Poetics (Dover Thrift Editions)


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Aristotle's conception of tragedy, i. Similarly, his dictums concerning unity of time and place, the necessity for a play to have a beginning, middle, and end, the idea of the tragic flaw and other concepts have had enormous influence down through the ages. Throughout the work, Aristotle reveals not only a great intellect analyzing the nature of poetry, music, and drama, but also a down-to-earth understanding of the practical problems facing the poet and playwright.

Now, in this inexpensive edition of the Poetics , readers can enjoy the seminal insights of one of the greatest minds in human history as he sets about laying the foundations of critical thought about the arts. By Mp on Oct 17, After reading Aristotle's "Poetics," I felt a severe sense of shame for not having read it much, much sooner. As a student of literature, I found that many of the concepts upon which my evaluation of literature are based, whether I picked them up in classes or through amateur theorization, are founded in the "Poetics".

This is amazing, as the work itself is hardly 50 pages long. Aristotle begins by talking about the origins of art in imitation: Artists convey their sense of the world through imitating what they see and feel around them. This is accomplished both in visual art, and for a more thorough understanding of human events, in poetry. Aristotle goes on to explain the history of literature: how encomium praises and invective curses give rise respectively to epic and lampoons.

These then pave the way for tragedy and comedy. In terms of these basic steps, in the later part of the "Poetics," Aristotle gives definitions to parts of speech, to wit, nouns, verbs, etc. Spending the greater part of the work on an investigation of tragedy, Aristotle examines the component parts of what he takes to be the best kinds of tragedies. In terms of quality, the work must be complete, showing the causal relation of events and the causal reactions of characters to those events.

It should have a plot wherein a character or characters experience a reversal of fortune or a recognition that leads to the conclusion of that plot. Plot is essential to Aristotle, and, to appropriate Heath's translation, 'universalizes' the "Poetics" to encompass even those prose works for which Aristotle himself admits to have no definition. We can apply his standards to short stories, novels, and so on. Aristotle's notions of unity, completeness, and magnitude are the conventions to which and against which all Western literature and criticism can be seen to either conform to or struggle against.

Without Aristotle's strict definitions of tragedy, comedy, unity, and so on, I can scarcely imagine how we would have notions of mock-tragedy, tragi-comedy, or even the modern or post-modern literary forms. In short, the "Poetics" is absolutely crucial reading for anyone who reads anything. By John A. Reuscher on Feb 18, I teach a course on Ethics and Aesthetics in Aristotle to graduate students. This translation and its introduction are the best for my purpose.

Both are clear, crisp, and readable. The translation is reliable and the endnotes are very helpful. I would highly rcommend this edition to anyone who has a serious interest in either Aristotle or aesthetics that does not rise to a level that requires a reading knowledge of the Greek text. The "Poetics" contains Aristotle's observations on what elements and characteristics comprised the best tragedies based on the ones he'd presumably seen or read.

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He divides "poetry," which could be defined as imitations of human experience, into tragedy, comedy, and epic, and explains the differences between these forms, although comedy is not covered in detail and tragedy gets the most treatment. For one thing, tragedy, he states, seeks to imitate the matters of superior people, while comedy seeks to imitate the matters of inferior people. To Aristotle, the most important constituent of tragedy is plot, and successful plots require that the sequence of events be necessary required to happen to advance the story logically and rationally and probable likely to happen given the circumstances.

Any plot that does not feature such a necessary and probable sequence of events is deemed faulty. Reversals and recognitions are plot devices by which tragedy sways emotions, particularly those that induce "pity and fear," as is astonishment, which is the effect produced when the unexpected happens. He discusses the best kinds of tragic plots, the kinds of characters that are required, and how their fortunes should change over the course of the plot for optimum tragic effect. With regard to poetic language or "diction," he emphasizes the importance of figurative language metaphor, analogy in poetry and the importance of balancing figurative with literal language.

It is his opinion that metaphoric invention is a natural ability and not something that can be taught.

Aristotle's Poetics

Of all the poets Aristotle mentions who exemplify the ideals proposed in the "Poetics," Homer draws the most praise. Malcolm Heath's introduction in the Penguin Classics edition offers some helpful and amusing clarification and commentary on the "Poetics," including a demonstration of the Aristotelian method of constructing a tragedy using the story of Oedipus as an example.

