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On Poetics

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  12,465 Ratings  ·  527 Reviews
Aristotle's much-translated On Poetics is the earliest and arguably the best treatment that we possess of tragedy as a literary form. The late Seth Benardete and Michael Davis have translated it anew with a view to rendering Aristotle's text into English as precisely as possible. A literal translation has long been needed, for in order to excavate the argument of On Poetic ...more
Hardcover, 105 pages
Published July 15th 2002 by St. Augustine's Press (first published -335)
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Glenn Russell
Nov 28, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

During the golden age of ancient Greece bards roamed the countryside mesmerizing crowds by reciting the epics of Homer. Thousands of men and women gathered and were moved to tears by tragedies performed outside in amphitheaters during sacred festivals. Such an amazingly powerful and profound experience for an entire population. What was going on here; why were people so deeply affected? Well, one of the sharpest, most analytic minds in the history of the West set himself the task of answering ju
Bookworm Sean
It’s odd that the most ancient essay on literary criticism is one of the easiest to understand. It is so accessible. If you compare this to works by Nietzsche, Hegel and Freud the extremities of this can easily be seen. Aristotle explains his theory in the most basic language possible with no artful language that distances the reader from it. It is completely comprehensive and virtually impossible not to understand. Aristotle was an advocate of presenting his arguments in the most simplest of la ...more
Dec 02, 2009 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is perhaps my favourite philosopher of the Ancient world chatting about literary criticism – it doesn’t really get too much better than this. Plato, of course, wanted to banish all of the artists from his ideal republic. He wanted to do this because the world we live in is a poor copy of the ‘real’ world and so art is but a copy of a copy. Rather than bring us closer to the truth, Plato believed that art took us further away.

It can’t have been easy for Aristotle, Plato’s student, to disagre
Riku Sayuj

This is the best commentary I could find on The Poetics. Bywater's is a much better translation and immensely readable, except for the places where he employs the Greek without transliteration. A good strategy could be to keep to Bywater for a first read, and then use Whalley's idiosyncratic and 'deliberately clumsy' translation while studying his notes. We can even supplement it with the Lucas notes.

The best essay length criticism can be had from Lucas and Else, both of which are referred to of
Bill  Kerwin
Jul 29, 2007 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

If you want to learn about tragedy--or narrative in general--this is still the best place to start.
Note on the Texts and Translations
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Aristotle
Outline of the 'Poetics'

--From Plato, Republic, Books 2, 3, and 10
--Aristotle, Poetics
--From Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry
--From P. B. Shelley, A Defence of Poetry
--From D. L. Sayers, 'Aristotle on Detective Fiction'

A Note on Metre
Explanatory Notes
Glossary of Key Terms
J.G. Keely
Jan 07, 2013 J.G. Keely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, lit-crit
There's something terribly edifying when, having created your own rubric for how books should be judged, you happen to pick up the work from which all literary criticism arose and find that you and Aristotle have independently produced the same system for judgment. I know it probably just trickled down to me through cultural osmosis, but it does give me hope that I'm putting the pieces together properly.
Como obra de estudo é preciosa; como entretenimento não é muito indicada. Porque já estou numa idade em que me interessa mais a diversão que o conhecimento, não me esforcei para a compreender; a partir de metade desisti de ler as abundantes notas de rodapé e desperdicei a oportunidade de apreciar um livro que se mantém vivo há mais de dois mil anos.
Rakhi Dalal
Dec 06, 2013 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Been reading this again. Aristotle's take on woman Even a woman
may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless
, reminds me of something similar being said by Krishna in the Bhagwadgita..

I am inclined to reduce the rating here, but will probably do that with a full review.
João Fernandes
Despite the importance this book holds as the first attempt at a guide to art and dramatic critic, I think most of Aristotle's points aren't particularly accurate in the current age.

Fortunately for all of us, Art has evolved past form. The passing of time has allowed artists, from dramatists to writers, to break the conventions of past eras.

So no, Aristotle, comedy is no longer about "inferior people" and tragedy about "great people". Nor is Art very logically constructed.

