PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. The following Text and Translation of the Poetics form part of the volume entitled Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art. PDF | This paper provides an overview and commentary of Aristotle's theory of poetry, of drama, and of narrative structure, as presented the Poetics. The main. The Project Gutenberg EBook of Poetics, by Aristotle . On the same principle, even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all metres.
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Free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook. Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest-surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on. This book is available for free download in a number of formats - including epub, pdf, azw, mobi and more. You can also read the full text online using our. POETICS. Aristotle. Aristotle's Poetics aims to give an account of poetry. Aristotle does this by attempting to explain poetry through first principles, and by.
How could we live life to the full if we risk nothing? Risk is a part of life. Even if we never lose sight of the fact that we are enjoying a work of art, why should we suppose that makes the environment "safe"? And what would Plato say, for whom "safe poetry" was as close to being an oxymoron as "safe sex" has recently become for us? How could something which imaginatively captures our souls ever be completely riskfree? The interpretation of catharsis as a kind of relief may turn out to be correct for all I know, but it's clear that if the argument is to be pursued along these lines, more work needs to be done to illuminate the connection between mimesis and imagination, to measure the ways in which the imaginative performs, in Whalley's terms, a "realising function.
If an action is said to be unified, then presumably the enactment, or re-enactment, of it must also be unified, even though mimesis and praxis have to remain in some ways two different things, distinct. But Rudiger Bittner, for one, thinks there is "no satisfactory account of 'one action' on Aristotelian lines. Any piece of activity may be treated as such.
Aristotle mentions repeatedly that in tragedy things happen according to what is prob- xxvi Preface able or necessary. But the necessity involved here is not imposed by an alien power crushing human endeavor. Nor is it fate, predetermining the course of events. It is a necessity immanent to the action. All that is happening is tied together by its constituting this sort of action.
Not consequences, strictly speaking, are inevitable, since consequences are something distinct from what they are consequences of. Not punishment is imposed on the hero, for the same reason. It is all the one action that takes its course, and the suffering at the end is part of it.
Admittedly, doubts arise at this point whether under such strict conditions of immanence there exist any tragedies worth the name. But it seems to imply that the suffering, the pathos, comes only at the end, and by spotlighting a tragic "hero" Bittner obscures the central role of tragic relationships. In any case, if the suffering is part of it, why not also the punishment and the consequences? The argument seems to suppose that what is distinct is also separable, which need not be true.
Moreover, what if a pathos is not simply a consequence of a praxis arriving at the end , but is in some way a constituent of it from the first, as Whalley's formulation pathos-as-praxis suggests?
And what if the major consequences, and perhaps also the most important punishments, centre on the recognitions of that fact? There is no doubt that Aristotle emphasizes the importance for tragedy of what happens according to probability or necessity; but these may involve more than a mechanical chain of cause and effect, which could in theory arbitrarily begin or end anywhere.
Perhaps we should be looking for a more intimate kind of necessity. And there are degrees of recognition. Not all tragic figures see the full meaning of their pathos, not all are aware of the full transactive, or interactive, nature of their deeds, of their ineluctable involvement with fellow human beings, especially blood relations.
But without some degree of imaginative realization of the pathos and the praxis, and of both together, there is no tragedy. As Stephen White says, in drawing connections between Aristotle's favorite tragedies, both Oedipus Tyrannus and Iphigenia at Tauris "dramatize a movement from hamartia to recognition that reveals the depths of the protagonists' concern for the people harmed or threatened by their actions.
A final note on the question of genre similarly challenges the notion of a doctrinaire Aristotle. There is a fairly widespread assumption that Aristotle aims mainly to define, and then rank, George Whalley on the Poetics xxvii various genres.
This assumption frequently underpins a further assumption that the Poetics has very limited relevance to literature produced since Aristotle's time, many new species having been invented, including new sub-species within the genre of tragedy itself. Wayne Booth, for example, makes both assumptions: almost nothing [Aristotle has to say after he has] explained why plot is the soul of tragedy i45O b can be applied directly to any but a very few of the species [modern] criticism addresses.
Even when you discuss works that seem to belong to the species of tragedy, you will find You will make hash of Othello or The Mayor of Casterbridge or Death of a Salesman if you apply, unmodified, [his] criteria for the best tragedy. You will likely make hash if you insist on a concept of Othello as "hero"; you might stand a better chance of acquiring a more discriminating taste if you work from the dynamic pathos of the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. Whalley, for his part, may overstate the case in the opposite direction when he claims that "the radical error This may be a valid-enough way to think of these things, but it happens not to be Aristotle's way" Still, Whalley is, I think, on the right track in supposing that Aristotle is less interested in differentiating tragedy from epic than in exploring the intriguing fact, as he sees it, that it was Homer who taught the dramatists how to be dramatic and how to be tragic.
Aristotle's interest is not simply in what tragedy is, but how it developed, what it developed from, how it works. His approach by way of inductive inference rather than deduction makes the Poetics more radically germane to the discussion of all imaginative literature.
