This volume brings together the three most original and influential ancient Greek treatises on literature. Artistotle's "Poetics" contains his treatment of Greek tragedy: its history, nature, and conventions, with details on poetic diction. Stephen Halliwell makes this seminal work newly accessible with a translation that is both accurate and readable. His… See more details below
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This volume brings together the three most original and influential ancient Greek treatises on literature. Artistotle's "Poetics" contains his treatment of Greek tragedy: its history, nature, and conventions, with details on poetic diction. Stephen Halliwell makes this seminal work newly accessible with a translation that is both accurate and readable. His authoritative introduction traces the work's debt to earlier theorists (especially Plato), its distinctive argument, and the reasons behind its enduring relevance. The essay "On the Sublime," usually attributed to "Longinus" (identity uncertain), was probably composed in the first century A.D.; its subject is the appreciation of greatness ("the sublime") in writing, with analysis of illustrative passages ranging from Homer and Sappho to Plato and Genesis. In this edition, Donald Russell has revised and newly annotated the text and translation by W. Hamilton Fyfe and provides a new introduction. The treatise "On Style," ascribed to an (again unidentifiable) Demetrius, was perhaps composed during the second century B.C. It seems to reflect the theoretical energy of Hellenistic rhetorical works now lost, and is notable particularly for its theory and analysis of four distinct styles. Doreen Innes' fresh rendering of the work is based on the earlier Loeb translation by W. Rhys Roberts. Her new introduction and notes represent the latest scholarship.
I find the Introduction extremely convincing, lucid, learned, fair to past scholarship, and truly illuminating about the meaning of tragedy in general and about the very specific acceptions of hamartia, katharsis, ekplêxis, and thauma, in the context of an appropriate understanding of the Poetics. Another remarkable feature is the dexterity and ease with which it draws on all the relevant parts of the Aristotelian corpus to shed light on troublesome textual passages in the Poetics. Finally, the style of the Introduction is straightforward, free of unnecessary jargon, direct, and economical, the best interpretation of the Poetics I ever read.
- Sabetai Unguru, Tel Aviv University
“The translations of Joe Sachs are a great gift to Greekless amateurs like me. He uses simple, unambiguous words joined into sentences that are often complex, as they must be to be accurate, but always clear (after sufficient attention has been paid). A stylist may find some awkwardness in the hyphenated compound words and the noun clauses he prefers to the polysyllabic Latinate words often found in English versions of Aristotle. But these blunt locutions — along with Sachs’ excellent notes — manage to convey both the richness of meaning and the clarity of thought of their Greek antecedents. The resulting translation may strike some as awkward in style, but it will strike the careful reader who cares about what is translated as elegant (in the way mathematicians use that word).”
—Jerry L. Thompson, Author, Truth and Photography
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About the poetic art itself and the forms of it, what specific capacity each has, and how one ought to put together stories if the making of them is going to hold together beautifully, and also how many and what sort of parts stories are made of, and likewise about as many other things as belong to the inquiry into poetic art, let us speak once we have first started, in accord with nature, from the things that come first.
Now epic poetry and the making of tragedy, and also comedy and dithyrambic poetry, as well as most flute-playing and lyre-playing, are all as a whole just exactly imitations, but they are different from one another in three ways, for they differ either by making their imitations in different things, by imitating different things, or by imitating differently and not in the same way. For just as some people who make images imitate many things by means of both colors and shapes (some through art and others through habituation), and others by means of the voice, so too with the arts mentioned, all of them make imitations in rhythm, speech, and harmony, and with these either separate or mixed. For example, both flute-playing and lyre-playing, and any other arts there happen to be that are of that sort in their capacity, such as the art of the Pan-pipes, use only harmony and rhythm, while the art of dancers uses rhythm itself apart from harmony (for they too, through the rhythms of their gestures, imitate states of character, feelings, and actions). But the art that uses bare words and the one that uses meters, and the latter either mixing meters with one another or using one particular kind, happen to be nameless up to now. For we have nothing to use as a name in common for the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues, even if someone were to make the imitation with [iambic] trimeters or elegiac [couplets] or anything else of that sort. Instead, people connect the poetic making with the meter and name “elegiac poets,” or others “epic poets,” calling them poets not as a result of the imitation but as a result of the meter as what is common to them, for even when they bring out something medical or about nature in meter, people are accustomed to speak of them in that way. But nothing is common to Homer and Empedocles except the meter, and hence, while it is just to call the former a poet, the latter is more a student of nature than a poet. By the same token, even if someone were to make an imitation by mixing all the meters, the very way Chaeremon made the Centaur as a patchwork mixture of all the meters, one would have to call him too a poet. As for these things, then, let them be distinguished in this way. And there are some arts that use all the things mentioned—I mean, for instance, rhythm and melody and meter—as do the making of both dithyrambs and nomes, and both tragedy and comedy.
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