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Poetics—one of Aristotle’s greatest works—is the philosopher’s grand and insightful essay on art and its purposes. Why must a story have a beginning, a middle, and an end? How can we define tragedy, and what is the artistic purpose of it? Is there one “ideal” kind of drama? What is the nature of poetry? How consciously should poets and playwrights construct their work?
All these questions, and others, are discussed and debated in this, perhaps the single most significant text in Western critical tradition. Writers, actors, students of literature, and armchair philosophers will find it a challenging—and rewarding—read.
Of enormous use to anyone, philosopher or classicist, student or instructor, who wants to know more about Aristotle's work on literature . . . more than I would have believed possible, [Janko makes] the text of the Poetics transparent and accessible to nonclassicists. The translation is based on a meticulous study of the text. Deviations from the standard text by R. Kassell . . . are listed in transliterated Greek; and textual questions are discussed and explained lucidly. The brief introduction is full of useful information, on Aristotle, on the background of the Poetics, on its structure, and on major controversies. In addition to all this, the text is followed by a little treasury of sources that permit a sketchy reconstruction of the lost second book of the Poetics. --Ann N. Michelini, University of Cincinnati
Thorough, admirable, indispensable to anyone seriously interested in Aristotle’s literary theory, with or without access to the texts in Greek. --Thomas Clayton, University of Minnesota
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.
|Introduction to 1998 edition|
|I||The Setting of the Poetics||1|
|II||Aristotle's Aesthetics 1: Art and its Pleasure||42|
|III||Aristotle's Aesthetics 2: Craft, Nature and Unity in Art||82|
|V||Action and Character||138|
|VI||Tragedy and the Emotions||168|
|VII||Fallibility & Misfortune: The Secularisation of the Tragic||202|
|VIII||The Chorus of Tragedy||238|
|IX||Epic, Comedy and Other Genres||253|
|X||Influence & Status: the Nachleben of the Poetics||286|
|App. 1||The Date of the Poetics||324|
|App. 2||The Poetics and Plato||331|
|App. 3||Drama in the Theatre: Aristotle on Spectacle (opsis)||337|
|App. 4||Aristotle on Language (lexis)||344|
|App. 5||Interpretations of katharsis||350|
Posted August 7, 2010
No text was provided for this review.