Aristotle’s “Poetics”

In our week 8 lectorial, a brief mention was made about Aristotle’s “poetics,” recognised as the first recorded attempt at literary criticism. I wanted to find out more about this concept and so I did some research and discovered the following.

Key terms

Aesthetics: a set of principles concerned with taste and the nature and appreciation of beauty

Poetics: earliest recorded dramatic theory, study of linguistic techniques in poetry and literature

Rhetoric: the art of persuasion

Aristotle branched away from Plato’s concept of mimesis and his belief that “art is an imitation of life.” Rather, he considered the purpose of a work in its context, and its social importance.

Among other concepts, Aristotle placed a focus on:

  • The purging of emotions while watching a tragedy (known as catharsis)
  • The reversal/turning point in a plot (peripeteia)
  • The emotional appeal to an audience (pathos)
  • Extreme pride or self-confidence (hubris)

Aristotle’s Elements of Tragedy

  • Plot
  • Character
  • Thought
  • Diction
  • Melody
  • Spectacle

Essentially, the content and the form are equally important in conveying meaning and eliciting a response from an audience.

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