What is the definition of catharsis?
Catharsis is the release of emotional tension or the purging of emotions, resulting in the sense of emotional renewal.
Last Updated on May 25, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 125
Catharsis is the release of emotional tension or the purging of emotions, resulting in a sense of emotional renewal. In Aristotelian dramatic criticism, catharsis describes the effect of tragedy on the audience. By arousing fear and sympathy in a controlled environment, allowing it to dispel once the play ended, tragic plays enable theatergoers to rid themselves of negative emotions and undergo a kind of cleansing.
Catharsis originates from the Greek word kathairein, meaning “to cleanse,” derived from kathoros, meaning “pure.”
In Part 4 of Aristotle’s Poetics, he describes how catharsis works:
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.
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