Catharsis as Process

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This paper seeks to build on the partial definition of catharsis that we have from the work of Aristotle and apply this to a variety of modern, popular texts. The article explores Aristotle’s definitions in Poetics (1996) and The Politics (1992) and connects it to the work of Roland Barthes in The Death of the Author (1967) where Barthes asserts that the reader’s experience of the text must be prioritised when analysing its properties rather than the author’s intentions or their previous history of publications.

The article makes use of Donald Davidson’s Rational Animals (1982) to attempt to describe a reader’s experience when reading a text. Davidson’s triangulation framework is recontextualised several times, to demonstrate the relationship between the reader, the text and a series of other influences that are connected to both.

This work examines several aspects of a text and compares texts of different forms – books, film, television and games – analysing the ways in which moments of possible activation connect the reader/audience/player to the text and encourage the process of catharsis. Finally, we look at the way in which the finale of a text can be used to extend the process of catharsis in popular film franchises.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalWriting in Practice: The Journal of Creative Writing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • Catharsis, Aristotle, triangulation, Poetics, narrative, text, megatext, referential, Davidson, Barthes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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