Aristotle's Poetics

Introduction

Aristotle's Poetics (Greek: Περὶ ποιητικῆς Peri poietikês; Latin: De Poetica;[1] c. 335 BC[2]) is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory.[3] In this text Aristotle offers an account of ποιητική, which refers to poetry or more literally "the poetic art," deriving from the term for "poet; author; maker," ποιητής. Aristotle divides the art of poetry into verse drama (to include comedy, tragedy, and the satyr play), lyric poetry, and epic. The genres all share the function of mimesis, or imitation of life, but differ in three ways that Aristotle describes:

  1. Differences in music rhythm, harmony, meter and melody.
  2. Difference of goodness in the characters.
  3. Difference in how the narrative is presented: telling a story or acting it out.

The Poetics is primarily concerned with drama, and the analysis of tragedy constitutes the core of the discussion.[4] Although the text is universally acknowledged in the Western critical tradition, "almost every detail about [t]his seminal work has aroused divergent opinions".[5] Among scholarly debates on the Poetics, the three most prominent have concerned the meanings of catharsis and hamartia (these being the best known), and the question why Aristotle appears to contradict himself between chapters 13 and 14.


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