It is one of the chief virtues of George Whalley's translation-andcommentary that it opens the way for a wider participation in that discussion. Students of English have much to gain from entering Whalley's workshop. But the benefits are not all one-way.
The problems Aristotle wrestled with - mimesis, catharsis, praxis, and the rest - have not been sewed up, or solved once and for all. As Ben Jonson says in "Discoveries": xxviii Preface I know nothing can conduce more to letters, than to examine the writings of the ancients, and not to rest in their sole authority, or take all upon trust from them; provided the plagues of judging, and pronouncing against them, be away; such as are envy, bitterness, precipitation, impudence, and scurrile scoffing.
For to all the observations of the ancients, we have our own experience: which, if we will use, and apply, we have better means to pronounce.
It is true they opened the gates, and made the way, that went before us; but as guides, not commanders.
The translation-andcommentary is bracketed by the essays reprinted here from the University of Toronto Quarterly. The middle parts, by contrast, may feel somewhat awkward since they duplicate examples that reappear in the translation-and-commentary. But there are advantages to retaining them in this form and place, quite apart from the impossibility of writing Whalley's introduction for him at this stage.
The comparisons with the work of other translators are useful for bringing us nearer the heart of the process, for showing more fully how the work of translation actually gets done, especially in the early stages.
They also emphasize the radical focus on language, the interesting tensions between English and Greek, the big issues that hinge on apparently small linguistic choices, the ways that the understanding of a central concept such as mimesis, for example, is pressured or influenced by decisions about associated terms such as "medium" or "matter," "object" or "subject," "mode" or "method.
This is followed by a series of bold and confi- George Whalley on the Poetics xxix dently offered interpretations. It is conceivable that Whalley might have toned these down were he to have drafted his own introduction. The translation-and-commentary does not stand or fall with a given interpretation of catharsis, hamartia, and so on, and it seeks to avoid hasty or premature conclusions.
Nevertheless, it is useful to have his own vivid interpretations recorded, for they indicate the direction or drift of the treatise as Whalley sees it, and they are very relevant to considering whether, or to what extent, he has achieved his main goal of disclosing the "peculiar spring and set"35 of Aristotle's mind, the activity of his imagination.
As for the translation-and-commentary itself, the method of presentation may appear somewhat cluttered or off-putting, perhaps even officious. An anonymous reader of the first UTQ essay objects that Whalley's editorial methods, his use of brackets and of foot-notes to indicate what in his opinion are Aristotle's addenda and Aristotle's 'foot-notes' or lecture-asides, are arbitrary in the extreme.
It is one thing for an expert editor to warn a reader of a passage which there are good grounds for doubting as an interpolation or a corrupt passage; it is quite another to read the work for the reader in the guise of giving him a translation. For example, Else rejects nearly all of chapter 12 as "spurious," and in his translation relegates it as does Whalley to an appendix.
In his Argument he speculates that the presence of chapter 12 in previous editions obscured the correlation of hamartia and recognition as interdependent parts. The mere fact of chapter i g's being interposed between the discussions of anagnorisis and hamartia constituted a stumbling block: "Even scholars who recognized its spuriousness were unconsciously influenced by its presence and position.
Chapter 16, on kinds of recognition, provides an instructive example. Else summarizes the problem as he sees it: "Although there is no reason to suspect the genuineness of this section, it is a later addition to the text of the Poetics which has been arbitrarily stuck in just here But it will not fit any better elsewhere. Logically, it could come after chapter 14, where the analysis of 'recognition' would follow the analysis of pathos as Vahlen suggested.
The method of presentation here is meant to provoke further thought about the nature and range of recognitions, the shifting criteria by which, in Aristotle's view, they may be evaluated, and the degree to which they are or are not embedded in the action.
This arrangement also helps to illuminate the claims that recognitions are not simply technical but are crises in the action of the play and that they may be part of that "untying" of the action which often reaches back earlier in the plot than the more mechanical notions of climax and denouement usually suggest. It seems no large leap to suppose that a lecturer, in re-presenting his material, would be likely to group afterthoughts on a certain topic together with earlier, or first, thoughts.
Is such an editorial rearranging of the text tantamount to reading the work for the reader or taking over from the lecturer? In a sense, perhaps, it is, but at issue is the concept of what constitutes the act of reading in the first place. A lone reader confronting the integrity of the printed text in solitude?
The Western paradigm of reading: a showdown on a deserted main street? This may apply to certain kinds of reading, but it's doubtful that it applies to the Poetics.
First, the integrity of the text is far from simply given, no matter how conservative the editorial principles. And second, a text designed to be listened to as much as, or more than, to be read, implies a more sociable, a more collaborative enterprise from the start. No one voice in this discussion gets the last word. It's clear that Aristotle has a sort of running dialogue going with figures such as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides, who are repeatedly and explicitly cited; but there is the even more dynamic, yet hidden, polemic with Plato, who is never named.
