Aristotle's Poetics

The Creative Instinct

In The Poetics, Aristotle asserts that literature is a function of human nature's instinct to imitate. This implies that as humans, we are constantly driven to imitate, to create. By labeling this creative impulse an "instinct," one is to believe that this desire for imitation is a matter of survival, of necessity. The question then arises, of what does one feel compelled to imitate and in what way does it aid in our survival? According to essays by T.S. Eliot and Barbara Johnson, the purpose of literature is to be a part of a necessary creative process, sometimes to the extent that the creator is lost and consumed by the cause.

The first issue to tackle is the question of what literature imitates. Imitation and representation encompass all the media of artistic expression with the artist striving to represent aspects of reality or human experience. This is done either through song, the visual arts, or literature. The artist, in a sense, strives to imitate God by wielding creative power and performing a human version of divine creation. The artist is attempting to communicate his or her subjective interpretation of the world. However, the use of an interpretive medium also poses a unique challenge. In the case of...

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