Student Question

Is Aristotle's definition of drama still relevant? Why or why not?

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When Aristotle divided “poetry” into epic, lyric, and dramatic, he was concerning himself with the kinds of narration that separated them.  When he defined drama as “imitation of an action by action” he was referring to its theatrical expression, and of course had no comment on “recorded” imitation (film, etc.)  His definition of tragedy includes a sense of catharsis. What has changed since his delineations is the non-liveness of cinema drama, the rising and falling actions on screen, recorded in the absence of the recipients, the “audience” or, more accurately, the “spectators.”  The most irrelevant aspect, then, of his definition, is the catharsis the citizenry feels from witnessing the enactment of the drama.  While there are several emotions evoked from viewing a film, it is hard to list catharsis among them.  Film, TV, etc. can reproduce a plot, even some psychological character, but no-one is “fooled” into thinking they are witnessing a real “tragedy.”  Also, the "citizenry" represented by the chorus, is no longer a unified body.

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