A work that is scant in volume but rich in ideas, the "Poetics" demands to be read by all those interested in ancient thought on literature. By Sophia K on May 21, This translation uses terminology appropriate for teaching the Poetics to beginning theatre students. It is an excellent version for use in a theatre as opposed to philosophy class, and the budget price and slim size of the edition make it a fine bargain for students with limited finances.

As a theatre teacher of students from middle school to college, I strongly recommend selecting this particular edition and translation of the Poetics for use in discussing the parts of drama in an introductory course. By Kenneth John Atchity on Sep 13, The principles in what was probably a compilation of Aristotle's "lectures notes" are timeless, and have influenced story analysis for the past years.

His understanding of story as a contrived mechanism aimed to MOVE audiences should be a relief to every writer who takes it to heart: the elements required for drama and dramatic fiction and nonfiction are not infinite but a handful. But that handful must be dealt with properly or the assembly will have no effect on audiences. He tells us Homer's greatness was that "he himself is nowhere to be found in his works, his characters everywhere"; that Homer began "in the middle of things" Latin rhetoricians called it, "in medias res"; and that every great story needs a discovery that leads to a turning point in the protagonist's progress toward comedy or tragedy.

Don't leave home without it! By Leigh Wyatt Clark on Jun 12, The Penguin Aristotle editions are probably the best available for nonspecialists with limited or no classical Greek. The long and detailed introduction is worth the cost of this book alone; and the translation itself is scrupulous and scrupulously annotated with detailed notes and references to historical contexts and Aristotle's other writings. The H. Lawson-Tancred translation and annotation of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric is another outstanding example. I have read the Poetics in various translations for over forty years.

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This is by far the best translation for conveying, as nearly as possible, what Aristotle actually wrote and, even more importantly, the historical and literary contexts in which he wrote and the consequent inferences his first Greek readers would have been expected to make based on what they knew. It's also a very readable translation no small feat with Aristotle, who can be made very tough going in English by translators more interested in showing off their erudition than assisting readers.

This is the translation to buy for students or casual readers making their first attempt at Aristotle, or by more seasoned readers who have been confused or discouraged by enigmatic translations without notes. This is also an economically priced translation, a much better buy than the cheaper, unannotated translations. By Fred on Nov 18, By this time, the importance of Aristotle as a philosopher and the first analyst of drama is well known.

For budding screenwriters, reading and understand his Poetics is one of the requirements for building good stories. Since I can't read the original in its Attic Greek, good translations are worth their weight in gold. Malcolm Heath's excellent translation is incredible.

First, the introduction to the main work is longer than the translation itself. Not satisfied with that, there are notes to the translation as well! One comes away from this work with a crystal clear understanding of the concepts Aristotle teaches. This definitely is my preferred translation of the Poetics. Schwartz on Jan 23, Poetics is an illuminating analysis of poetry and its origins. Aristotle analyzes the writing of famous ancient Greek poets such as Homer, Aeschylus and Sophacles and outlines the difference in construction between poems that are tragedies and poems that are Comedy.

This book is really only for those who are true Greek poetry lovers, or at least serious students of literature. I found it hard slugging indeed. But if you want to complete your education on ancient Greek philosophers, Aristotle must be read. His presentation of argument and topics for disucussion cannot be beat. By Glenn Russell on Nov 28, During the golden age of ancient Greece bards roamed the countryside mesmerizing crowds by reciting the epics of Homer.

Thousands of men and women gathered and were moved to tears by tragedies performed outside in amphitheaters during sacred festivals. Such an amazingly powerful and profound experience for an entire population. What was going on here; why were people so deeply affected? Well, one of the sharpest, most analytic minds in the history of the West set himself the task of answering just this question - his name was Aristotle. Indeed, Aristotle's Poetics is one of the greatest philosophical works ever written.

There are enough commentaries to fill several thick volumes in a university library. Quite something since the entire Poetics is a mere 20 pages. But what coverage! To list several: plot, character, language and two concepts supercharged with meaning: mimesis imitation and catharsis inspiring pity or fear.

Of course, in our contemporary world we don't listen to bards recite epics or go to amphitheaters to watch tragedies, but we have abundant experience of these dramatic elements since we, among other things, read novels and watch films. So, to provide a taste of Aristotle's work, I offer my humble comments along with quotes from the text.