By all means, read th
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Aristotle examines specific story forms like an ancient doctor analyzing the construction of the human body. He has great advice, and the relevancy to the modern works I've read surprised me.
Aug 23, 2010 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is a rudimentary tablet of knowledge by one of the greats. First off, it is somewhat incredible to concede the year that this was written, and that almost 2,400 years later we are still eager to explore poetics that are in this aged article so clearly defined.

Aristotle exalts the poet and holds him in the highest esteem. Similarly, I have come to the conclusion that the novelist of literature is the truest of artists, imitating what he sees and ‘painting’ things as how they are, telling it
Jan 09, 2016 Genni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Whew. I made it through my first work by Aristotle. If all of his works are written like this, then I don't think it's going to be that bad. My perception was that he was extremely difficult. But just from this work alone, it seems he is just very thorough. A very precise thinker. So if he deals with difficult material, he will do so in such a way that is very clear, and not convoluted. At least, that is the impression so far...

The following example stuck out to me. Let it not be said that Arist
Feb 15, 2008 bup rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, audiobook, librivox
Well, I tell you what.

Did you ever see "Dead Poet's Society"? You know that scene where it's the first day of school and Robin Williams has them read that essay out loud, with all sorts of formulae and things for analyzing poetry - where Robin Williams graphs a formula on the board: PxI=G ?

Remember that?

That's the feeling I got with this. It seems to miss the forest for the trees.

OK, it's an analysis of drama and epic poetry. But to what end? Aristotle apparently felt it would be prescriptive to
May 14, 2013 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vonnegut said that this little essay was all any novelist needed to know and I won't argue with Kurt.
Mohamad Yoosofi
ظاهراً ارسطو نخستین نظریهپرداز شعر بوده است. البته پیش از او افلاطون دیدگاههایی درباب ادبیات مطرح کرده بوده؛ اما رسالهای مستقل دراینباره ننوشته و از آن رو که رویکرد او به ادبیات، رویکردی نفیکننده بوده است، نمیتوان او را نظریهپرداز این مقوله خواند. ارسطو برپایهی آنچه از ادبیات و شاعری در زمانهی خودش برداشت میکرده، انواع شعر را در سه دسته میگنجاند: حماسه و تراژدی و کمدی. از این سه دسته، کمدی را فرودستترین و تراژدی را متعالیترین گونهی شعری میشمارد؛ چراکه کمدی غالباً برمبنای مسخرگی است و اندیشهی عمی ...more
Haya ∞Δnother book Junkie∞
Can't say that was easy, but i can't so it was hard either. It's safe to say, like many people who read this book, that i didn't read this for enjoyment. Surprisingly; i find myself really enjoying everything in it. Very educational and interesting.
Anyone who's studying literature or literary criticism NEEDS to read this.
David Withun
Sep 15, 2013 David Withun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Aristotle lays out a theory of drama and poetry that flatly contradicts that of his old teacher Plato. Whereas Plato saw the purpose of such arts as presenting an image for viewers to imitate, Aristotle instead sees these arts as a kind of mass catharsis, a vicarious partaking of an action and its consequent feelings which purges the viewer of the desire to actually engage in such activities as he views. A particularly interesting piece of fuel for thought which Aristotle provides is his idea th ...more
Rikke Bay
I acknowledge the importance of this work and it's meaning throughout the history of literature, but that doesn't mean I have to appreciate it. Really boring if you ask me.
A Poética é um livro precioso. Aristóteles é um taxonomista; tudo descreve como se fosse um médico classificando os órgãos de um ser vivo e atribuindo-lhes as funções devidas. Nesse sentido, o uso errado dos instrumentos de composição artística traria como resultado uma obra literária "doente". O mesmo, penso eu, se aplicaria à filosofia, ao uso dos instrumentos da razão. Quem não usa adequadamente os órgãos do conhecer é um homem doente: seja por debilidade (pouco uso da inteligência), seja por ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aristotle says that the exercise of any capacity brings pleasure. Poetry is language made pleasurable in verse form. Aristotle distinguishes the poetic genres of epic poetry (like Homer's Illiad and Odyssey) and tragedy (like the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles) and comedy (like the plays of Aristophanes). Aristotle only mentions lyric poetry, which is what we normally think of as poetry (like a sonnet). When Aristotle is talking about poetics, we should think of stories in verse form like Shak ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Apr 30, 2016 Tanuj Solanki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-greece

