Peripeteia

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Dictionary Meaning and Definition on 'Peripeteia'

Peripeteia Meaning and Definition from WordNet (r) 2.0
    peripeteia n : a sudden and unexpected change of fortune or reverse of circumstances (especially in a literary work); "a peripeteia swiftly turns a routine sequence of events into a story worth telling" [syn: peripetia, peripety]
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Wikipedia Meaning and Definition on 'Peripeteia'


Peripeteia (Greek, Περιπέτεια) is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. The term is primarily used with reference to works of literature. The English form of peripeteia is peripety. Peripety is a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic. In modern Greek περιπέτεια means adventure.

Aristotle defines it as "a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity." According to Aristotle, peripeteia, along with discovery, is the most effective when it comes to drama, particularly in a tragedy. Aristotle wrote “The finest form of Discovery is one attended by Peripetiea, like that which goes with the Discovery in Oedipus…”.

In 1961 Peter Szondi, one of the most distinguished of recent German literary critics, tried to prop up the universal significance of the dialectical manner with an allusion to Aristotle. Author M.S. Silk wrote in his book “Tragedy and the Tragic: Greek Theatre and Beyond” that “Aristotle's theory of tragedy and its underlying philosophical tenets have little in common with the tragic philosophy of German idealism, as analyzed by Szondi. Aristotle concerns himself with an effective structural element of the dramatic action, Szondi explains his tragic dialectic in an abstract sort of 'mode of action which follows on a unity of opposites', as 'conversion of one state of affairs to its opposite' a principle which, in its dramatic realizations, may take on many different forms and shapes.' But having said this, one must insist that the two concepts have a common denominator: they both emphasize the importance of a paradoxical yet inevitable shift of a (dramatic) movement to its exact opposite.” Szondi's grasp of the Poetics was heavily predisposed by Max Kommerell, whose explanation of peripeteia as 'change of fortune' “may have prevented him from realizing the dialectical significance of Aristotle's definition.”

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