What is the definition of catharsis?

The definition of catharsis is the release of emotional tension or the purging of emotions, resulting in a sense of emotional renewal.

Catharsis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 111

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Catharsis - any emotional discharge which brings about a moral or spiritual renewal or welcome relief from tension and anxiety. The usual intent is for an audience to leave feeling this relief from tension or anxiety after having viewed a play.

The word comes from the Greek katharis, meaning “cleansing, or purification.” This evolved from kathairo, which means I cleanse, and katharos, which means “pure or clean.”

Catharsis was referred to by Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) in his Poetics:

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.
Book 6 : 2


Explore all literary terms.


Previous

Canto

Next

Character