Daniel J. Levine, “After Tragedy: Melodrama and the Rhetoric of Realism.” Journal Article

Daniel J. Levine (University of Alabama)

Journal of International Political Theory (Published: August 14, 2018 )


Responding to renewed interest in political rhetoric among contemporary International Relations (IR)–realists, this article advances three main claims. First, it suggests that tragedy—the dominant aesthetic-narrative mode to which these realists have turned in their rhetorical considerations—is ill-suited to the contemporary political moment. In the context of a late-modern “nuclear condition,” the turn to classical tragedy seems set to reproduce the resentful, anti-realist hubris that its promulgators hope to dispel or disenchant. Second, it suggests that late modern politics is widely experienced not in tragic terms but in melodramatic ones, and that contemporary reflexive realists would do well to alter their rhetorical approaches accordingly. Third, it explores rhetorical frameworks that might better meet the challenges posed by politics experienced in such terms.