way in an effort to reach the perfection of the Absolute.
As with Aristotle Hegel was very concerned, how
audiences would receive tragedy, although he was
writing well over a thousand years after Aristotle.
He argued that the content of tragedy must at once
be "universal in its interests and passions…”
yet immediate, drawn seemingly from "actual
interests and circumstances,”
And therefore recognizable to audiences.
Hegel called these ideas the “substance of ethical
life,” that can are shared between between the
members of a family or between and husband and
wife, or parents and children, or brothers and sister;
or in politics, or the patriotism of the citizens, the will
of the ruler and religion.
This conflict is represented in opposing characters.
However, what brings characters into conflict is not
their ideas in themselves but their “one-sidedness.”
They just don’t see how the other side could be right.
Each of the opposed sides if taken by itself, has
BUT each can only win by only denying the other.
Thus, according to Hegel, tragedy is truly the tragedy of
two heroes or “two goods.”
Aristotle’s theory said there must be one hero.
Here is the issue for Hegel: both are responsible for the
As a result these characters could be considered both
heroic and tragic: the justified nature of their idea is their
greatness…their stubborness not to see the other side is
One or both must die!
Resolution: For Aristotle and Oedipus the King, fate
decrees the hero must be punished for the universe
to maintain order and consistency.
For Hegel the collision of the opposing characters as
ideas must end. Once it does, order is restored.
In other words order is restored in the minds of the
Nietzsche’s Theory of Tragedy
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century
German philosopher, poet, composer. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality,
contemporary culture, philosophy and science. .
Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy. , notably in
existentialism, nihilism and postmodernism.
His key ideas include the death of God, the Übermensch, and the will to power.
Central to his philosophy is the idea of "life-affirmation", which involves an honest
questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent
those views might be
The Birth of Tragedy
For Nietzsche the collision between the needs of primal
beings and civilization is reflected in classical Greek art and
dramatic tragedy in particular
Nietzsche felt that our primal needs were instinctual forces
and part of the essential human experience.
He named these Dionysian, after the Greek god Dionysus,
the god of wine, ritual, sex / orgy, song, dance, passion,
creativity and irrationality. These forces are those of our
Its opposition [yes, Hegelian], are the forces of the god Apollo that
represent rationality, order, control, ideal form, dreams and
appearances. Greek classical architecture is an excellent example of the
These opposing forces find their “collision and synthesis” in tragedy in
The original form of the Greek columns is the marble mined mined from
the earth itself. It is rough and wild and beautiful but without form.
This is the Dionysian; art in its primal state
The Apollonian is the “civilized” form of the marble
that has been sculpted into the form of columns. It
represent rationality and control of the rough marble
that has been transformed into an ordered form that
now is its beauty.
Nietzsche and the Dionysian
In our personalities the Dionysian impulse to give free rein to the
passions without restrictions or rules. It is the uncivilized part of us
that defies all rules. Artist and athletes follow their instincts to
create. We sometimes say we “go with our gut,” meaning our
feelings or intuition
The Dionysian is the source of our myths, our passions, and our
instincts, none of which are bounded by reason. It is the sources of
creativity, yet is irrational in its manifestations.
The civilizing force of the Apollonian is an essential counterbalance
to the Dionysian and a complete abandonment of reason and
civilization. It represents order and rules and laws that keeps society
from self destructing.
However, Nietzsche warns that we lose the deepest and richest
aspects of our nature if we reject the Dionysian forces within us.
Ways to View The Birth of Tragedy
In essence Nietzsche is asking us to see where
irrationality [Dionysian energy], absent in the modern
world, is in collision with rationality / reason, which
dominates the modern mind.
The collision of the Dionysian and Apollonian is in
Nietzsche’s view is in tragedy, where passion and
irrationality collides with order and irrationality.
In drama in a play or film: where is the collision between
irrationality and rationality?
Ways to View The Birth of Tragedy cont.
Within tragedy the Dionysian spirit may be
embodied within one character who acts on or
is ruled by his or her instincts or passions.
Often this character collides with another
character who represents the Apollonian spirit
that tries to control the Dionysian, to force into
into order, to demand that it follow the rules
Ways to View The Birth of Tragedy cont.
Often in tragedy the collision represents an internal conflict for
one character. One side of the character represents the
Dionysian that compels a person to break out civilizations rules
and morality and follow the urges of instincts and passions.
Within the same character is an Apollonian side that pressures
the Dionysian to conform to the demands civilization.
Such a character is pulled one way or another; the Dionysian
and Apollonian collide.
If the Dionysian rules, the character will become irrational and
suffer the tragic consequences. If the Apollonian rules, the
character will relinquish his or her passions and lead an empty
and tragic life.
Nietzsche: Tragedy in the Modern World
In Nietzsche’s view since the Age of the Enlightenment in
the 18th century, reason (the Apollonian) has come to
dominate belief, myth, passion (the Dionysian).
Advances in science and technology and trust in reason led
to almost, ironically, a religious belief in reason. Where did
this lead as as a civilization – too greater irrationality
disguised as reason?
The cult of reason, according to Nietzsche shields of from
the reality of the human condition: that within our nature
lies vital drives that make make us alive and vital and often
lead to collisions with the forces of order and control in
Where does tragedy teach us about this collision? That
there is essential darkness in our lives as well as light? And
how do we deal with that? How can facing this truth, this
essential suffering release us from the illusory dream of
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