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Alternative forms[edit]


From Late Latin peripetia, and its source Ancient Greek περιπέτεια (peripéteia), ultimately from περί (perí, round, around, about) + the stem of πίπτω (píptō, to fall).



peripeteia (countable and uncountable, plural peripeteias)

  1. (drama) A sudden reversal of fortune as a plot point in Classical tragedy.
  2. (by extension) Any sudden change in circumstances; a crisis. [from 16th c.]
    • 1965, John Fowles, The Magus:
      Once more I was a man in a myth, incapable of understanding it, but somehow aware that understanding it meant it must continue, however sinister its peripeteia.
    • 1977, Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace, New York Review books 2006, p. 167:
      They were to bestride the Algerian scene like demigods until the tragic peripeteia of 1961 []
  3. (psychoanalysis) A turning point in psychosocial development. [from 1960s]
    • 1989, Elizabeth Abel, Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis, →ISBN, page 6:
      The visual moment whose consequences Freud began to ponder in the essay on the phallic stage has evolved into a peripeteia: "Some day or other it happens that the child whose own penis is such a proud possession obtains a sight of the genital parts of a little girl; he must then become convinced of the absence of a penis in a creature so like himeself. With this, however, the loss of his own penis becomes imaginable, and the threat of castration achieves its delayed effect."


Further reading[edit]