I. Aristotle vs. Plato
A. In general, Aristotle is deductive, Plato inductive.
B. In literary theory, Plato opposes literature in general and drama in particular as “an imitation of an imitation.”
II. Aristotle’s Definition of Tragedy
A. Is a process of imitating an action which has serious (not comic) implications
1. Why imitate? It is pleasurable. Why? Because we learn.
2. Imitation > History: tragedy gets at the kind of thing that can happen
3. What you need to imitate an action:
a. Thought (i.e. “content”) – what the characters put across through words
b. Character – Hero should be
i. Good, but with some flaw (hamartia) such as Oedipus’ hubris
iii. True to life
c. Plot (the most important)
i. The Peripety (reversal of intention)
ii. The Recognition (hero learns some crucial thing, esp. about self)
iii. The Pathos (tragic act):
01. Destructive or painful deed done to someone near and dear
02. Done (knowingly or unknowingly) or narrowly escaped
iv.Structure: The “tying” … the Peripety … the Untying (Dénouement)
B. Is complete
1. Begins and ends naturally
2. Is unified, has no unnecessary scenes
C. Has magnitude
D. Uses sensuously attractive language
E. Is enacted, not narrated
F. Through a course of pity and fear, completes the purification (“catharsis”) of a tragic act (a pathos). What does that mean?
1. One theory: the tragedy over, we somehow feel elated, cleansed.
2. Another: the hero’s response to recognition proves him not culpable, thus “pure.”
3. Another: It’s not the nastiness of the misdeed that we remember but the salutary lesson about the meaning of life.
III. Aristotle and later ages
A. Medieval interest in his physics and metaphysics
B. Renaissance preferred Plato, but embraced the Poetics enthusiastically
1. The “unities” of time, space, action