As the title suggests, the second chapter will focus on Aristotle. Pelagia Goulimari starts by offering some details about Aristotle’s life. You might have noted that Aristotle served as the tutor for Alexander the Great.
Goulimari then compares Aristotle to Plato. She claims Plato’s writings are more artistic than Aristotle’s scientific, systematic works.
She then pivots toward Aristotle’s ideas about tragedy, epic, and comedy. Tragedy is supposed to represent people as better than they really are. Comedy is intended to represent people as worse than they are in real life. Meanwhile, epic and tragedy share many traits. They both reflect serious and complete action.
Next, Goulimari talks about Aristotle’s contrasting definitions for the historian and the poet. The historian is supposed to relate what actually happened. The poet, conversely, can pick and magnify certain events without having to worry too much about presenting a complete or historically accurate picture.
Goulimari then brings in more contemporary literary critics like Terry Eagleton and Raymond Williams. Eagleton and Williams seem to have issues with Aristotle’s rather apolitical, ahistorical presentation of tragic characters.
The chapter then moves on to catharsis. As you might have noted, for catharsis to be present, a character can neither be absolutely good nor totally bad.
Then literary critic George Steiner makes an appearance. Steiner seems to think tragedy is obsolete. He cites the death of the chorus as a reason why tragedy has passed away. However, Goulimari thinks tragedy is alive. She sees tragedy in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved.
Later on in the chapter, Goulimari creates further links between tragedy and novels. She highlights the tragic elements of Samuel Richardson’s novel Clarissa and Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Goulimari also has an extensive discussion on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. As you might have learned, Nietzsche wrote a great deal about tragedy. Nietzsche seems to use Aristotle’s thoughts on tragedy as a way to promote his own aestheticized, grandiose ideas on suffering.