According to Aristotle, the poet is superior to the historian because he is at once concerned with the universal and general, the probable and possible, and the particular and facts, while the historian is concerned only with historical fact and particulars. The history of poetry, he claims, begins with the lyric, develops into epic (diegetic-mimetic mixed narrative), and reaches its final and most perfect form in tragedy (dramatic or mimetic voice).
Mimesis, in contrast to diegesis, is "the original impulse of imitation," and comes naturally to us. Poetry, Aristotle asserts, comes from this natural impulse to mimicry and improvisation. Aristotle then divides poetry into two categories, calling the imitation of things noble "tragedy," and the imitation of the vulgar "comedy" (Ch 6). For both types of mimesis, there are three components: the means (e.g., words, paint, or sound), the object (e.g., people’s actions, nature’s sounds, a landscape), and the manner (e.g., fictional modes, voice, authorial presence or absence, use of dramatic scene, etc.).
Aristotle does not define his concept of catharsis as clearly as he defines mimesis, and, historically, catharsis has be taken to mean any of the following: purgation, purification (compare to the Japanese notion of nagusame), or clarification (i.e., that of pity and fear within the play). The first two are phenomena that take place in the audience, while the third is an element built into the work itself.
In chapters 7,8, and 23, Aristotle discusses the notion of unity, which, together with mimesis, form the central thesis of his argument.
In his essay "Orientation of Critical Theories," M.H. Abrams discusses what he considers to be the six modes of representation. The first three are Aristotelian; the last three Platonic. First, there is Naturalism, which is the literal, scientific representation of natural objects and social life. Then there is Classicism, which is the "generalized representation of nature or the human passions.” Third, there is Pre-modern criticism, which is the representation of classicism, subjectively viewed. Fourth is the representation of ideal forms in nature and in the mind, an example being German Romanticism. Fifth is the "representation of transcendental ideal forms," such as found in Neoplatonic Idealism. And finally, there is the representation of art’s own world -- of the“Heterocosm," as he calls it. An example of this last mode of representation is found in the art-for-art's-sake movement, which began in Europe under the influence of Kantian aestheticism.
Finally, there is Aristotle's famous ranking of the elements of tragedy. Of first importance is plot. Characters and characterization ranks second. What he calls "thought" -- i.e., rhetoric, reasoning, speeches -- places third, while the diction of the speeches ranks fourth. Fifth goes to song composition, and, finally, the costumes and stage setting rank as least important.
It is interesting to compare Aristotle's ranking of the elements with that of Zeami, who held the most important aspect of the No drama to be the poetry itself, and that No theater's ultimate aspiration is to become waka, with which it shares a similar purpose -- namely, to be a pure transmitter of feeling.
Friday, October 3, 2008
This just in from Jarvis32: