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Dramatic uses[ edit ] Catharsis is a term in dramatic art that describes the effect of tragedy or comedy and quite possibly other artistic forms  principally on the audience although some have speculated on characters in the drama as well.
Nowhere does Aristotle explain the meaning of "catharsis" as he is using that term in the definition of tragedy in the Poetics 1449b21-28. Else argues that traditional, widely held interpretations of catharsis as "purification" or "purgation" have no basis in the text of the Poetics , but are derived from the use of catharsis in other Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian contexts. Lucas, in an authoritative edition of the Poetics, comprehensively covers the various nuances inherent in the meaning of the term in an Appendix devoted to "Pity, Fear, and Katharsis".
Lucas himself does not accept any one of these interpretations as his own but adopts a rather different one based on "the Greek doctrine of Humours" which has not received wide subsequent acceptance. Purgation and purification, used in previous centuries, as the common interpretations of catharsis are still in wide use today. Purgation and purification[ edit ] In his works prior to the Poetics, Aristotle had used the term catharsis purely in its medical sense usually referring to the evacuation of the katamenia—the menstrual fluid or other reproductive material.
Lucas maintains, therefore, that purification and cleansing are not proper translations for catharsis; that it should rather be rendered as purgation. Else made the following argument against the "purgation" theory: But there is not a word to support this in the "Poetics", not a hint that the end of drama is to cure or alleviate pathological states. On the contrary it is evident in every line of the work that Aristotle is presupposing "normal" auditors, normal states of mind and feeling, normal emotional and aesthetic experience.
He translates catharsis as a purification, an experience that brings pity and fear into their proper balance: Intellectual clarification[ edit ] In the twentieth century a paradigm shift took place in the interpretation of catharsis with a number of scholars contributing to the argument in support of the intellectual clarification concept.
Plato argued that the most common forms of artistic mimesis were designed to evoke from an audience powerful emotions such as pity, fear, and ridicule which override the rational control that defines the highest level of our humanity and lead us to wallow unacceptably in the overindulgence of emotion and passion. All of the commonly held interpretations of catharsis, purgation, purification, and clarification are considered by most scholars to represent a homeopathic process in which pity and fear accomplish the catharsis of emotions like themselves.
For an alternate view of catharsis as an allopathic process in which pity and fear produce a catharsis of emotions unlike pity and fear, see E.
Aristotle on Plot and Emotion. Literary analysis of catharsis[ edit ] The following analysis by E. Dodds , directed at the character of Oedipus in the paradigmatic Aristotelian tragedy, Oedipus Rex , incorporates all three of the aforementioned interpretations of catharsis: Oedipus might have left the plague to take its course; but pity for the sufferings of his people compelled him to consult Delphi.
He need not have forced the truth from the reluctant Theban herdsman; but because he cannot rest content with a lie, he must tear away the last veil from the illusion in which he has lived so long. Teiresias, Jocasta, the herdsman, each in turn tries to stop him, but in vain; he must read the last riddle, the riddle of his own life. For example, Bertolt Brecht viewed catharsis as a pap pabulum for the bourgeois theatre audience, and designed dramas which left significant emotions unresolved, intending to force social action upon the audience.
Brecht then identified the concept of catharsis with the notion of identification of the spectator, meaning a complete adhesion of the viewer to the dramatic actions and characters. Brecht reasoned that the absence of a cathartic resolution would require the audience to take political action in the real world, in order to fill the emotional gap they had experienced vicariously. This technique can be seen as early as his agit-prop play The Measures Taken , and is mostly the source of his invention of an epic theatre, based on a distancing effect Verfremdungseffekt between the viewer and the representation or portrayal of characters.
The practice of purification had not yet appeared in Homer , as later Greek commentators noted: Catharsis describes the result of measures taken to cleanse away blood-guilt—"blood is purified through blood",  a process in the development of Hellenistic culture in which the oracle of Delphi took a prominent role. The classic example— Orestes —belongs to tragedy, but the procedure given by Aeschylus is ancient: There has been much debate about the use of catharsis in the reduction of anger.
Some scholars believe that "blowing off steam" may reduce physiological stress in the short term, but this reduction may act as a reward mechanism, reinforcing the behavior and promoting future outbursts. Affected individuals often use social sharing as a cathartic release of emotions.
His works suggests that individuals seek social outlets in an attempt to modify the situation and restore personal homeostatic balance. The affected individuals talk about the emotional experience recurrently to people around them throughout the following hours, days, or weeks. These results indicate that this response is irrespective of emotional valence, gender, education, and culture. His studies also found that social sharing of emotion increases as the intensity of the emotion increases.
Directly after emotional effects, the emotions are shared. Through sharing, there is a reciprocal stimulation of emotions and emotional communion. This leads to social effects like social integration and strengthening of beliefs. Finally, individuals experience a renewed trust in life, strength, and self-confidence. Affect scientists have found differences in motives for social sharing of positive and negative emotions.
Reminiscing the positive experience augments positive affects like temporary mood and longer-term well-being. A study by Gable et al. The responsiveness increased levels of intimacy and satisfaction within the relationship. In general, the motives behind social sharing of positive events are to recall the positive emotions, inform others, and gain attention from others.
All three motives are representatives of capitalization. Negatively affected individuals often seek life meaning and emotional support to combat feelings of loneliness after a tragic event.
When communities are affected by an emotional event, members repetitively share emotional experiences. This then reactivates the need to share in both. Social sharing throughout the community leads to high amounts of emotional recollection and "emotional overheating.
In the first stage, a state of "emergency" takes place in the first month after the emotional event. In this stage, there is an abundance of thoughts, talks, media coverage, and social integration based on the event. In the second stage, the "plateau" occurs in the second month. Abundant thoughts remain, but the amount of talks, media coverage, and social integration decreases. In the third stage, the "extinction" occurs after the second month. There is a return to normalcy. Effect on emotional recovery[ edit ] This cathartic release of emotions is often believed to be therapeutic for affected individuals.
Many therapeutic mechanisms have been seen to aid in emotional recovery. Joanne Frattaroli  published a meta-analysis suggesting that written disclosure of information, thoughts, and feelings enhances mental health. However, other studies question the benefits of social catharsis.
Finkenauer and colleagues  found that non-shared memories were no more emotionally triggering than shared ones. Other studies have also failed to prove that social catharsis leads to any degree of emotional recovery. When compared with the control group that only discussed unemotional topics, there was no correlation between emotional sharing and emotional recovery. Some studies even found adverse effects of social catharsis.
Contrary to the Frattaroli study, Sbarra and colleagues  found expressive writing to greatly impede emotional recovery following a marital separation.
Similar findings have been published regarding trauma recovery. A group intervention technique is often used on disaster victims to prevent trauma-related disorders. However, meta-analysis showed negative effects of this cathartic "therapy".