Aristotle's Poetics


The Poetics and Rhetoric have often been treated as sister works, separate from the rest of the Aristotelian canon.[16] This is probably because in Aristotle's time rhetoric and poetics were classified as sort of siblings, two different aspects of performance.[17] Because of rhetoric's direct importance for law and politics, it evolved to become, to a large degree, distinct from poetics, in spite of both themes being classified under aesthetics in the Aristotelian system. In this sense, rhetoric and poetics are two sides of the same thing—the aesthetic dimension.

The Arabic version of Aristotle’s Poetics that influenced the Middle Ages was translated from a Greek manuscript dated to sometime prior to the year 700. This manuscript was translated from Greek to Syriac and is independent of the currently-accepted 11th-century source designated Paris 1741. The Syriac language source used for the Arabic translations departed widely in vocabulary from the original Poetics and it initiated a misinterpretation of Aristotelian thought that continued through the Middle Ages.[18] Paris 1741 today can be found on line at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France).[19]

Arabic scholars who published significant commentaries on Aristotle’s Poetics included Avicenna, Al-Farabi and Averroes.[20] Many of these interpretations sought to use Aristotelian theory to impose morality on the Arabic poetic tradition.[21] In particular, Averroes added a moral dimension to the Poetics by interpreting tragedy as the art of praise and comedy as the art of blame.[22] Averroes' interpretation of the Poetics was accepted by the West, where it reflected the "prevailing notions of poetry" into the 16th century.[23]

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