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The horror and the pity: Phrikē as a tragic emotion

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-94
JournalPsychoanalytic Inquiry: A Topical Journal for Mental Health Professionals
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


As well as being the name of the physical symptom of shivering, shuddering, or goosebumps, the Greek word phrikē names an emotion that is particularly associated with automatic responses to sudden visual or auditory stimuli. This makes it especially at home in a number of specialized (ritual and other) scenarios, and helps explain its recurrent role in the ancient Greek aesthetics and literary theory, a role that illustrates the importance of the visual and the physical in ancient theories of audiences’ emotional responses to the portrayal of suffering in both dramatic performance and non-dramatic narrative.

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