Joy, catharsis, and (eu)catastrophe


  • Christopher Ashbaugh


The modern experiment in art and culture is growing old. It is simply strange to speak of movements more than a century old as “modern”; it is stranger still to see how strongly many of their core values still persist in various contemporary art forms. The search for the “new” that arrived at abstraction in the visual arts, stream-of-consciousness and psychology in the literary genres, and atonality in music continues to endure in many of the same forms. Modernity was enthralled with what new truth it could construct, and sought often enough to build a new humanity to suit this truth. This new humanity would not be allowed to love certain things from the old world, namely, the catharsis of resolution and the sweeter sentiments. These signs of weakness and decadence held back the revolution that the modern experiment promised to release. An avoidance of resolution had its strongest resonance in both music and any art form with a narrative—the resolution of expectations, whether in the arrival of a final tonic chord after a resounding dominant or the dénouement, good or bad, of conflict in a story, would be slowly eroded over time. Catharsis was from here onward to be avoided.

Conference Papers



How to Cite

Ashbaugh, Christopher. 2020. “Joy, Catharsis, and (eu)catastrophe”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 3 (January):95-100.