Reading Classics, Chronologically Through the Ages discussion

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Poetry > Poetics (330 BCE) - #13

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message 1: by Kenia (new)

Kenia Sedler (keniasedler) | 240 comments Mod
And we're onto Aristotle's Poetics now!

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

"The Poetics of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) is a much-disdained book. So unpoetic a soul as Aristotle's has no business speaking about such a topic, much less telling poets how to go about their business. He reduces the drama to its language, people say, and the language itself to its least poetic element, the story, and then he encourages insensitive readers like himself to subject stories to crudely moralistic readings, that reduce tragedies to the childish proportions of Aesop-fables. Strangely, though, the Poetics itself is rarely read with the kind of sensitivity its critics claim to possess, and the thing criticized is not the book Aristotle wrote but a caricature of it. Aristotle himself respected Homer so much that he personally corrected a copy of the Iliad for his student Alexander, who carried it all over the world. In his Rhetoric (III, xvi, 9), Aristotle criticizes orators who write exclusively from the intellect, rather than from the heart, in the way Sophocles makes Antigone speak. Aristotle is often thought of as a logician, but he regularly uses the adverb logikôs, logically, as a term of reproach contrasted with phusikôs, naturally or appropriately, to describe arguments made by others, or preliminary and inadequate arguments of his own. Those who take the trouble to look at the Poetics closely will find, I think, a book that treats its topic appropriately and naturally, and contains the reflections of a good reader and characteristically powerful thinker."


message 2: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
I sure am glad to have such a small little book this month! I've got so much going on that these 50 or so pages are about all I can handle.

I'm only a little ways in but it is interesting to read one of the first attempts to analyze and categorize poems and plays. Aristotle makes an interesting point that much of poetry sprung up naturally. It's not like one man sat down and and said, "we're all going to write in this meter and with this structure". It all developed more unintentionally than that.

I also love the context and understand this whole reading project creates. When Aristotle mentions Aeschylus, Homer, and Aristophanes, I know exactly what he is referring to because I read all of them previously.

Another aspect I found interesting was how even back then, trajedy was viewed as more respectable and mature than comedy. People have been looking down on comedy since its invention, it seems.


message 3: by Kirk (new)

Kirk Bagley (kirkbagley) | 7 comments Thank you for keeping this group going. I have my breaks between books, and it's inspiring to see the pace you two are at!


message 4: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
After finishing this book, here are a few of my thoughts.

The big idea that Aristotle keeps returning to is Art, and specifically Poetry, being imitation. Poetry-as-imitation is in our nature - it's instinctive. Children learn how to do things from a very young age through imitation and so, are natural-born poets.

At one point Aristotle says, "The poet being an imitator, like a painter or any other artist, must of necessity imitate one of three objects, -- things as they were or are, things as they are said or thought to be, or things as they ought to be." I might also add a fourth - things as they ought /not/ to be (as many more recent apocalyptic fiction might demonstrate).

A differentiation that Aristotle provides is the poetry expressed the universal, history the specific. Additionally, in comparing Tragedy vs. Comedy, he calls tragedy the higher form of are -- it seems that comedy has always been looked down upon.

I found these to be some interesting nuggets to chew on in my brain. I'd be interested in hearing what stood out to the rest of you in this book.


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