Catharsis – definition and meaning

Catharsis is a Greek word that means ‘purification’ or ‘cleansing’.It thus means the purification and purgation of emotions by evoking pity and fear through Art in the audience. Catharsis, which is a metaphor, is a term closely associated with Drama. It is also described as the release of strong and suppressed emotions, such as pity and/or fear by expressing it in the form of Art. The purification or cleansing of the emotions brings about a spiritual elevation in the audience. It could also release the spectator from heightened tension. It should be noted that Catharsis in literature is used for the cleansing of emotions of characters.

This term is used by Aristotle in his book Poetics to describe the impact and depth of tragedy on the audiences.

Useful links on Catharsis and Aristotle


Catharsis in literary devices

Aristotle and poetics