Aristotle's Poetics

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

Commentary

1 The opening words are peri poiētikēs [technēs] -- from which the book takes its title. Neither 'poetry' nor 'the art of poetry' is quite right. The root of poiētikē -- poiein (to make, do, fashion, perform) -- is a strongly active verb that will dominate the whole discussion in the sense 'to make'. (Emphatically, it does not mean 'to create'.) I have written poietic art rather than poetic art, partly to emphasise the sense of 'making' (and the poet as 'maker'), partly as a reminder that Aristotle does not recognise a distinction between 'art' and 'craft'.

2 Poiēsis, radically the process of making.

3 Kalōs hexein -- 'to go well with, to work out luckily'. Else translates "to be an artistic success" but I prefer a more direct and idiomatic rendering.

4 The way the discussion later develops in detail shows that this sentence is neither a systematic preliminary outline nor a statement of the programme Aristotle intends to follow. He seems to be sidling comfortably into his discourse. But by taking his starting point in 'first things' he shows that he is thinking of the poietic art as cause, or 'reason why'.

5 In the first sentence poiein or some derivative of it is used three times (even recognising that by Aristotle's day epipoiia could mean 'epic' rather than 'epic-making'). Aristotle is clearly not talking about epic, tragedy, comedy etc. as genres or art-forms: he is talking about the making of them.

6 This word, the plural of mimēsis, is transliterated to avoid using the word 'imitations'. Mimesis is in its form a processive word -- a point of great importance for much of what follows. A useful habit is to read mimesis as "a process -- mimesis." "The mimetic process is the activity of poiētikē" ( Else); its dynamis (potentiality) works towards a telos (end) which is, in both a substantial and an active sense, a poiēma

-44-

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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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