Aristotle's Poetics

By Aristotle; John Baxter et al. | Go to book overview

On Translating Aristotle's Poetics

The obvious question is -- why again? Even a select list of English translations in this century makes quite a litany: Butcher, Bywater, Hamilton Fyfe, Lane Cooper, Allan Gilbert, Preston Epps, Seymour Pitcher, L.J. Potts, George Grube, Gerald Else. I admire three or four of these, and decry none of them. While the study of English literature has -- in part at least -- taken the place of Greek and Latin as a central humanist discipline and literary criticism has tried to assume the role almost of an autonomous discipline, Aristotle Poetics has continued to be a document of great historical and critical importance. Because almost nobody in the field of English studies reads Greek any more -- if indeed anybody ever could read fluently and without dismay the Greek of the Poetics -- translations have accumulated, all highly accomplished. 1 But many of them are of a marmoreal smoothness; almost, the more eloquent and stylish the translation, the farther it is from inducing the direct tactile qualities of the Greek original. For many students of English literature, even some pretty mature ones, the Poetics is either a doctrinaire statement that can be readily mastered from a translation, or a very limited account of poetry, interesting enough as the oldest surviving treatise on poetry but distant, foreign, and not very much to the point. Certainly the continuous reprinting of Butcher's translation in collections of critical texts has not encouraged the currency in English studies of certain important developments in Aristotelian scholarship in the past forty years. 2

As I have worked repeatedly through the Poetics, trying to unfold the original to students of English who have even less Greek than Shakespeare had, I have gained an increasingly vivid sense of the activity of Aristotle's mind in this broken and intermittent little document; and have wondered whether a translation could conceivably be prepared that would bring a reader to "the revelation ... of the driving energy of

-3-

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Aristotle's Poetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Aristotle's Poetics i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • George Whalley on the Poetics: A Preface ix
  • Notes xxxiii
  • On Translating Aristotle's Poetics 3
  • Notes 29
  • The Poietic Art 33
  • Works Cited in the Commentary 37
  • Topical Summary 39
  • The Poietic Art 43
  • Commentary 44
  • The Poietic Art 45
  • Appendices 145
  • The Aristotle-Coleridge Axis 159
  • Index 179
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