One suspects that Aristotle does not confront Plato directly because he does not have a wholly satisfactory or complete answer to Plato's charges, and that for precisely this reason Plato haunts him all the more.
In this case, his set of lecture notes is multilayered as much on account of the difficulty of the questions as George Whalley on the Poetics xxxi because of the number of times the course was offered, or echoed, or copied. Whalley retains the traditional chapter divisions because they are long-established and are now themselves a convenient way of referring to the various sections.
But he also introduces a method of paragraph numbering, which is meant to challenge the authority of the chapter divisions and which highlights the often subtly shifting perspectives on various issues.
Because his translation-and-commentary was used repeatedly with his own graduate seminars, it has also acquired an aura of its teaching context, one not unlike the aura that Whalley imagines for the inception of the Poetics. The most pointed reminder of this context is the handful of references to Coleridge, usually invoked as if he were a constant presence in the debate, a participant by natural right even if he speaks but seldom.
It works as a conclusion, even though it was not originally intended to perform that function, because it articulates and summarizes the guiding principles of the whole project, emphasizing the co-presence of Aristotle and Coleridge in Whalley's critical thinking.
Unlike the first UTQ essay and the translation-and-commentary, however, this essay is altogether without footnotes printed that way, perhaps, because it was virtually a transcription of a public lecture. Among Whalley's papers in connection with this essay is a photocopy of an unusual article by Raymond Preston.
Like Whalley, Preston sees parallels between Aristotle and Coleridge, but he concludes with some sharp criticisms of the latter. A measure of the anti-objective, anti-mimetic It's a fair guess, then, that he has Preston in mind in "The Axis" when he writes: "Like Aristotle, Coleridge thinks of poetry as making; he uses the word 'creative' very seldom and then in a way that bespeaks a fastidious theological sensibility" But if on this issue Whalley and Preston are at odds, they come closer together in several others that Whalley has marked, including the following: Coleridge in his very best critical principle and practice, still maintains a solidly Aristotelian core.
I am aware of the inaccuracy of reading into Aristotle's phantasia, in itself, more of a Coleridgean sense than the texts strictly warrant; but the third book of the DeAnima repeatedly emphasizes that Aristotle's phantasia does not exist in itself.
It is a function of the whole mind acting as a unity. But there is no doubt that for him the Coleridgean view of imagination as in his words "a state in which the whole soul of man is brought into activity with the correct relation of all its functions" is highly relevant to the Poetics.
Preston's essay is useful not only for clarifying the nature of Whalley's engagement with these issues but as a kind of independent testimony to the value of thinking about Coleridge and Aristotle together. He is less sympathetic to Coleridge than Whalley is, and he does not set out to focus on him, but there are more than a dozen references to him in the last few pages of the article.
In addition, his approach differs from Whalley's by paying considerable attention to several other works by Aristotle, including De Anima, Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics, Politics, and Posterior Analytics. In Whalley's view, Aristotle's breakthrough concerning the centrality of action, of drama, depends on his peculiar set: "If he had not had as dull an ear for poetry as he seems to have had he could never have seen tragedy in this bizarre and penetrating way.
Whatever else it does for Whalley, the enlisting of Coleridge moves The Poietic Art further along the road to a defence of poetry. Juliet McMaster Toronto: Macmillan, , This essay is reprinted in Studies in Literature and the Humanities, ed.
All correspondence cited in this preface is from Queen's Archives. John Beer London: Macmillan, , The Latin tag means "there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses. Gerald F. Grube Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, Others who also say "on stage" include Kenneth A.
Telford, trans. However, as an attempt to bring together parts of a very dissonant chorus, to make scholars listen to what others have to say and, perhaps, to start a discussion on a much larger scale than before, the initiative of Livio Rossetti and his Advisory Committee Julia Annas, Giuseppe Cambiano, Thomas A.
Szlez;tk deserves much praise. The book is well and solidly produced, thanks to the efforts of the Academia Verlag and the first editors of this new series L. Brisson, L. Rossetti, C. Essays on Aristotle's "Poetics. Michael Davis. Aristotle's "'Poetics": The Poetry of Philosophy. However, a lacuna perhaps worth pointing out is that the basic "meta-questions" of the methodology of our Plato interpretation, which will have to be fundamentally reconsidered sooner or later, are not really discussed in this book.
Probably we are not yet ready to envisage this complex within the frame of a single dialogue as can be seen, for instance, in the section on "Relative Chronology". Taken together, the contributions may seem to illustrate the chaotic flux of present-day Platonic studies.
However, as an attempt to bring together parts of a very dissonant chorus, to make scholars listen to what others have to say and, perhaps, to start a discussion on a much larger scale than before, the initiative of Livio Rossetti and his Advisory Committee Julia Annas, Giuseppe Cambiano, Thomas A. Szlez;tk deserves much praise.
The book is well and solidly produced, thanks to the efforts of the Academia Verlag and the first editors of this new series L. Brisson, L. Rossetti, C.