Presentation: Aristotle's Poetics--Sarah Knoth

Aristotle’s Poestics

"...to be learning something is the greatest of pleasures not only to the philosopher but also to the rest of mankind’s, however small their capacity for it; the reason of the delight in seeing the picture is that one is at the same time learning—gathering the meaning of things, e.g. that the man there is so-and-so; for if one has not seen the thing before, one’s pleasure will not be in the picture as an imitation of it but will be due to the execution or colouring or some similar cause.” (227)


·      Imitation, mimesis, art

·      the function of imitation and the value of discovery

·      In Poetics, Aristotle asks his readers to take into consideration three kinds of poetry: comedy, tragedy, and epic, and with these examples he tries to integrate his opinion about mimesis.

·      With any type of art, according to Aristotle, there is a certain kind of re-presentation of something

·      a new presentation of a work that is possibly in the need of examination or why imitate it?—in recreating something we want to discover something

·      Aristotle seems to say that discovery is the reason for exploration into art; through art we try to find a deeper meaning, a window into humanity or at least the artist’s intentions.

·      Art is sometimes the filter in which we can discover truth.

·      art can often times show us our limited, finite existence

·      with this feeling of finality we can begin to grasp the ideas of poetry and of art; we try to feel, or the feeling just comes to us naturally; this feeling of commonality with humanity.

·      Imitation is KEY: he says that humans innately enjoy imitation because we learn first by imitation (227). “Art imitates life.”

·      One of his main examples of art and his theory on mimesis comes with the example of the tragedy. Many critiques have said that a tragedy is not something that wishes to teach a lesson; instead it is a “purging” of emotion of pity and fear that occur when we watch a tragedy. Not necessarily leading toward one particular truth.

·      Aristotle said that “for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune; fear by the misfortune of a person like ourselves” (55). It is at this moment of discovery that we find meaning in a piece of artwork

·      Poetics is that art’s purpose/it’s function is to help a person connect the dots---it’s the feeling we get when we find a connection to a piece of artwork. It’s the truth we have come to find---perhaps a sense of awe---we are presented to an unknown; there in lies the feelings of fear and pity---humankind

·      fear and pity are just two examples… it’s really whatever feeling you get when you connect the dots.

·       Powerpoint: The Sistine Chapel---  we are presented, in the center of the ceiling, the initiation of life---God gives life to Adam. 9 scenes from the book of Genesis---illustrates literature--- both imitations recreations of an original.

·      What Aristotle is trying to say, at least in my opinion, is that no matter what kind of artwork you are looking at, the artist is trying to imitate/depict a moment that will conjure in you a sense of something greater that perhaps you haven’t experienced before----go to passage above. –what’s going to lead you to a higher truth than you had before

·      Famous photograph from the Vietnam War---  some may not even consider this art—what makes it art? in the documentary sense. it recreates/imitates/reproduces a single moment in history and with that a greater context---we are brought to the horrifying experience of these children. do we pity them do we fear them? is there a sense of awe?

·      through art, we try to connect to humanity. 

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