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First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. Even if the story involves a Siberian prison camp or an insane chase of a white whale, there is a kind of pleasure in identifying with a character and living through the character's plight.

Our humanness is enriched. And the story is complete since at the end the case is solved and the criminals answer for their crimes. How many novels and films follow this formula? Round to the nearest million.


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  • Aristotle's Poetics.

I can just imagine Gillian Flynn pouring over her Aristotle. And when it is good, a great pay-off for time spent. A very interesting and usually useful text as well as a wonderful and wonderfully annotated translation. Kaplan on Mar 24, Aristotle, one of our earliest and greatest extant recorded thinkers, explains his views on poetry in its ancient forms, epic and tragedy - what makes them work and what makes them work well. This explanation is on a basic and elemental level, and thus his ideas are still applicable to the modern forms of poetry and performance as actors generally performed poetry in Aristotle's time, competitvely and non-competitively , making the text useful today in the application of his ideas as well as in giving us an interesting glipse of this art in Aristotle's era.

However, this is not one of his originally published texts but probably lecture notes, the larger text intended for public dissemination being sadly lost. Thus much of Poetics is quite cryptic or truncated; this leaves some segments open to interpretation, which readers who favor the open-ended may prefer while those desirous of knowing the author's exact ideas and intentions may dislike.

The meaning sometimes, however, is so obscure as to be beyond interpretation. Fortunately, translator Malcolm Heath's copious notes and sprawling introduction elucidate its murkier aspects, clarifying what Aristotle most likely meant in most cases and offering probable interpretations for others along with popular alternate theories from other translators.

He also explains why the text is so cryptic, especially in its discussion of comedy, telling us of a second part which is no longer extant and the fact previously mentioned that these are most likely lecture notes. All in all this is a very interesting and usually useful text as well as a wonderful and wonderfully annotated translation, clarifying what would have otherwise been unclear and, at times, quite frustrating.

I highly recommend it, especially in favor of finding a free and non-annotated text online. By Chris Consorte on Jan 24, This is a great tool for those who are entering the field of theatre. It doesn't matter if your an actor, director, set desginer, or a writer, this book will help you understand why certain character traits exist in drama.

The amazing thing is that they are true today as they were in Aristotle's time. If my writing career in writing takes off, I owe a lot to this book. By Andreea on Mar 17, I'm glad that I have finally read Aristotle's Poetics, because it is an important essay on writing and performing - actually it's one of the earliest works on literary theory, creative writing and theatre - which shouldn't be read only by actors and those who study literature, but by anyone who considers oneself to be an artist.

Besides the wide space dedicated to tragedy and the epic poetry, the Greek author inserts also elements belonging to other arts, such as music and painting. I'm very sorry that the second part of the book, the one about comedy - is lost, but hopefully the other part of the essay survived, in order to give us a glimpse of Greek theatre and its famous tragedies.

By Melinda on Dec 10, I was surprised at how readable this was. Artistotle's world was very different that ours is today. He talks of poetry and drama, which we think of as separate, as being the same thing.

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And of the addition of a second player in that drama as being an innovation. His observations applied equally to his time and to our most current entertainment. He was the first to write down many of the principles of plot and character that sometimes seem so obvious as to not need mentioning. And then he'll use that obvious observation to provide an insight that might not otherwise be quite so clear. Some parts are just as relevant now as they ever were. Some parts are fascinating from an historical perspective, and made me wish I were more familiar with his chosen exemplars, like Aeschylus, Homer, and Euripides.

Some parts are just cool, like his dissertation on metaphors, and how to construct them. And Some parts are more wholely of his time than ours. Readable, for the most part, and anyone who professes a love of writing should read this. By Django Rienhardt on Mar 04, I am glad I did. I think those interested in western literature or aesthetics will find Poetic's to be an essential read as it provides the initial codification of concepts such as tragedy, comedy, plot, unity, character, and katharsis.

Malcolm Heath's introduction is absolutely essential and is worth the price of the book alone. By Knife G on Apr 30, I read this book in an effort to enhance my personal hobby of script writing. Help Centre. Track My Order. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. In Stock. Unable to Load Delivery Dates. Enter an Australian post code for delivery estimate. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed.

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