Serious Comedy

The question of how seriously to take literature has vexed philosophers throughout the centuries. Are the stories we write merely noble lies told to hold society together? A means of comic detachment from a tragic world? Mimicry of transcendent truths? Potent acts of self-realization? From the Socratics to the Romantics, all of these opinions and more have been offered. In a pop-culture age in which we live out of the stories we tell, our culture needs a clear answer.

In this masterful overview of the Western literary tradition, Patrick Downey traces how seriously philosophers and writers across the centuries, from Plato to Kierkegaard, have taken humanity’s attempts at self-authorship in tragedy and comedy. These attempts, Downey argues, only find resolution in history’s most significant work of literature: the Bible. Setting all other literature in its right place, the Bible and the gospel it proclaims take us beyond literature to the true story of reality, providing what the philosophers and poets have sought for all along: a serious comedy.