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Plato guide

Course Code

of 4
Platos concern in regards to poetry (any form of written/spoken art) was its
persuasive abilities when it comes to the real world and real life.
Plato hardly explores the art as art, concerned with how the art should influence
Aristotle analyzes the art very systematically and from this how they produce their
ethical effects, art persuades through its artistic technique
Nussbaum (Cultivating Humanity)
Approaches literature as a speculative form
Essay focuses on what literature does and can do
Argues: that the ethical study of literature must be one that, by attending closely to
how literature cultivates and develops imaginative powers, helps us to understand
literature and, by doing so, how to be world citizens
We become world citizens by understanding the way that literature acts on our
imaginative power
Nussbaum’s fundamental assumption is that readers are incomplete subjects, we
are open and always in the process of becoming
Her view of life is comedic, she does not see us as complete beings that are fated to
end up one way or another; we have an immense capacity for knowledge,
understanding and growth
What: Literature/Art: illuminates the possible (what you could do, places that you
could go to, people that you could become), and reveals the limits of the readers
imaginative powers (this is key to her argument)
Literature opens up the realm of possibility
Why? Literary Ethics: to cultivate a capacity for compassion across boundaries
(national, racial, gender, sexuality, etc.) without dissolving them
Literature helps us to begin to understand the inexhaustible character of the
human soul and therefore be less ruthless and forgiving of others and of ourselves
(Literature)By teaching us the limits of our imagination and allowing us to
recognize that there are boundaries that sometimes cannot or should not be crossed
Making the effort to understand allows us to empathize with a race or gender or
sexuality that we might not otherwise understand in any way at all (although you
might never fully understand what it is like to be in that persons shoes)
How? (Ethical Criticism): to see the eternity in everyones soul and to learn respect
for others; when we dont respect others, we disrespect ourselves
To learn to reason as the adversary and to learn how to accommodate them
(empathize and learn to not seek revenge)
To learn how to master ones passions and therefore to learn how to refrain from
acting on fantasies (about others) that debase their humanity
To learn how to respect, but not idolize, canonical writers
Nussbaum: we should learn to control our passions and teach ourselves to refrain
from acting on fantasies of others
Reading literature and bringing with us our knowledge of other disciplines of
literature is key