Thursday, September 4, 2008

Aristotle's "Poetics"

Read the following:

1. the link to Aristotle's background on the right of the screen
2. the excerpt from "The Poetics" that's in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. If you don't have your book, see the link on the right of your screen & read sections VI - XI.

Post any thoughts you have about Aristotle's ideas on this thread. We really discuss Plato, Socrates & Aristotle because they are the foundation of western thought. The Catholic church actually revised Aristotle's theories a little then adopted them as official Catholic philosophy. All of these philosophical writings really serve as the backdrop to understanding the ancient Greek & Roman art we study as well as the ancient Greek plays we read.

"Poetics" are really an intro for us to Oedipus Rex & Medea, which we'll read next.

17 comments:

tmichals said...

I think it would be interesting to hear how Aristotle would feel about the issues concerning global warming.

Stephen Gieger said...

I think it is interesting that Aristotle choses characters that are between the extremes of misfortune and prosperity, while some authors chose these type of characters to exemplify certain traits like the guilt-ridden priest in the "Scarlet Letter".

El Paco said...

It's interesting that Aristotle said that anyone who writes about history is not a poet. I wonder what he'd think of Shakespeare's histories.

Ehren said...

I thought it was interesting how Aristotle charactried tragedy mainly by just pity and fear. I think that there is a much broader span of emotions that takes place besides just pity and fear that allows a piece of work (specifically a tragedy)to be successful.

Mr. Plainview said...

Do Reversal of the Situation and Recognition lead to the Scene of Suffering? I think it is inevitable. Recognition, at least, is crucial. It produces love or hate, and there can be no pain or suffering without love or hate.

bballinsupasta said...

i agree w/ ehren in that even tragedies have a bit of comic relief

1337fragger said...

I think that Aristotle makes a good point about historic plays and poems. They are about real events, but in the end they are created to be read and well received.

Caroline said...

I think Andrew makes a good point...

ndepass said...

after reading the background info, i thought it was incredible how he established so many ideas that play a role in society today. it is amazing that someone with such primitive technology was able to produce so many brilliant and accepted observations that long ago.

Also, i thought his outline on poetics was very clear and provided good information that allowed me to understand just what a "tragedy" is. However, some of his descriptions seemed some what simplified, like how ehren said about how it has to be pity and fear. Also, how he said either complex or simple.

puddlewonderful said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
puddlewonderful said...

I was just as awed as Nick was when I read of Aristotle's amazing contributions to science. I wish I could know how he discovered so much with such primitive means!

As an actress, I found the excerpt extremely insightful and true-- his observations, for example, on the relationship between character and plot, and how a good play is written so that the two are entwined and make sense together. Many of his other requirements ensure the same thing-- that the action be believable, that it flow properly, that no elements stand out, or not fit well (e.g., the chorus being some random interlude that could be placed into another play, but a part of the action, like the chorus of Oedipus being the citizens of Thebes).

I think it telling, also, that he requires that the situation be one that could happen to any man-- that it be universal. It ties well with their views on sculpture-- that statues have no identifying, unique features, that they all be common but perfect, lovely but extraordinary.

Although many of us would disagree with some of the restraints he puts on the complexity of the action (though, note, not the complexity of the play itself-- the forces behind Oedipus are many, interrelated and subtle, as the introduction reads), I must admire the perfection of this form. Aristotle has analyzed what makes a perfect, functioning Greek tragedy. He has scientifically analyzed and recognized the goal (catharsis), and deduced logically how best to achieve that goal. All of those requirements for simplicity of the action allows the Greek audience to form a singular, strong bond with the main character, undistracted and unconfused by subplots or empathy for minor characters. The unity of time keeps the bond from being interrupted (as does the lack of subplot, or unity of action). The character's status as "the man whose place is between these extremes," makes him one to whom the average person can relate; few of us are vile in our own abject sin and equally few are spotless in virtue-- we are all a composition of multiple minor flaws and assets. Hence Aristotle's talk about universals-- these must all be actions we could have committed and situations in which we could have been involved. This "imitation... of actions and of life," as Aristotle puts it, is what allows the empathetic bond to be so strong and complete and the catharsis to be so successful. If catharsis is a mass action, then mass appeal for mass empathy must be the goal, so that the cathartic experience can be as whole and unifying as possible.

This flawless analysis of ancient theatre proves Aristotle's immense genius. It is no wonder he made such contributions to science-- his thought is so clear, so precise, so thorough and perceptive.

bballinsupasta said...

i think that Aristotle's insistence on universal actions and plots has not really affected modern theater. i feel that many works are targeted to such small audiences that they are never really appreciated to their full potential.

Ehren said...

Aristotle's emphasis on catharsis is very poignant. I think the point of all art is to be cathartic to some extent. This is what deepens the connection between the audience and the artistic experience.

Manal said...

I agree that Aristotle's piece was clear and understandable. It seemed to me that he wanted everyone to understand what in his opinion was the correct form of a tragedy. By having the deefinations/explanations of terms he used, his piece did not seem as elitist as others. I also liked his defination of a tragedy. I agree that both pity and fear are key components by feeling thoes two emotions for the character there is a better bond and understanding of the play. I don't think he said that the audience can not experience any other emotion while watching, but rather that pity and fear are more important and need to be there for the play to be considered a tragedy. I don't know, I might be wrong, but since it is a tragedy and you know something bad is going to happen to the character not becasue he was a bad person but because he made a simple mistake, then the audience should feel pity for the character because of how the character's life unfolds.

Margaret said...

"The character's status as "the man whose place is between these extremes," makes him one to whom the average person can relate; few of us are vile in our own abject sin and equally few are spotless in virtue-- we are all a composition of multiple minor flaws and assets." I couldn't agree with Michelle more. It was explained in class that Aristotle is more geared toward creating works that most people could understand. He's not as elitist as Plato.

I also think that Aristotle is very precise and clear in his explanation of the perfect tragedy. He makes really good points. I'm not a theatre buff, but I agree with Jane. I think modern theatre is pretty varied. Lots of post modern plays too, I'll bet. But for the most part, I think Aristotle's Poetics has affected many things we have today. Like movies and commercials. Though with commercials, it's quite a bit more manipulative of our emotions... but I guess you could say the whole idea is kinda manipulative.

puddlewonderful said...

It would be interesting to watch a few movies, commercials, and videos of plays and analyze them for Aristotelian influences. I would hazard to guess that we'd find more than we'd have expected.

JP said...

I think the Poetics were a big deal just because Aristotle was the first person to write a well-known analysis of how poetry and plays are written. He can be seen, I think, not only as the ancestor of modern critics of literature, but also as the ancestor of "how-to" guides for writing and fleshing out specific forms and literary techniques. Patterns such as the Hero's Journey, for example, seem to follow naturally from Aristotle's example of writing about how to write.

Thinking about how to think, and writing about how to write. The Greeks were some pretty smart dudes.