From Homer to Menander: Forces in Greek Poetic Fiction

By L. A. Post | Go to book overview

IX
Aristotle and the Philosophy of Fiction

IT SEEMS safe to say that Aristotle's Poetics has received more consideration than any other single work of literary criticism. It is still treated by some scholars as a gospel that is valid today. Original writers do not regard it so highly. Indeed, though it is essential to study Aristotle and Greek fiction together if one is to understand either of them, one result of such study is the conviction that Aristotle is but a pedestrian guide to Greek poetry. Who now will accept his assumption that there is one best form of tragedy or of any other kind of writing? Certainly no one will maintain that Greek writers exhausted the possibilities of tragedy or epic. Relativity, progress, and variety are visible to us in the work of Greek poets and still more in the work of modern writers. We value in Aeschylus and Euripides qualities that are unnoted by Aristotle. We compare Homer and Sophocles with Shakespeare and Occidental with Oriental literature. Our wider horizon inevitably gives us new and wider views, especially since we stand on Aristotle's shoulders.1

Since Aristotle preferred a complex plot in tragedy, it is a reasonable conclusion that the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles was for him a model tragedy, for there is no other extant Greek tragic plot in which recognition of personal identity leads to disaster. There is, to be sure, recognition of facts in other tragedies. Theseus recognizes the innocence of Hippolytus in Euripides' play and Jason discovers the deceit and power of Medea, but in such cases recognition is rather a result than a cause of the central tragedy.

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1
For notes to chapter ix see pages 317-322.

-245-

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From Homer to Menander: Forces in Greek Poetic Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Five Great Teachers v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1- The Pattern of Success 1
  • II- The Tragic Pattern of the Iliad 27
  • III- The Social Consciousness of Aeschylus 56
  • IV- Sophoclean Tragedy 88
  • V- Euripidean Tragedy 122
  • VI- Propaganda, Idealism, and Romance 156
  • VII- Vacillation, Burlesque, and Variety 186
  • VIII- The Comedy of Menander 214
  • IX- Aristotle and the Philosophy of Fiction 245
  • Notes 271
  • Index 323
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