What is poetry, how many kinds of it are there, and what are their specific effects? Aristotles Poetics is the most influential book on poetry ever written. A founding text of European aesthetics and literary criticism, from it stems much of our modern understanding of the creation and impact of imaginative writing, including poetry, drama, and fiction. For
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What is poetry, how many kinds of it are there, and what are their specific effects? Aristotles Poetics is the most influential book on poetry ever written. A founding text of European aesthetics and literary criticism, from it stems much of our modern understanding of the creation and impact of imaginative writing, including poetry, drama, and fiction. For Aristotle, the art of representation conveys universal truths which we can appreciate more easily than the lessons of history or philosophy. In his short treatise Aristotle discusses the origins of poetry andits early development, the nature of tragedy and plot, and offers practical advice to playwrights. This new translation by Anthony Kenny is accompanied by associated material from Plato and a range of responses from more modern literary practitioners: Sir Philip Sidney, P. B. Shelley, and Dorothy L. Sayers. The book includes a wide-ranging introduction and notes, making this the most accessible and attractive modern edition. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford Worlds Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxfords commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
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
Read an Excerpt
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.
Meet the Author
Aristotle was born at Stagira, in the dominion of the kings of Macedonia, in 384 BC. For twenty years he studied at Athens in the Academy of Plato. However he left on Plato's death and, some time later, became the tutor of young Alexander The Great.His writings have profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy, and they are still studied and debated today.
Malcolm Heath has been Reader in Greek Language and Literature at Leeds University since 1991.
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Aristotle's Poetics is hailed as the first systematic critical theory in the world. For centuries and centuries, it has inspired writers, critics, and philosophers alike. Aristotle, the father of critics, as many would exalt him, sets the rules for many key literary genres such as Tragedy, Comedy, and Epic. Through comparing and contrasting these classical genres, Aristotle convincingly argues for the highness and greatness of tragedy, as the most mimetic literary genre. Thanks to Aristotle, we are introduced to such eternally important critical terms such as mimesis(imitation), muthos(plot), anagnorisis(discovery), peripeteia(reversal),hamartia(misjudgment), catharsis(purgation). In other words, Aristotle's Poetics is the bible for critics, playwrights, and fans of tragic literature.