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How did Aristotle's writing on poetics influence William Wordsworth?

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lifeinlove | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted September 6, 2012 at 7:45 AM via web

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How did Aristotle's writing on poetics influence William Wordsworth?

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ophelious | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 6, 2012 at 5:02 PM (Answer #1)

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Wordsworth was influenced in his poetical writings by the ideas put forth in Aristotle's Poetics, as have been many others.  While not his greatest work, the ideas found in Poetics helped shape the direction of poetic history.

Here are some of the ideas Aristotle was big on that Wordsworth chose to embrace:

  • Mimesis -- The purpose of a poem was to create an image in the mind of the reader that he or she could relate to.  It should be able to be associated with the events of that person's life or with things they could identify.
  • Impact -- A poem should have the ability to impact the readers life.
  • Accessibility -- A poem should use language that is not lofty, but rather more easily understandable.  It is important that the language used not be a barrier to the understanding of the poem.
  • Concreteness -- Poetry should avoid excessive abstraction in favor of more readily understandable themes.
  • Catharsis -- The poem (especially one that is tragic in nature,) is like the compression of a spring.  It winds up and agitates the emotions.  It is important for the poem, at the end, to allow the reader to release those emotions and return to a more relaxed state.

A good example of these principles on Wordsworth's writing can be found in the poem Tintern Abbey, which flows easily and simply toward its conclusions.  That's not to say that Wordsworth never wrote anything that didn't adhere to Aristotle's ideas, but he was definitely influenced by the themes of tragedy and catharsis.

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