Poetics Questions and Answers
by Aristotle

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What is the main ideas of Aristotle's literary criticism as presented in his book "Poetics"? i need a summary of aristotle's literary criticism...

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One mistake students often make when approaching Aristotle's Poetics is to assume that he understood poetry in the same way that we do. In fact, Aristotle defines "poetry" as any form of writing that seeks to "mime" or imitate the real lives of humans through the use of language and rhetorical features. As such, for Aristotle, "poetry" is any kind of writing or spoken poetry, be it drama or verse, in any genre.

That being said, Aristotle acknowledges his limitations and does not attempt to cover the entirety of human output, instead limiting his discussion to tragedy and epic poetry. Looking first to his definition of tragedy, we can see that many of Aristotle's ideas of what constitutes tragedy survived into our modern understanding. For Aristotle, the point of tragedy is catharsis, or the lifting and purging of emotions in the audience. For this reason, good tragedy must have a plot, a character who is sympathetic, good use of language/harmony and melody (remember that Greek tragedy would include a sung chorus, but this can be applied more widely to mean pleasing language), spectacle (it should look impressive), thought, and diction. So, good tragedy means not only a particular type of plot, but also appropriate use of language, staging, and harmony or rhyme. As in Elizabethan tragedy—think of Shakespeare—all tragedy should include downfall resulting from the hero's fatal flaw.

In discussing epic poetry, Aristotle largely describes it as similar to tragedy in its plot, but differing in style. Epic poetry should include similar characters, thoughts and ideas, but is usually longer and less seated in the real world, dealing more in the realms of monsters, gods and the improbable. In Aristotle's view, tragedy is the superior form of mimesis.

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That is, on comedy as a companion to On tragedy.

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Small addition: Aristotle wrote a companion piece on Poetics, but it has been lost.

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In the Poetics, Aristotle is primarily concerned with analysis of two types of literary works, drama and epic. He considers that both genres function as types of imitation, or mimesis, by means of metrical language. The distinction, for him, between the two genres is that while drama functions by means of pure mimesis, epic functions by a combination of direct mimesis (reported or quoted speech) and diegesis (narration). He distinguishes tragedy as consisting of a single action (occasionally double) of a certain magnitude enacted by people greater than ourselves or seriousness from comedy, which is primarily humourous, and deals with people generally inferior.

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