poetics

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Poetics by Aristotle (as translated by Ingram Bywater)

Aristotle’s important literary treatise is a basis for modern literary theory. Written in 225 BC, poetics encompasses literary suppositions behind both poetry and rhetoric, including drama, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, and epic poetry. The main focus of the treatise is on the Greek Tragedy, which was immensely popular within Greek culture at that time.

Poetics is Aristotle’s close study of the literary art forms prevalent in his time. The first chapters of Poetics focus on different types of poetry, including epic poetry, comedy, tragedy, and dithyrambic poetry. He describes them as distinct art forms, examining their differences and similarities. Aristotle believed that art is an imitation of real life, and that poetry is mimetic. Poetics may in fact be a reaction against Plato’s attack on poetry in his work, Republic.

He touches upon great narrative poets, mainly Homer, and philosophers, such as Empedocles. Other chapters elaborate on the mimetic arts, discuss concepts like plot elements of a great tragedy, the characteristics of a tragic hero, speculates upon thought, diction, style, and grammar, and discusses what constitutes the highest form of art. He concludes that the tragedy is higher art form than the epic poem.

Poetics as we read it today is not Aristotle’s original work. Unfortunately, the original work, which was probably a good deal longer, has been lost. What we have today are remnants and translations of his work from his students’ notes. Aristotle, a student of Plato and tutor fo Alexander the Great, is one of the founders of Western thought and philosophy. Poetics is considered one of the most important works of literary criticism in all of history.

Ingram Bywater was an English classical scholar who specialized in the translation of great Greek philosophical works.

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