The Plots of (Greek) Tragedies

First published in The New Indian Express

It so happens that none of what Aristotle wrote for the public in his time – none of the ‘published’ works – has survived the close to twenty-four hundred years separating him from us. What we have of Aristotle is notes and half-written works, never meant for widespread sharing, perhaps written only to be of use to students as references to larger works.

One of these texts is Poetics, about sixty-odd pages if one measure

I admit, Aristotle has a few great points but still, you can't say: I'm right, I'm the best because I'm a philosopher and you're not, you're wrong... GOODBYE. People should write how they like you asshole. And some of his ideas are quite bullshit: like women and slaves = BAD. But those were the times then I guess. -.-'

I am quite fascinated by Aristotle and his time though and would love to have a discussion with him. You guys know the question "what historical figures would you invite to a dinne
Kyle van Oosterum
Helpful analysis of tragedy by a philosopher who has clearly done his homework. Some parts [my edition probably] had too much Ancient Greek and excessive amounts of praise for Homer.

Checklist for a good tragedy (according to Aristotle):
- Reversal of Fortune (peripeteia)
- Recognition (passing from ignorance to knowledge of circumstances)
- Scene of Suffering (think about Oedipus) to trigger the purgation of emotion or (catharsis)
Mike Jensen
I realize the rating must seem sacrilegious, but Aristotle simply did not process his subject well. By holding up the play he liked best as the model for all plays, he committed the fundamental error of mistaking a personal preference for a universal truth. Shame on him.

POETICS would not rate three stars had it not been so influential through later centuries. It is important to read this book to understand much later literary criticism and the structure of many subsequent plays.
Reads as a manual for the perfect tragedy and in 2015 that is pretty obnoxious, but in it's context it is a revolution. Aristotle's views on art are progressive and wonderful, even though his general views are actually despicable. I appreciate this, even though it was really really boring for me to read, I'm not sure why, I'm glad I read it anyway. I'd say if you aren't interested in the progression of criticism and art you probably shouldn't bother with this one
Aristotle's ideas about plot and character still inform much of literature and cinematic storytelling over 2000 years after he formulated them. It's a challenge to dig the nuggets out, but with a little patience and a good translation there are valuable ideas to be found in this short but influential work.
Jean Menzies
First book finished of 2012. An interesting read but I would only recommend it to those really interested in Ancient Greek Tragedy and Poetry as well as the more technical aspects surrounding it. Definitely more of an academic book than for recreational reading although it is short so won't really put you out.
Lisa Frederiksen
Not my cup of tea. Of course it's important to read the old Greek classics, but this one was plane boring.
Sep 02, 2014 Brea rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
He's a bit pretentious...
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  • On Great Writing (On the Sublime)
  • Phaedrus
  • Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry
  • The Way Things Are: The De Rerum Natura
  • Anatomy of Criticism
  • Alcestis
  • Plato I: Euthyphro. Apology. Crito. Phaedo. Phaedrus. (Loeb Classical Library, #36)
  • A Defence of Poetry
  • Ptolemy's Almagest
  • The Birth of Tragedy
  • On Old Age, On Friendship & On Divination
  • On the Aesthetic Education of Man
  • Plutarch's Lives, Vol 2
(Greece: Αριστοτέλης)
(Arabic: أرسطوطاليس)

Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) numbers among the greatest philosophers of all time. Judged solely in terms of his philosophical influence, only Plato is his peer: Aristotle's works shaped centuries of philosophy from Late Antiquity through the Renaissance, and even today continue to be studied with keen, non-antiquarian interest. A prodigious researcher and wri
More about Aristotle...

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“Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.” 106 likes
“With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible.” 39 likes
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