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Mimesis, the notion that art imitates reality, has long been recognized as one of the central ideas of Western aesthetics and has been most frequently associated with Aristotle. Less well documented is the great importance of mimetic theories of literature, theater, and the visual arts during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
In this book, the most comprehensive overview of the theory of mimesis since Auerbach's monumental study, Gunter Gebauer and Christoph Wulf provide a thorough introduction to the complex and shifting meanings of the term. Beginning with the Platonic doctrine of imitation, they chart the concept's appropriation and significance in the aesthetic theories of Aristotle, Molière, Shakespeare, Racine, Diderot, Lessing, and Rousseau. They examine the status of mimesis in the nineteenth-century novel and its reworking by such modern thinkers as Benjamin, Adorno, and Derrida. Widening the traditional understanding of mimesis to encompass the body and cultural practices of everyday life, their work suggests the continuing value of mimetic theory and will prove essential reading for scholars and students of literature, theater, and the visual arts.

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Editorial Reviews

Published in conjunction with a traveling exhibition of the same name, organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Abundant color photos accompany information-packed text covering the biology and evolution of whales, dolphins, and porpoises; the challenges of research; conservation; and whales and people--Greek and Minoan civilizations, the Tlingit, 19th-century New England, and the Eskimo. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520084599
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/30/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 412
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Gunter Gebauer and Christoph Wulf are Professors in the Center for Historical Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin and the authors of several works of literary and cultural criticism. Don Reneau is a translator and writer in Berkeley, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Point of Departure 9
Pt. I Mimesis as Imitation, the Production of Appearances, and Fiction 25
2 On the Origins of the Concept 27
3 Imitation, Illusion, Image (Plato) 31
4 The Break in the History of Mimesis: The Use of Writing 45
5 Poetic Mimesis (Aristotle) 53
Pt. II Mimesis as Imitatio, the Expression of Power, and Literate Subjectivity 61
6 Mimesis as Imitatio 64
7 Poetics and Power in the Renaissance 76
8 Intertextuality, Fragmentation, Desire: Erasmus, Montaigne, Shakespeare 89
Pt. III Mimesis as Enactment of the State 105
9 The Conflict Over History: The Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes 107
10 Mimesis as the Self-Representation of Political Power 120
11 Against Mimesis as Self-Representation 134
Pt. IV From Imitation to the Constitution of the Creative Subject 151
12 Problems in the Imitation of Nature in the Eighteenth Century 155
13 Mimesis in the Theater of the Enlightenment 164
14 Diderot's Paradox of Acting 174
15 The Transformation of Mimesis in Lessing 186
16 Self-Mimesis (Rousseau) 206
Pt. V Mimesis as the Principle of Worldmaking in the Novel and Society 217
17 The Mimetic Constitution of Social Reality 221
18 "Mimetic Desire" in the Work of Girard 233
19 Violence in Antiromantic Literature 240
20 The Mimesis of Violence (Girard) 255
Pt. VI Mimesis as Entree to the World, Language, and Writing 267
21 Nonsensuous Similarity: On the Linguistic Anthropology of Benjamin 269
22 Vital Experience (Adorno) 281
23 The Between-Character of Mimesis (Derrida) 294
Results 310
Notes 321
Bibliography 369
Index 391
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