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Aristotle's Poetics Yuyen Chang Fall 2003 at Chang Gung University A Lecture Given in Freshman English Courses.

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Presentation on theme: "Aristotle's Poetics Yuyen Chang Fall 2003 at Chang Gung University A Lecture Given in Freshman English Courses."— Presentation transcript:

1 Aristotle's Poetics Yuyen Chang Fall 2003 at Chang Gung University A Lecture Given in Freshman English Courses


3 Your opinions  What are the features of a good tragedy? What are the features of a good comedy? What kinds of effects do the tragic works (movies, plays, or stories) aim to achieve?

4 The Temple of Apollo at Delphi

5 1. Introduction 2. Poetry as a species of imitation 3. The anthropology and history of poetry 4. Tragedy: definition and analysis 5. Plot: basic concepts 6. Plot: species and components 7. The best kinds of tragic plot 8. Other aspects of tragedy 9. Diction 10. Epic 11. Problems and solutions 12. Comparative evaluation of epic and tragedy

6 Poetics Outline of Poetics


8 (Greek) Tragedy= Goat song The word tragedy literally means "goat song," probably referring to the practice of giving a goat as a sacrifice or a prize at the religious festivals in honor of the god Dionysos.

9 Tragedy came to signify a dramatic presentation of high seriousness and noble character which examines the major questions of human existence: why are we here? how can we know the will of the gods? what meaning does life have in the face of death?


11 In tragedy people are tested by great suffering and must face decisions of ultimate consequence. Some meet the challenge with deeds of despicable cruelty, while others demonstrate their ability to confront and surpass adversity, winning our admiration and proving the greatness of human potential.

12 Aristotle: five marks of tragedy  Imitates an action  Arouses pity and fear  Displays the human image as such  Ends in wonder  Is inherently beautiful

13 Six elements Spectacular presentment Lyrical song Diction Plot or representation of the action CharacterThought

14 Tragic Catharsis Catharsis is not a technical reference to purgation or purification, but a beautiful metaphor for the peculiar tragic pleasure, the feeling of being washed or cleansed. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust. –T. S. Eliot Wasteland Alfred Hitchcock Horrible things and painful feelings


16 Reversal Reversal is a change by which the action veers round its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity.

17 Recognition (anagnorisis) A change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune.



20 Kinds of recognition By signs By letters [word or verbal inventions] By awakening a feeling By process of reasoning A composite kind of recognition involving false inference on the part of one of the character By startling discovery [via incidents]


22 Wonder pity and fear of all where wonder does Wonder is the aim of the poetic art itself A tragedy ends in wonder.

23 Altar with Scene from a Greek Tragedy (about 400-350 BC)


25 Oedipus Tyrannus by SOPHOCLES

26 Thebes Oedipus rules over Thebes, a city whose mythological background is important to understanding the play. Oedipus even begins the play by calling its residents the "new blood of ancient Cadmus" (not "ancient Thebes", as Fagles' liberally translates the Gre ek).



29 hubris  a tragic flaw  Overbearing pride  Presumption, arrogance.  insolence, referred to the emotions in Greek tragic heroes that led them ignore warnings from the gods and thus invite catastrophe.

30 A Tragic Hero Pity and fear/ pathos Noble (or aristocratic) Inevitability the ability to achieve greatness (but who through a weakness, or tragic flaw in his character, falls into the depths of misery and often to his death)

31 The sphinx in Archaic Greek Art

32 Sphinx But the seer and I, We are mortal, and blind. Who is right? Who can judge? We are mortal, our wisdom assigned in degrees. Does the seer know? Do I? No, I will not believe in the prophet’s charge Till the charge has been proved to my mind. For I saw how the king In the test with the Sphinx Proved his wisdom and worth When he saved this city from doom.


34 Oedipus and Sphinx There goes Oedipus— He was the man who was able To answer the riddle proposed by the Sphinx Mighty Oedipus— He was an object of envy To all for his fortune and game There goes Oedipus— Now he is drowning in waves of dread and despair.

35 Dramatic irony Dramatic irony plays an important part in Oedipus the King. Its story revolves around two different attempts to change the course of fate: Jocasta and Laius's killing of Oedipus at birth and Oedipus's flight from Corinth later on. In both cases, an oracle's prophecy comes true regardless of the characters' actions.

36 The End Look at Oedipus— Proof that none of us mortals Can truly be thought of as happy Until he is granted deliverance from life, Until he is dead And must suffer no more.

37 Reflections: Do you agree with the following statements? Poetry is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history; for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular. V X

38 The horror movie is a kind of medicine that does its work and leaves the soul healthier; however, it can also be a potentially addictive drug.

39 Tragic pleasure?! A paradox In a tragedy, a happy ending does not make us happy. How and why do we enjoy a tragedy?

40 The Weakness of a Great Hero? Character is destiny. (Heraclitus) A hero is not a perfect person. Why can the audience be deeply moved by an imperfect hero?



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