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David Clark

Aristotle - Poetics 04/10/2011 2:58:00 PM Principles in the Text th  Aristotle – 4 century, pupil of Plato for 20 years  Complicated relationship with mentor  Poetics: legibly see Aristotle in critical dialogue with teacher/mentor  Written in his older age, date unknown  Appears to have had little/no impact on its own age (odd)  Aware of mimesis, nature of representation  Paradox: many centuries later, at start of Renaissance text had enormous impact had remained in obscurity since Aristotle’s death, brought up th again in 15 century Italy  Recovered in Arabic translation  Text never meant for public consumption  Interest in the nature of things (marine biologist by trade)  Poetics – least elegant of all his works, a set of lecture notes  Obscure, inconsistent – some paragraphs don’t make sense or align with others in the text  Still has impact on how mimeses are created, plots developed, things that matter and don’t with mimeses  Differs from Plato – not dialectic or each phrase building in stages  More analytical, programmatic  Poetry (esp. tragic poetry) – not Aristotle’s biggest concern  More interested in questions of ethics, law, science, government  More implicitly than explicitly compelled to respond to Plato, objective – return mimeses to positive place they’d once held in Greek society  Transformation – by the time classical tragedy passed through “The Poetics”, what comes out has been transformed; the text passes off as an analytical description of mimeses, it is also a device for transforming them  Reflects fears/hopes for cultures in which he lives  Takes Classical tragedies and reconfigures them for a Greek future  Only a generation after the first inaugural productions of great Classical tragedies (not like Sophocles Oedipus), but only a generation away  Reverberation of the plays  Consolidates Plato’s inadvertent project – need to carve out a niche for thought and philosophy in Greek culture  Indicates how much better it is than art  Plato – republic a figure for house of philosophy, home of thinking  Needs to be protected from art and rhetoric  Aristotle picks it up – offers a full scale positive discussion of art, not viewed negatively like Plato but positively, must be embraced and refined  Art in turn refines us  First steps in Western world to determine uniqueness of experience of art  Lays groundwork for fundamental question – what is art? What’s it function? What is unique about experience of mimesis? How do we experience it?  Separates Aristotle from Plato  Positive experience of art never questioned  Objects of art have special stake in proportion, balance and harmony  Unique – of all objects in a culture, although they share many things with other mimeses, they are peculiar  Uncanny proportion, balance and internal harmony  Art objects ideally are perfect (very few perfected mimeses)  In a world far from being perfect, they are the closest thing to perfection that we’ll find – except for living things  There is nothing left over, everything serves a purpose (any classical tragedy, all living things)  Wonders at special place of art in Greek culture, deepens discussion about relation between life and art  Between life as it is lived and life’s semblances, imitations in art  Relationship is never one that we can take for granted, always in discussion  Plato – mimeses can persuade people without being true, make them be something or do something regardless of if they’re valid  Horrible  Aristotle sets the condemnation aside, doesn’t even really engage with it  Poet is not a poisoner, trickster  Poet a maker, the artwork is constructed  Interest in how the thing comes together, how it’s constructed – brings out the seams (we see how well fitted together it is; if it was just a smooth surface, we couldn’t get at the thing)  Remind us that they’re made objects, assembled in a particular way for particular effects  Constructed like a living organism  Poet – the maker  Wanted to remind Classical Greeks that there should be a place preserved in a culture for wonder  Activates, helps explain his approach to art – the most generous and just relationship with the world remains a relationship with wonder, pleasure and astonishment that things are the way they are  Triggers in us, even as infants, a desire to know things  We are human because we take pleasure in knowing and in learning  At the core of each human is a student, culture is a place of learning  Emphasis of pleasure in art and living The Poetics  Not competing with artists, like Plato vies for a place in culture, to be heard  Aristotle not obviously in competition – doesn’t keep him from configuring poetry and the works of it to his own ends  Sense of enchanting powers of mimeses (shared with Plato)  Can move us at an affective, emotional level  Values the affective impact of art on humans  For Aristotle, we are human in our desire to know things  Take pleasure at gazing at objects, wondering about them, relishing in them  Gaining intelligence from the world through our senses  Only humans have capacity and interest, a stake, in deriving universal claims  Of everything we can do and all our training, none more decisively moves us to broader universal patterns than artistic mimeses, esp. Classical tragedy  Learning and the pleasure in learning is caught up with movement from particularities that we absorb through our senses and the human capacity to extract from those particulars the larger principles organizing the nature of things  Founder of scientific thought  Classical tragedies move audience away from minute particulars in the world and for a moment brings us in the company of thousands of others to another place in which we see as if into the principles that organize our lives and the universe  An ideal  Historians – drown in particulars, describe things as they are, entirely answerable to the facts  Poets have capacity and interest in moving us past things as they are to things as they might be, and what the world looks like from beyond us  World prompts us to search for meaning – activates the arts and sciences  Pleasure in the midst of terror, suffering and pity – classic tragedies  If we saw it in real life we would be horrified, when filtered through mimeses something changes  we can actually take pleasure in them Organization  Two concerns:  Formal Concern – fascination with what makes good, effective art that has certain characteristics, how the art works the way it does, what happens when art doesn’t work, and crucial principles of art  Pragmatic/Rhetorical Concern – interest in effects that the art object has on an audience  Concerns mingle throughout text, still dominate literary criticism today  Plato: two kinds of mimeses (applied – ex making a bed – and imitative)  Asks us to judge them equally, judge art of a bed the same as a real bed  Aristotle – no (Ch. 25) – must remember that the two kinds of makings, he who makes the bed and the bed, are on two different plans, with distinct criteria for establishing their worth  Can’t transpose one onto the other  As long as the art has symmetry, everything in a certain proportion, attention paid to the way it goes together – then whether its an accurate portrayal of reality is irrelevant  Affective on its own terms  First step toward a notion of art as free from utility, that it shouldn’t be put in the service of any other discipline, answerable only to itself  Measure art by its own merits  Must be a space in culture where art is created and enjoyed without the sense of usefulnes
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