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Poetics (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

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Book Description

26 Sep 1996 Penguin Classics

Essential reading for all students of Greek theatre and literature, Aristotle's Poetics remains equally stimulating for anyone interested in literature. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction and notes by Malcolm Heath.

In his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examine the dramatic elements of plot, character, language and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Taking examples from the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the Poetics introduced into literary criticism such central concepts as mimesis ('imitation'), hamartia ('error') and katharsis, which have informed serious thinking about drama ever since. Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals, while centring on chaaracerts of heroic stature, idealised yet true to life. One of the most perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history, the Poetics has informed serious thinking about drama

ever since.

Malcolm Heath's lucid translation makes the Poetics fully accessible to the modern reader. It is accompanied by an extended introduction, which discusses the key concepts in detail, and includes suggestions for further reading.

Aristotle (384-22 BC) studied at the Academy of Plato for 20 years and then established his own school and research institute, 'The Lyceum'. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy and are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today.

If you enjoyed Poetics, you might like Aristotle's The Metaphysics, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Poetics (Penguin Classics) + Mythologies (Vintage Classics) + An Apology for Poetry (or The Defence of Poesy): Sir Philip Sidney
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (26 Sep 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446364
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 12.8 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Aristotle was born at Stageira, in the dominion of the kings of Macedonia, in 384 BC. For twenty years he studied at Athens in the Academy of Plato, on whose death in 347 he left, and, some time later, became tutor of the young Alexander the Great. When Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedonia in 335, Aristotle returned to Athens and established his school and research institute, the Lyceum, to which his great erudition attracted a large number of scholars.

After Alexander's death in 323, anti-Macedonian feeling drove Aristotle out of Athens, and he fled to Chalcis in Euboea, where he died in 322. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy, and they are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today. Very many of them have survived and among the most famous are the Ethics and the Politics.

Product Description

About the Author

Aristotle was born at Stagira, in the dominion of the kings of Macedonia, in 384 BC. For twenty years he studied at Athens in the Academy of Plato. However he left on Plato's death and, some time later, became the tutor of young Alexander The Great.His writings have profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy, and they are still studied and debated today.

Malcolm Heath has been Reader in Greek Language and Literature at Leeds University since 1991.

