Sarah's Reviews > Poetics

Poetics by Aristotle
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Apr 04, 08

Recommended for: serious writers and college students
Read in April, 2008

This is the classic book that almost every writing book or English teacher refers to. All western literature and film, even metafiction books and films that have an anti-plot, are influenced by Aristotle and his analysis of plot, even though he wrote The Poetics around 350 BC.

I read the translation available at The Gutenberg project---The version I read was translated by Ingram Bywater in 1920.
link--. http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/worl...

So, why did I read Aristotle when other writers' interpretations of The Poetics are useful and more easily understood?

I wanted to read the original so I can understand how other writers interpret The Poetics.
My teenage son read it. For FUN. I can't let him have all the fun.
It is a very short book.
It helps me appreciate the clarity of modern writers.

How are The Poetics useful to the modern day writers?

Some things NEVER change.
It appears that writers deal with the same challenges now that they did 2000 years ago.

Best quote: "The construction of ... stories should clearly be like that in drama; they should be based on a single action, one that is a complete whole in itself, with a beginning, middle, and end, so as to enable the work to produce its own proper pleasure with all the organic unity of a living creature." (Section 23)

Aristotle is opinionated: Plot is the most important aspect of story. The order of events is critical. Character is secondary to plot; characters drive the plot.

Still applies today: How do we help the reader connect with our characters? Characters need to be good (not in a moral sense), appropriate, real and consistent. Characters should have a flaw.

Not useful to me: the discussion about nouns, verbs and Greek poetry. His discussion of metaphors was interesting.
Most intriguing thought: Impossibilities. How does the writer deal with impossibilities? The events can occur off stage or before the story begins.

Do I suggest The Poetics?
I read this because I'm starting my MFA program soon. I believe this is essential book that I should be familiar with.


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