Aristotle on Poetry

Annamaria Schiaparelli and Paolo Crivelli

in The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195187489
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Aristotle on Poetry

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  • Philosophy
  • Classical Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art


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Aristotle's Poetics is one of the deepest and most influential philosophical works on art, or rather, on a specific art. The treatise pursues several aims, one of which, and the most general, is to classify the works that can be labeled “poetical composition” and their parts. Another, more specific, aim is to vindicate poetry in the face of the criticism leveled at it by Plato. Another specific aim is to explain some concepts that are fundamental for the understanding of poetry (for example, that of imitation). Furthermore, the discussion of some forms of poetry was probably a useful way to express ideas about education and political life in the city, and to convey thoughts about the relation between people's actions and their characters. The range of issues covered by the Poetics makes it reasonable to bring the topics under two headings: Aristotle's views on poetry in general; and his account of tragedy (the genre that has the lion's share of the treatise).

Keywords: Aristotle; poetry; Poetics; tragedy; Plato; imitation; education; political life

Article.  7652 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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