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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
By "neobn"
If you have an interest in writing, or in Literature, or even philosophy or psychology, then Aristotle's Poetics is a very good book for you to read: Aristotle had a burning desire to understand the drives and ambitions of human beings -- he yearned to understand the human world. In the book, Malcolm Heath explains (very well, I might add) the thoughts of Aristotle, concerning his understanding of the human necessity for expression. If you want to be a writer, or want to comprehend the roots of Literature, Poetics is a vital source of essential and fundamental information. Heath additionally refers to many of Aristotle's other notes in order to present an unbiased and comprehensive case. I very much recommend this book to anyone, especially those who wish to write fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the classic text 29 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone studying literature or drama in particular needs to have read this book. It is the ultimate reference work for serious students, and the language is so straightforward and clear that it reads as if it were a contemporary work, and not the millennia-old masterpiece that it really is.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction 13 Mar 2012
By ssonia
The introduction by Malcom Heath was really good, made the reading so much easier. I recommend. Also, notes to the translation proved useful, although I have read most of the classics, Heath has obviously read more...
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 27 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great, book needed for uni studies, good for those who are interested in poetry as I needed this for my creative writing part of my English Degree.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for Students of Literature 17 Oct 2000
By mp - Published on Amazon.com
After reading Aristotle's "Poetics," I felt a severe sense of shame for not having read it much, much sooner. As a student of literature, I found that many of the concepts upon which my evaluation of literature are based, whether I picked them up in classes or through amateur theorization, are founded in the "Poetics". The "Poetics," which the Penguin editor Malcolm Heath explains in his outstanding introduction/explication, is probably comprised of lecture notes, and not intentionally meant for public consumption, nonetheless stands as the standard against which literary criticism is gauged. This is amazing, as the work itself is hardly 50 pages long.
Aristotle begins by talking about the origins of art in imitation: Artists convey their sense of the world through imitating what they see and feel around them. This is accomplished both in visual art, and for a more thorough understanding of human events, in poetry. Aristotle goes on to explain the history of literature: how encomium(praises) and invective(curses) give rise respectively to epic and lampoons. These then pave the way for tragedy and comedy. In terms of these basic steps, in the later part of the "Poetics," Aristotle gives definitions to parts of speech, to wit, nouns, verbs, etc., and how they are used in different forms of speech, and in various contexts within the genres he outlines.
Spending the greater part of the work on an investigation of tragedy, Aristotle examines the component parts of what he takes to be the best kinds of tragedies. In terms of quality, the work must be complete, showing the causal relation of events and the causal reactions of characters to those events. It should have a plot wherein a character or characters experience a reversal of fortune or a recognition that leads to the conclusion of that plot.
Plot is essential to Aristotle, and, to appropriate Heath's translation, 'universalizes' the "Poetics" to encompass even those prose works for which Aristotle himself admits to have no definition. We can apply his standards to short stories, novels, and so on. Aristotle's notions of unity, completeness, and magnitude are the conventions to which and against which all Western literature and criticism can be seen to either conform to or struggle against. Without Aristotle's strict definitions of tragedy, comedy, unity, and so on, I can scarcely imagine how we would have notions of mock-tragedy, tragi-comedy, or even the modern or post-modern literary forms. In short, the "Poetics" is absolutely crucial reading for anyone who reads anything.
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penguin Classics: Aristotle's Poetics 18 Feb 2006
By John A. Reuscher - Published on Amazon.com
I teach a course on Ethics and Aesthetics in Aristotle to graduate students. This translation and its introduction are the best for my purpose. Both are clear, crisp, and readable. The translation is reliable and the endnotes are very helpful. I would highly rcommend this edition to anyone who has a serious interest in either Aristotle or aesthetics that does not rise to a level that requires a reading knowledge of the Greek text.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The earliest textbook for dramatists 31 May 2002
By A.J. - Published on Amazon.com
The "Poetics" contains Aristotle's observations on what elements and characteristics comprised the best tragedies based on the ones he'd presumably seen or read. He divides "poetry," which could be defined as imitations of human experience, into tragedy, comedy, and epic, and explains the differences between these forms, although comedy is not covered in detail and tragedy gets the most treatment. For one thing, tragedy, he states, seeks to imitate the matters of superior people, while comedy seeks to imitate the matters of inferior people.
To Aristotle, the most important constituent of tragedy is plot, and successful plots require that the sequence of events be necessary (required to happen to advance the story logically and rationally) and probable (likely to happen given the circumstances). Any plot that does not feature such a necessary and probable sequence of events is deemed faulty. Reversals and recognitions are plot devices by which tragedy sways emotions, particularly those that induce "pity and fear," as is astonishment, which is the effect produced when the unexpected happens. He discusses the best kinds of tragic plots, the kinds of characters that are required, and how their fortunes should change over the course of the plot for optimum tragic effect.
With regard to poetic language or "diction," he emphasizes the importance of figurative language (metaphor, analogy) in poetry and the importance of balancing figurative with literal language. It is his opinion that metaphoric invention is a natural ability and not something that can be taught. Of all the poets Aristotle mentions who exemplify the ideals proposed in the "Poetics," Homer draws the most praise.
Malcolm Heath's introduction in the Penguin Classics edition offers some helpful and amusing clarification and commentary on the "Poetics," including a demonstration of the Aristotelian method of constructing a tragedy using the story of Oedipus as an example. A work that is scant in volume but rich in ideas, the "Poetics" demands to be read by all those interested in ancient thought on literature.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original Story Analyst 13 Sep 2006
By Kenneth John Atchity - Published on Amazon.com
The principles in what was probably a compilation of Aristotle's "lectures notes" are timeless, and have influenced story analysis for the past 2400 years. His understanding of story as a contrived mechanism aimed to MOVE audiences should be a relief to every writer who takes it to heart: the elements required for drama and dramatic fiction and nonfiction are not infinite but a handful. But that handful must be dealt with properly or the assembly will have no effect on audiences. He tells us Homer's greatness was that "he himself is nowhere to be found in his works, his characters everywhere"; that Homer began "in the middle of things" (Latin rhetoricians called it, "in medias res"; and that every great story needs a discovery that leads to a turning point in the protagonist's progress toward comedy or tragedy. Don't leave home without it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent text for intro to theatre course 22 May 2008
By Sophia K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This translation uses terminology appropriate for teaching the Poetics to beginning theatre students. It is an excellent version for use in a theatre (as opposed to philosophy) class, and the budget price and slim size of the edition make it a fine bargain for students with limited finances. As a theatre teacher of students from middle school to college, I strongly recommend selecting this particular edition and translation of the Poetics for use in discussing the parts of drama in an introductory course.
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