LITERATURE: Aristotle’s Poetics

From Section 1, Part I (Yes, I did get further along than this, the second paragraph, but figured I’d better start posting on it):

Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dithyrambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of imitation.  They differ, however, from one another in three respects–the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation, being in each case distinct.  (p. 1)

Basically, art imitates life.  The medium, I am assuming is the presentation, played or written or spoken.  The objects, text or brass pipes and strings.  These do use sound–if text is read aloud–to communicate.  Communicate what?  Emotion, decision, ideas. 

Aristotle goes on to inform of the harmony and rhythm employed in the various forms of art, including the rhythm or movement of dance to show emotion, character, or action.  This can be seen when watching dancers perform to a specific piece, as well as the goings-on at the local disco where the patrons use body language to not only express their feelings about themselves, but to "speak" to a dance partner in the hope perhaps of further engagement for the evening.

I do intend to reread this section and the next few sections before going much further in posting as it seems that once understood, it will make everything else that much clearer.

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4 Responses to LITERATURE: Aristotle’s Poetics

  1. steve says:

    So, what do you think A means by imitation? Is emotion being imitated in movement? With a flute, what would one imitate? Does this lead to a stylistic or structural norm in tragedy?

  2. susan says:

    By imitation, I would think to mean expression of thought, emotions being considered as thought as well (although many philosophers would argue this). If you feel sad, there is the “feeling” as a physical thing, but to express it, you may say “I feel sad”, having learned the language developed to voice it. And you may sit in a corner and cry, hands wrung or hung down in despair, which is the movement, the motion of sadness, which can be exaggerated to make a universally recognized pattern of sadness used in dance, let’s say, as in watching a ballet (although this is not a good example because leaping about could mean happiness or something else, and depends upon the music to set the mood and pace).
    A flute may, by its timing of notes, the tempo, be an expression of various emotion, i.e., allegro perhaps used for happy and light, and something slow and low expressed and perceived (universally learned response?) as ominous or unhappy. The use of the flute is a tool the flautist may use the same way he may groan in despair, or titter in delight. The sound from the instrument I would think is just an extension or imitation of human voice.
    Stylistic or structural? I’m not quite sure how to answer that one yet, as at first I would believe it to be both, but it seems that Aristotle would consider it structural if I’m reading him correctly.

  3. steve says:

    So you’re referring to this section here:

    “For tune and rhythm alone are employed in flute-playing and harp-playing and in any other arts which have a similar function, as, for example, pipe-playing. Rhythm alone without tune is employed by dancers in their representations, for by means of rhythmical gestures they represent both character and experiences and actions.4”

  4. susan says:

    As I understood it, yes. But as you subtly suggest, I will include the quotation from the piece itself so that my points can be argued. I think I’m getting the meaning of Aristotle’s words, as he lays out examples that reveal how he has come to separate the elements into rhythm, tune, harmony, etc. I then tend to relate to his opinon with my own experience of art in its contemporary form, as while flutes and lyres are still around, they were used singly in the time of Aristotle, and are more often now relegated to a small part of an orchestra. While music is music and dance is dance, these in the time of Aristotle were offered in a purer form and likely more easily dissected.

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